Bars are where some of us go to catch eyes, but it’s the atmosphere created by sharing a warm cup of joe that truly connects us. Coffee shops are where learn to listen carefully and delight in the simple company of another person. We hang on to every word between sips of coffee and bites of food. We fall in love. And yes, good coffee and food matter, but it’s something about those cozy nooks that help hook us in.
The only thing we love more than a good coffee spot is a good secret coffee spot. And don’t we all love a good secret?
SFAI not only produces some of our best artists, but serves up one of the best coffee-and-view combos as well. Sitting or strolling, you’ll catch a sweeping view of the city: Alcatraz to Bay Bridge to Telegraph Hill. Free wifi, free art gallery and student-friendly prices are only the cherry on top of this rooftop hideaway and creative haven. Restricted hours (mysteriously falling somewhere between 9-4pm) make this magic combo hard to catch, and fans are only too glad to keep the secret away from the rest of the city.
2. Cafe St. Jorge: cozy and softly lit morning date
Bernal Heights District
Best for: hushed, intimate morning conversation
This small Portugeuse-themed cafe sits on a quiet stretch of Mission Street and is considered a “cozy breakfast and lunch spot” by Google Maps. We love it for its wide selection of pastries, chia bowls and European-style coffee served in pretty mugs, but its atmosphere is a truly welcome shelter you’ll be thankful to walk into. Come here also for the soft white Christmas lights strung from the ceiling, cute blue wooden chairs, and walls lined with fine art.
3. Stable Cafe
The airy atmosphere and rustic features of this sanctuary is a must-mention. A Latin American-inspired menu offers a worldly taste and we promise the sprawling garden patio will elevate your date to another time and space--even on any given drizzly day. And that’s saying something.
Here the ocean is close enough to enjoy the benefit of SF’s mix of romantic overcast weather and salty air as you stroll along Balboa Avenue and find yourselves in this gritty yet cozy hub with outdoor seating. As its name suggests, there is nothing overly fancy going on. This is where you meet up with a friend or cutie in the later evening and chat over a strong cup of coffee as you wait for a local brass band to play.
Outer Sunset District
Best for: laid back conversation among a lively crowd
Many in our office swear by this coffee-and-breakfast hub, and longtime San Franciscans safeguard the secrets of this spot so the line doesn’t get any longer (yes, if you know, you know). Take your sweetheart here if you don’t mind waiting (it’s worth it, we promise!) along with other families, surfers and dogs alike. Most are drawn there for the breakfast sandwiches and $5 BLTs, but also for the feeling of community around that common goal. Take your hot sandwiches outside and huddle together as you catch that crisp ocean breeze.
Outer Sunset District
We love this Outer Sunset sweet spot for its heartwarming origin story and sense of community. It’s also the perfect place to hide out from Karl the Fog. Here you and your date can even “Build Your Own Damn House”--meaning you can each get a unique combo of French roast coffee, a young coconut, and a hearty slice of cinnamon toast.
Secret BYOC (bring your own coffee) spots:
As far as rooftop secrets go, the upper terrace here is considered a best-kept secret in the Financial District. It’s equipped with plenty of tables and benches for you to set up camp in. Seasonal flowers, views of the bay and a quiet, uncrowded atmosphere make for the perfect place to bring your date, coffee and take-out lunch.
Bring your own coffee and uncover this green, serene oasis in the shadow of the famous Transamerica Pyramid. A cluster of giant redwoods amid statues (and a small body of water!) are startlingly pleasant features to behold in the middle of the Financial District’s push-and-pull. And because it’s nearly always empty, you’re almost guaranteed some privacy!
If you’re looking for some old world elegance with a side of tropics, discover this enclosed atrium with its own crepe stand and fountain. The high arches of the former Paris-London Bank building (built in 1912) amid about a dozen queen palm trees will put you in another time and place.
10. Empire Park
This location also calls upon you to BYOC (bring your own coffee), but the park provides the rest: lots of seating, a fountain (for that element of romance), and plenty of greenery to go around. It’s the perfect place to rest your feet, catch your breath and chat at length.
Will you be leaving a piece of your heart in San Francisco this summer? We know the perfect San Franciscan souvenir to capture the memory--and all the hearts.