Global Guides

The 10 Best Coffee Shops for Freelancers: San Francisco Edition

By Daniela Blei July 6th, 2015

Updated 4/24/18

Born in 16th-century Istanbul, the coffeehouse was where men would gather to sip, smoke, play cards, and listen to storytellers. By the 20th century, European coffeehouse culture was fertile ground for artistic and literary movements (Hemingway’s favorite Parisian writing haunt was “a pleasant café, warm and clean and friendly”), and now, in the 21st century, coffee shops are more important than ever, with freelancing and telecommuting becoming the new normal.

I should know. For much of the last decade—when I was in grad school, studying for exams, and when I wrote a Ph.D. dissertation, graded papers, and prepared lectures—I’ve been parked at a table at a San Francisco coffee shop, bathing in the glow of my MacBook. Now a freelance book editor and writer, I’m still here, slinging red ink or conjuring a phrase at one of these great coffee shops in the City by the Bay.

1. Borderlands Cafe (Mission: 870 Valencia St.)

Image via Magui J. / Yelp

The refreshingly non-techie vibe at Borderlands attracts writers and students who come for the plentiful tables and electrical outlets. Wi-Fi is turned on nine to five, Monday to Friday. No music here, just keystrokes and quiet concentration. Take a break at the adjoining sci-fi and fantasy bookstore or peruse the impressive magazine rack, where you’ll find food rags, Marxist criticism, and everything in between. It’s cash only, but there’s an ATM available.

2. Hearth Coffee (Castro: 3985 17th St.)

Image via Albertino M. / Yelp

Owned by a local couple, Hearth is an island of calm in the din of Castro and Market Streets. The clean, open interior, house-roasted coffee, and buttery goods are especially inviting. (Think almond orange-blossom croissants and prosciutto rolls.) Reliable Wi-Fi, a spotless bathroom, and outlets near the café’s rhombus-shaped tables make Hearth an ideal place to hunker down for the day.

3. Progressive Grounds (Bernal Heights: 400 Cortland Ave.)

Image via Hari N. / Yelp

Progressive Grounds is a neighborhood landmark and warm respite from the city’s summer gloom. With power strips galore, abundant seating, fast Wi-Fi, and a multi-level back patio for lunch breaks, this coffee shop caters to the working masses. Head to the back room to join a small village of computer squatters, where you’ll feel at home.

4. La Promenade Cafe (Outer Richmond: 3643 Balboa St.)

Image via La Promenade Café / Yelp

La Promenade replaced Zephyr Café, but the place is mostly the same and still one of the city’s largest coffee shops. It’s cozy, dark, and open until 10. Taking up residence amid the soft music, strong Wi-Fi, and typical coffeehouse fare doesn’t feel like an imposition here. For a screen break, check out the small library provided by Green Apple Books.

5. Coffee Bar (Mission: 1890 Bryant St.)

James Z. / Yelp

Expect a sea of MacBook Airs and Warby Parkers. Coffee Bar’s tall ceilings, natural light, and fast Wi-Fi are conducive to productivity, as is the worker-bee scene. Pastries, house-made juices, sandwiches, and salads are on offer. Bring a power strip if you arrive after the early morning hours—available outlets disappear before noon. Fair warning: Signs posted on tables reserve non-laptop seating for the lunch crowd.

6. Contraband Coffee Bar (Nob Hill: 1415 Larkin St.)

Ezra M. / Yelp

House-roasted beans and Dynamo Donuts… Need I say more? Contraband’s modern aesthetic—white walls, communal tables, local art—feels like a breath of fresh air. This coffee shop is relatively new, and it shows. Strong Wi-Fi and tempting baked goods are abundant, but outlets are somewhat limited. The cable car rumbles by the front entrance a few times an hour, so Contraband isn’t suited for workers seeking near-silence.

7. Capital One 360 Cafe (Financial District: 101 Post St.)

Image via Elinor A. / Yelp

Located inside a bank, this is the solution to the dearth of options in the FiDi. You’ll find Peet’s coffee, two floors of seating, outlets, Wi-Fi, and clean bathrooms in what looks like a new startup space flush with investor bucks. Added bonus: If you open a 360 checking account and use the debit card for Peet’s Coffee purchases, you’ll get 50 percent off each purchase.

8. Jane (Pacific Heights: 2123 Fillmore St.)

Image via Vera W. / Yelp

Jane is the coffee shop that looks good, smells good, and makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Homemade baked goods are impossible to resist, as are the salads and sandwiches. Wash it all down with Stumptown coffee and espresso. Head upstairs to settle in and avoid the lunch rush. There’s reliable Wi-Fi, but food service ends at 3 p.m.

9. Philz (Noe Valley: 4298 24 St.)

Image via Jessica G. / Yelp

Of the nine Philz outposts across the city, this newish branch has the requisite outlets and Wi-Fi. Each cup of coffee, like at the other Philz locations, is freshly made by a friendly barista. Small tables accommodate individual workers. N.B. for the child-averse: Neighborhood moms make frequent visits with babies in tow.

10. Haus Coffee (Mission: 3086 24th St.)

Image via Micaiah F.

This is the new Mission. Its Germanic name suits the minimalist décor and solid pine tables. Haus is a crossroads of developers, residents from SF General, and freelancers working to music or soaking up rays in the patio out back. Strong Wi-Fi, decent coffee, and limited pastries are available. Look for the black sign on the sidewalk out front. Added bonus: burritos, tacos, or tortas on 24th St. for lunch.

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