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Coffee

Med student from Charleston, SC here, and I'm spending 3 days in San Francisco before a weekend some end of season turns in Tahoe. Problem is that Step 1 boards are coming up and I'm looking for 4 or 5 coffee shops to knock out some morning studying. Lived previously in Seattle for a bit and got spoiled on that scene (Vivace, Zoka, Stumptown imports). Currently love Counter Culture on the east coast and some of the Intelligentsia we get shipped in.

From some quick research, roasters I've heard are worth checking out in SF are Ritual, Blue Bottle, Four Barrell, and Verve. The cafe/coffee shop itself is also important as I need to plant roots for several hours and knock out some quality time with the review books. I would so appreciate any suggestions!

And while people are at it - any can't miss backdoor/Anthony Bourdain style breakfast, lunch, bar food, cheap eats recs would be more than welcome. I've been reading the boards, but as y'all know, the SF foodie scene is a little overwhelming.

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  1. So it sounds like you're looking for cafes rather than coffee or roasters. There are great cafes all over the city.

    Where are you staying? Do you need internet and outlets or just a good place to spread out?

    I love Blue Bottle coffee, but if you want to get work done, go to Ritual (no outlets). The Mission is full of good cafes with free wireless.

    Suggest you read the board a little and do a search on "budget" or "cheap." There are at least five recent threads from tourists asking about local food, including bargains and cheap eats.

    I don't know what a backdoor breakfast is. Most of the places that claim to be underground, including the many popups and food carts, are anything but. They are worth seeking out at one of the Off the Grid events or a farmer's market or the extremely crowded "underground" markets. But they are hardly undiscovered.

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    Blue Bottle Cafe
    66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

    Off the Grid
    Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA 94123

    5 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      Two thoughts: my seattle friends are always disappointed in SF cafes. Sorry.

      Cafes with the best coffee are the worst for spread-out working. Ritual has a good blend of both, but I don't like their coffee compared with BB and Four Barrel. The breakfast at BB on mint plaza is a treat - like the simple farm egg with a cup of their Syphon coffee, and there's some tolerance of laptop working.

      The best cafe I currently know is Red Rock in Mountain View, which upgraded to Four Barrel this year and has a very pleasant upstairs. But that's outside your range - hopefully someone will be up on the mission offerings. Like, how's Atlas these days? I always thought that was a little off the beaten path.

      Barefoot is excellent, beans easily at the quality of BB and Four Barrel. Their mothership is down in Santa Clara, too far, but they're very serious about their roasting.

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      Red Rock Cafe
      1010 Lincoln Ave, Napa, CA 94558

      1. re: bbulkow

        Bulkow, have your Seattle friends been to SF in the past couple of years? Until four or five years ago, SF had nothing that compared with the better cafes in Seattle. But Ritual, Four Barrel, Blue Bottle, Local 123 and a few other Bay Area cafes are now on a par with the better cafes in the Pacific Northwest.

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        Blue Bottle Cafe
        66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        Local 123
        2049 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

        1. re: TopoTail

          Yes, absolutely. They complain not so much about the coffee, but the cafe scene. The ability to sit and work for hours for the price of a cup, that's what they complain about. I wouldn't know myself, haven't been up to seattle in years.

          1. re: bbulkow

            You mean the ability to be a freeloader, because I would consider it bad etiquette to not spend the equivalent of the price of a cup of coffee an hour. Maybe space is too expensive in SF to allow people to hog space, use electricity and ruin the atmosphere for hours for the price of a cup of coffee.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I think this is exactly right. I was in Seattle a year or two ago and loved the cafe scene. I marveled that there were so many spacious, uncrowded cafes where people could sip coffee and work for hours. Then I went to dinner and noticed that when it's the restaurants that are 10% full, it's not so charming.

              One thing I really do appreciate about Seattle is that when you ask for a hot drink, it's HOT HOT HOT. Tea service usually comes to the table billowing steam from both the pot and pre-heated cups/saucers.

    2. Based on the few times I've been there (I haven't actually tried to set up shop for long hours, though I have seen people in there who seem to be in that status), Epicenter Cafe on Harrison might fit your needs (they brew up Barefoot Coffee and have some pretty decent pastries)

      2 Replies
      1. re: josquared

        It is a fine place to work if you're in that area. They also offer Teance teas, and delicious empanadas.

        Sightglass has better coffee in that general vicinity, but that's takeout.

        1. re: josquared

          I like epicenter as a cafe, its bright and roomy. The coffee is good, though not as good as blue bottle. Food is tasty and they have some good bottles of beer. Its right around the corner from whole foods on 4th.

          Check out this site for ratings
          http://www.coffeeratings.com/

          1. Don't need wifi, may not even have the laptop out.

            And the "backdoor" comment is more out of habit - I know the chowhound recs are usually not the touristy spots, which is what I guess I really mean by "backdoor"

            Thanks for the suggestions thus far. And I know as long as the beans are coming from the 4 or 5 top dog roasters, I'm sure the brewing methods are all kept at a pretty high quality level. The vibe of the place towards my planting down for a while is more important.

            While I'm on here, any bluegrass/acoustic/americana music fans here? Looking for a few more Freight and Salvage/Great American music hall types of places to check out some music if there's any while I'm in town.

