San Francisco is the entrepreneur’s dream – a big metropolis mentality with a small town sensibility. Neighborhoods are the soul of this European-style City by the Bay and with a plethora of intimate bistros around town it’s not difficult to find the perfect haunt for writing the great American novel, blogging up a storm, or launching the next big start up sensation.
But what characteristics make a great Internet Café? For me there are five major non-negotiables: 1) Internet Access (obviously); 2) Ample and clean table space and turnover; 3) Enough electrical plugs to avoid battery drain; 4) Good-tasting coffee and a fresh, varied menu; and 5) A non-hostile environment where you can nurse your coffee for hours on end.
The following places meet all the above criteria and possess just a little something extra. Here are my top picks for the best Internet cafes in San Francisco…
Philz Coffee: Tenderloin:
Founder of Philz Coffee, Phil Jaber says, “Frank Sinatra was born to sing, I was born to make coffee”. Phil spent nearly seven years creating and perfecting his first coffee blend, Tesora and since then he has been inspired to create many, many more. Voted best coffee in San Francisco by SF Weekly, Best Coffee House by San Francisco Magazine, and The Front Steps by a long shot, apparently if you haven’t been to Philz, you haven’t lived! Philz’ tag lines is “enjoy a cup of love”…oh, yeah, I’m in love.
Philz Coffee, 748 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 292-7660. Free Internet
The Bean Bag Cafe: Western Addition:
Bohemian, funky chic with rock ‘n’ roll Muzak in the background, I like the edgy, artist/poet vibe at the Bean Bag Café. Located smack dab in the busiest part of the Western Addition and serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Bean Bag has been attracting urban hipsters for quite a few years now…and not a bean bag in sight.
Bean Bag Café, 601 Divisadero Street, San Francisco, CA 94117, (415) 563-3634. Internet: Free and free-flowing.
Starbucks: Union Street:
I know what you are thinking…Starbucks? Yes, they are taking over the world but this is a really great Internet café. On the corner of Union and Laguna Streets in the Cow Hollow neighborhood, this location is a definite cut above. With lots of space on a long, communal table donning enough floor plugs underneath to power the entire neighborhood’s laptops, this is a lively and productive site to work from. Snag a primo spot in one of the oversized upholstered chairs in the big bay windows for stellar people-watching position.
Starbucks Coffee Company. 1899 Union Street. San Francisco, CA 941234 US. (415) 921-4049. Internet: Free and Unlimited.
The Grove: Mission and 3rd Street, Yerba Buena:
With four stores throughout the city, I have a particular affection for this location. It has an open, airy floor plan and giant trees growing out from the distressed hardwood floors. It’s spacious, inviting and warm with its fireplace, leather couches and rustic-style pillows lining cozy upholstered banquets. The menu is jam-packed with comfort food – albeit a little on the expensive side – but the ski lodge-casual atmosphere is worth the extra price tag. This is a great place to work or meet friends for Macaroni & Cheese or Chicken Pot Pie….and speaking of pie….
The Grove: 690 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 (415) 957-0558. Internet: Free “with purchase”
Taste of Rome: Sausalito, California:
Technically not in San Francisco proper, but only a 15 minute drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll find my favorite place to work, write, read, do crossword puzzles, chat with regulars, and eat great Italian food (their eggplant parmesan is to die for). The Taste of Rome is located along Richardson Bay on Bridgeway in the picturesque town of Sausalito. The former Café Trieste, the new owners get kudos for retaining all that was great about Trieste, while adding a delightful, competent staff to run it ever so smoothly. Constant tourist traffic mixed with houseboaters and live-aboards from the nearby marinas, Taste of Rome is like a living room – a testament to this café’s welcoming spirit. It’s a writer’s haven – there is never any pressure to move on…you can stay all day and night. It’s my happy place.
Taste of Rome: 1000 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965 (415) 332-7660, Internet: Free
We Live in a Coffee Culture
One of my favorite photos of Ernest Hemingway shows him with pen in hand and a cup of coffee next to him. Internet cafés are the new “studies or dens” of today. Why be distracted from your work or reading at home when you can be distracted, instead, by the interesting and dynamic life buzzing around you? I believe that “Internet café” has become San Francisco’s new middle name. Drink up and type on…