If you are starting a business in San Francisco, you tend to frequent the many coffee shops that the city has to offer.
While visiting the variety of shops, your motivation may be just as diverse as the selection of coffee shops themselves.
You may be looking for a place to meet a new contact, a place to fuel up, or simply a quiet place to get some work done.
Whatever the motivation, my criteria for a good coffee shop for startups includes the following criteria:
1. Is there a good space to lock up my bike?
2. How easy is it to use their WiFi?
3. Are there plugs available so I can stay powered up?
4. Is the decibel level at an acceptable rate so I can hear the person I am talking to?
5. Is it easy enough to find a place to sit?
6. Oh yeah…is the coffee tasty and fairly priced?
Let’s dig in and see the results:
The Grove (3rd & Mission)
The Grove is conveniently located between downtown and SOMA, and its food “seems” like it is a bit healthier than the norm. Add to that a fireplace or nice outdoor seating, and the ambiance is good too.
The downside for me is you get a code for the WiFi when you pay. Not only that, it can be hard to find a seat if you are there anywhere near lunch time.
The bottom line is that it might be a good spot to catch up with a friend you’ve met before. They are likely someone you don’t have to worry about getting a seat right away with, and you don’t have to hear every single word they are saying.
Crossroads Cafe (Delancey & Brannan)
Crossroads Cafe seems aptly named due to its main features as a book store and peaceful garden.
If you are looking for a place to get out the laptop and get some work done, this place is not for you. Same goes if you are meeting someone to show them an online demo of your latest project. Why? No WiFi is available at Crossroads Cafe.
While former inhabitants of Pier 39 used to love the convenience of this peaceful spot, it can still prove as a nice spot to chat if you are not in a hurry. It may be a bit out of the way for most these days.
Four Barrel Coffee, (14th & Valencia)
Let’s get the reasons why you may not want to go to Four Barrel out of the way…it can be hard to find a seat, and they have no WiFi. I found out about no WiFi the hard way. I met someone there that I had to show something online on my MacBook. Whoops!?!
All of that said, there are some major reasons to go to Four Barrel. The first reason is that they are spinning vinyl in the house, and the second is that they have one of the best parklets in town.
Add to that the fact that they serve some darn good coffee and you have a winner. If you are looking to meet at Four Barrel, get there early to get a seat. I’d find one outside too if you need to hear really well.
Revolution Cafe, (22nd & Bartlett)
This is definitely the craziest place on the list. The last two times that I have met someone there, people were on the outside patio smoking…and not cigarettes!
The other thing is that yes, you can enjoy easy to access WiFi. However, you’re more likely to do it over a beer than coffee. And that is true no matter the time of day you visit the Revolution Cafe.
A few other upsides to this spot is that bike parking is simple, there’s a good pizza shop next door, and a new parklet is being built out front.
I recommend avoiding this spot though if you are conducting “buttoned up” business of any sort.
Coffee To The People, (Haight & Masonic)
This is a great option if you are meeting someone by way of the Haight, or you are simply looking for a chill place to hang out and work.
There is plenty of space and power hookups if you are visiting Coffee To The People to get some things done. It is spacious enough that you can quickly find a place to sit as well. Not to mention people visiting the shop tend to be real low key.
I have been able to lock up my bike easily, and maneuver freely anytime I have paid a visit to Coffee To The People. You just have to be on that side of town for the most part to enjoy it.
Philz Coffee, (24th & Folsom)
So the obvious thing to state is that Philz is a San Francisco staple. There is no questioning that. The Mission location is a cool spot to meet, and there tend to be interesting people there.
The downside is that it is a highly active spot. That means it is a tough place to find a seat and focus or have an intent conversation.
The upside of that is that it is likely a place you can hang out and meet some new and cool people. I’ve never had an issue getting online or parking my bike, so that’s an upside too.
And yes, they do have some of the best coffee in town.
Starbucks, (New Montgomery & Jessie)
I hear ya already…Starbucks? And I predominately feel the same way you do. I do all I can to support local business. That mindset is likely shared by many other entrepreneurs in San Francisco.
However…I seem to find myself at this particular Starbucks fairly often. The main reason why is that I can hunker down for 1-2 hours and crank out some work. There is something to be said for that.
They have a convenient location near BART, downtown, SOMA, etc. Add to that the long table where I can almost always get a seat, and the easy to access WiFi. It’s a good spot to work, and that is why it makes this list.
Darwin Cafe, (Bryant & Ritch)
This is a quaint, out of the way cafe in SOMA. It’s a small place that you have to be looking for to find. That’s exactly the point.
Darwin Cafe is a great place to meet someone or get away with a co-worker for a few minutes. It’s a great spot to take a break and put away the computer or smartphone.
It’s also an opportune place for SOMA startup folks who want to switch it up from heading over to South Park.
The bottom line is it is a great place to take a short walk to, take a break, and recharge your batteries.
Mercury Cafe, (Octavia & Lily)
It’s always a welcome sign when there is a Pabst sign in the window. Nothing says startup like Pabst. One..you have to be able to afford it, Two…it’s an ageless beer.
The Mercury Cafe is a great place to get some work done, and enough space to work in a small group.
This place is a bit out of the way for some, and not as much for others. However, there are an ample amount of plugs and easy to access WiFi available (although it went out a few times during my last visit).
If you are looking for a place to get some work down with a co-worker or two, this is your place. Check out the cool filter system for the house coffee while you are there too.
Coffee Bar, (Mariposa & Florida)
Coffee Bar is like the quintessential startup coffee shop. As soon as you walk in the front door, you are greeted by a sea of MacBooks. Walk in sometime and you’ll see. I would estimate 8 out of every 10 machines is an Apple product.
That said, Coffee Bar is pretty darn awesome. The biking parking is usually decent, the WiFi is awesome and easy, seating indoor or out is comfy, and you can meet some really smart people there too.
I find Coffee Bar favorable because it is versatile too. I can focus in and get some work done, or I can meet with someone and easily exchange ideas.
In case you could not tell, this is one I frequent…
The Creamery, (4th & Townsend)
If Coffee Bar is the quintessential startup spot, The Creamery is like the king’s castle. Many of San Francisco’s startup royalty frequent The Creamery.
Part of it is the awesome location. It is kitty corner from Caltrain, and super accesible to most SOMA-ites. Add to that the super easy access to WiFi.
Most of my visits to The Creamery have been for the purpose of meeting someone. You’ve got great options with indoor and outdoor seating. The south-facing outdoor seating is ideal for attracting sunshine.
The other reason it is a king’s castle is that I’ve often overheard people saying, “hey…that’s so and so…”. Not that I take a ton of stock as I barely know who any of the folks are, though I’m learning:)
That said, it’s a good place to work, meet, and people watch. And on a sunny day, the patio is hard to beat.
One major downside…someone’s bike got stolen that was parked next to mine one day:( That’s some major bad karma for someone. Make sure you u-lock your bike. I go so far as to have 2 u-locks!
It’s just too difficult to pick an ultimate winner. You’ve got different reasons for going to different coffee shops, so one may be the best one day and not the other.
That said, Coffee Bar is probably my favorite and most frequented. Thanks to Buford Taylor of Eventbrite for introducing me to the place last summer!
What’s your favorite startup coffee shop in San Francisco? I know you have an opinion, and I would love to hear it! Perhaps I’ll even learn something new. That’s the beauty of our 7X7 city, there are plenty of options!