            Thanks again everyone!

            2 Replies
            1. re: BadlyBentRambler

              Besides the BB, Four Barrel, Sightglass previously recommended, Contraband at California and Larkin is really very good. Easily in the same class as the others mentioned.

              1. re: BadlyBentRambler

                A few more places based on your criteria. These are all places with good atmospheres for working and reading. Most have decent food/snacks.

                Atlas Cafe, Nervous Dog, Haus, Velo Rouge, Apollo, Thorough Bread, maybe Summit

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                Velo Rouge Cafe
                798 Arguello Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

              2. For quality of the coffee: Blue Bottle but I find the Mint Plaza cafe a bit uptight.
                For ambience: Four Barrel and Ritual, both in the Mission. Roomy with lots of tables. I like the vibe and furnishing better at Four Barrel. Great staff and music. The problem is that they only do single cup drip certain time of the day, otherwise, French pressed or the espresso machine.
                I also like the space and vibe at Sightglass but the coffee is not as consistent.
                Has Verve open a location in San Francisco?
                The Mission is full of cheap eats. Pork Store Cafe for mega calorie breakfast and lunch.

                -----
                Blue Bottle Cafe
                66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                10 Replies
                1. re: PBSF

                  The couple of times we've been to Philz on 24th in the Mission it seemed like folks were plunked down for the duration in comfy-looking, floppy couches and chairs. Would it be an option for the OP?

                  Also maybe Delise -- we once spent a longish time there waiting for the weather to clear (it didn't) without any 'tude from the lovely owners. They were serving Four Barrel along with some tasty in-house baked goods and very fine gelato (!) also in house made.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Philz on 24th reminds me of Ritual Roaster, as many laptops as patrons. I have never gotten use to the floppy couches at either. Coffee is very good. I like the ambience of Four Barrel better: more eclectic crowd, fewer laptops and more conversation. Too bad that none has good eats. I've seen Dynamo donuts at Four Barrel but I am from the old donut school and can't bare to put down $2 or so for a donut that has been sitting around for a few hours.

                    1. re: PBSF

                      i think blue bottle mint plaza has the best eats of any coffeeshop - unfortunatley, not much of a place to get work done

                      1. re: PBSF

                        I spent some time in Four Barrel this weekend...not through choice I must add...the service was criminally slow and more than a little uppity that it annoyed me significantly. I "get" the hipster vibe they are projecting and all that but I really do think they try waaaaaay too hard at it. Also, the space is kinda sterile the way it's set out....like a bare bones room with tables and chairs flung along the sides...

                        I arrived with high expecations but left thinking "meh"...oh and the coffee was good but no better than BB or Ritual imo. Out of all discussed above, Philz has the best seattle-esque vibe...

                        1. re: Scotty100

                          Seriously, I don't think any of the coffee places' decor, may it be Philz, Four Barrel or Blue Bottle (maybe the MInt Plaza an exception though the plaza is sterile), will win any designer award. The budget is not there. Besides the coffee, it really comes down to what is comfortable for each individual, may it be the furniture, the patrons, the lighting, the music or the sexy staff. As for coffee, I like Blue Bottle's single drip cup the best, but the service at Ferry Plaza is slow as a turtle even on weekdays and the staff at the main bar has serious attitude and never smile.

                          -----
                          Blue Bottle Cafe
                          66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                          1. re: PBSF

                            I agree PBSF...I just found Four Barrel's contrived "hipster vibe atmosphere" to be cloyingly annoying. Definitely trying too hard imo. The service was awful.

                            1. re: Scotty100

                              I might tolerate it more if I liked their coffee better; I'm not crazy about the mood at BB at Mint Plaza, with its uncomfortable stools and narrow tables. But would happily stare at the siphon pots and Kyoto drip tubing for half an hour.

                              Four Barrel is a pretty space, but yes, trying very hard to be Portland or Seattle or Williamsburg.

                              It's still surprisingly hard to find a friendly place where you can relax and work that also has good (or better) coffee.

                              1. re: Windy

                                Windy -that's exactly what I thought...trying too hard to be Williamsburg 2005...and slightly off-topic but interestingly, the trend in NYC right now is to go minimal in terms of not letting people actually sit down! A lot of the hardcore artisan coffee bars are remodelling the insides to make it literally more a of a "bar" with no tables or chairs (or wi-fi!)...a bit like the old school italian espresso bars...pop in grab a shot at the bar, down it and leave all in 10 mins type thing...Gimme coffee is a good example...

                                http://www.gimmecoffee.com/features/c...

                                1. re: Scotty100

                                  Scotty, have you been to Sightglass yet? It's in the same vein (converted garage). Although they do claim to be working on a cafe, but can't imagine it will be comfortable.

                                  Is Jackson Place Cafe still around? It's basically a cart that serves perfectly pulled Blue Bottle and little pizzas and sandwiches in a semi-public. I loved it when I worked nearby. But not a place for studying.

                                  1. re: Scotty100

                                    I like Four Barrel but I have trouble finding a place to sit down; last time I was there, my friend and I had to stand and drink the caps, like in Italy! And, this was a weekday afternoon.

                                    I like Haus a lot, great natural light, quiet enough to get work done, owner and staff friendly. (Great coffee, too .. Ritual and other beans.)