{SF} Not Your Mama’s Coffee Shops

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Stereotypes often carry, along with their overgeneralization, some testament to common perceptions, yes? Here in San Francisco, the stereotype of the native’s center-your-life-around-coffee lifestyle has some basis in fact.   Your options for where to do so are endless, so you’ve got to know where to go.  I’ve learned that the trendier it is inside, and the more expensive the mochas are, chances are the less welcome your laptop is. You don’t want arrive with your day’s work in tote to a wi-fi free zone (yes, the trendiest of places are like that), or bring your best buds to giggle and commune in a place where it’s silent except for fingers typing away on their keys. Here are three coffee shops whose personalities have stood out from the crowd. They’ve perfected the mix between the trendy and the approachable, the practical and the appealing, and they have something to offer in addition to good coffee, tattooed baristas, and long lines.

1. The Mill | Western Addition

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A bright, industrial yet inviting stop on your weekend stroll, the Mill does have lines to its door at the right times, but for good reason: its toast menu. The Mill is one of the few places to serve the toast that is observed as becoming a fad, similar to the way cupcakes and donuts popularized. But before you cozy up to your $3.50 slice of bread and form an opinion for or against it, you must read A Toast Story. It narrates the birth of this craze from an unusual source: a woman who started a coffee shop to battle her mental illness that threatened life on the streets.  She also made toast to sell because that’s what she knew how to make. So people can complain all they want that it’s the techies raising rent and making toast trendy, but this trend, incidentally, was started for a great purpose.

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Mocha, $4. Toast, whole wheat bread, pumpkin butter, sea salt, $3.50.

Oh, and the toast itself is fantastic, at least at this spot. It’s like biting into a piece of cake it’s so thick.  Choose from rye with cream cheese, country white with cinnamon and sugar, and this lovely option above: whole wheat with pumpkin butter and sea salt.  Give me anything with pumpkin butter and I will love you forever. Yum.

Who you’ll find here: Straight up San Franciscans, on their way to yoga, with their small dogs, to hang out there forever.
Go here for the: Toast
Stay for the: coffee and atmosphere
Wi-fi?: Nope

736 Divisadero St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
The Mill on Urbanspoon

2. Jane | Pacific Heights

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Oatmeal & Marshmallow cookie $2.50.

Jane is the cutest little cafe you ever did see. Chic and swank meet in a burst of black and white patterns and graffitied walls behind the case of its delicious bakery options.  It seemed to have a quicker pace inside, which I liked. It also happens to be in the heart of Fillmore St., an area that reminds me of quaint and charming Boston streets.

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It has a full lunch menu with salads, sandwiches, and yogurt with fruit and granola that looked fantastic. I happened upon the Mocha with a homemade marshmallow that was the best thing I’ve ever had, and the oatmeal marshmallow cookie. The cookie was a boatload of sugar disguised as a pastry, but the mochas met my picky mocha standards: here, thick and sugary is a great thing. In fact, it could rival Flour‘s Mocha in Boston, my coffee obsession back home.

Who you’ll find here:   People missing the East Coast, preppier people than I’ve seen elsewhere.
Go here for the: Lunch, atmosphere, varied menu
Stay for the: Mocha – OMG.
Wi-fi: Upstairs, but laptops aren’t welcome during peak hours.

2123 Fillmore st.
San Francisco, CA 94115
Jane on Urbanspoon

3. Cafe Du Soleil | Haight

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Open Page Sandwich, ham, cheddar, mixed greens, $8.

As fun as it is for me to feel like I can fit in with the coffee lovers of San Francisco having discovered lots of the coolest caffeine joints, it’s also nice to get away from the places you know everyone and their friends, relatives, and dogs are heading on weekend mornings, or at 4 pm. Found off the over-trodden path, Cafe Du Soleil won’t be filled with the See and Be Seen-ers but it’s a great quiet place to hole up with work or a book, or take your mom for a late lunch like I’m going to do when she visits ;).  Unlike the other two, it’s wifi friendly, it’s cheap, and it feels like France inside.

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The open-faced sandwiches (pictured above) are delicious, and unique, and high quality.  So are the pastries and, apparently, the French Toast that everyone raves about, which I didn’t try. Cafe Du Soleil does exemplify one San Francisco phenomenon: it’s a cafe by day that also offers wine and beer (and sangria!) throughout, and transforms with a small dinner menu at night.

Who you’ll find here: Older students with work to do, people missing Europe.
Go here for the: Croque-monsieur.
Stay for the: Pastries, good prices, relaxing atmosphere.
Wi-fi?: Finally!

200 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Cafe Du Soleil on Urbanspoon

So, where will I find you this Saturday?

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  1. says

    I’ve been to the first two places and you’ve hit it SPOT on, from my experience at least. I live a few blocks from the Mill and went there after, you guessed it, yoga! (You also just made me realize I live in Western Addition, not NoPa haha) As per Jane, cute, preppy, and for people missing the East Coast- check. Haven’t been to Cafe Du Soleil, but I now want to take my mom there when she visits next week :) This post made me smile the whole time!

    • says

      Haha how nice of you! THIS post made me smile the whole time. So funny you agree with (and can attest to) my observations. Also so great you went to that pizza party, I read The Mill will start serving that pizza some nights a week, we should meet there! And be San Franciscans!

  2. says

    Oh also- I went to The Mill’s first birthday party a few weeks ago- free beer, live music and DELICIOUS pizza (in line with the delicious bread you mention). Go them! Warm and fuzzies :)

  3. says

    making notes from this post for when I head up north to San Fran, hopefully this year. I love coffee houses, I don’t visit them locally but when I travel, I look for them everywhere

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