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Nervous Dog

19 Sep

Nervous Dog is a rather unassuming coffee shop at the foot of Bernal Hill (within the borders of La Lengua, according to some). It’s a common spot for laptopers and working meetings; on a recent visit, Lunch & Laptop sat next to a small group planning their next indie movie. The decor isn’t remarkable, but it feels like a lived-in local spot, with flyers on the bulletin board and a bookshelf for perusal.

Nervous Dog

Nervous Dog

Nervous Dog serves two kinds of chai, breakfasty foods, bagels, smoothies, and of course, coffee. There are small tables as well as a couch, and there a couple of outlets are along the wall.

Sadly health department regulations mean that dogs are no longer allowed inside, so your nervous (or anxiety-free) pup has to stay outside.

Pluses: homey atmosphere, easy to get a table

Minuses: the menu is more geared toward breakfast (all day) than lunch

Cole Valley Cafe

16 Sep

Cole Valley Cafe is just barely in Cole Valley (just one block up from Haight Street, some may argue it’s Haight-Ashbury instead). Regardless, it’s just a quick skip on the N-Judah to this spot west of Buena Vista Park, where the skies may be cloudy but the sandwiches are giant.

salami sandwich

Salami Sandwich at Cole Valley Cafe

The food menu at Cole Valley Cafe isn’t going to blow anyone away with its creativity, aside from a few Mediterranean specials. But the sandwiches are delightfully large and surprisingly tasty, especially for a list that sounds so basic.

On days when the sun does manage to peek out in Cole Valley, the handful of outdoor tables here are in high demand. Inside, you’ll find an assortment of square and round tables (the round ones are a little small if you’re sharing with a friend), a pretty painted menu board, and plenty of people working and studying. Several tables along the perimeter of the room have outlets nearby, and there’s a little box attached to a pole near the counter that claims to allow patrons to choose the music.

cole valley cafe

Inside Cole Valley Cafe

Pluses: good sandwiches that are also a good value, plenty of coffee and chai specials

Minuses: $5 credit card minimum, wifi can be spotty (and will remind you every so often to buy another drink — but of course, we advocate doing that anyway)


12 Sep

Lunch and Laptop first discovered Haus by thinking it was Sugarlump. Lucky for everyone, though, this little coffee shop a few blocks from the 24th Street BART stop has a personality all its own.

The light, unfinished-wood furniture is simple and a bit Ikea-esque but makes the interior feel roomy and bright. But the real reason Haus caught our eye is the back patio. It takes some finagling to get a shady table (despite a few umbrellas, the space is fairly exposed and that darn sun keeps moving), and patrons occasionally get treated to the crowing of a backyard rooster somewhere nearby, but it’s a great place to sit for a bit and pretend that San Francisco has a summer.

haus patio

Back patio at Haus

When we first started going to Haus, there wasn’t much lunch to go along with all the laptop, but they’ve since cycled through treats including baked goods and savory pies. It may not be the most substantial meal you’ll ever eat while working, but there’s always enough to tide us over.

Pluses: Plenty of outlets inside, nice patio,  solid coffee and espresso drinks

Minuses: Occasional odd and ear-splittingly loud music choices, limited food

M Cafe

18 Aug
M Cafe

M Cafe

M Cafe is a diamond in the rough. And by rough, we mean the rough part of SOMA. Just a couple blocks south of the Civic Center station, M Cafe has empty storefronts and overgrown lots as neighbors.

The Godfather sandwich

The Godfather sandwich

That said, this is a great place to camp out for a long period of time. The owner is super friendly, the sandwiches are delish (try the Godfather with the secret sauce), and there’s hardly anyone there. There are lots of tables next to outlets, and the owner seems happy to have warm bodies in the room.

Pluses: friendly atmosphere, not busy, outlets, good sandwiches, and Greek treats

Minuses: sketchy location

Rodger’s Coffee & Tea

11 Aug
Veggie sausage from Rodger's Coffee & Tea

Veggie sausage from Rodger's Coffee & Tea

Rodger’s Coffee & Tea is a small shop in between two BART stations. They specialize in individually brewed coffees (with more than 25 blends available) and sausages. Yep, you read that right. Haute Doggity sausages (including a veggie sausage), with all the fixings (sauerkraut, mayo, mustard, ketchup, relish, etc.). You may be thinking that coffee and sausages don’t go too well together, and you’re probably right. So we got a coffee first and then followed it up with a sausage.

Small cold-brew coffee with milk (it's a huge small!)

Small cold-brew coffee with milk (it's a huge small!)

Pluses: Sausages, plugs inside, variety of coffee, outdoor seats, reasonable walk from BART, large cold-brew coffees

Minuses: Limited seating, limited food options (if you don’t want sausage, that is)


9 Aug

Jane is a couple of different atmospheres in one. Downstairs, it’s a light, modern coffee bar with big windows, a serious tea selection, and plenty of seating for the lunchtime crowd. Upstairs, it’s more of a living room/grandma’s attic scene, with side tables, armchairs, and a few tables painted with sayings that made us chuckle despite their slight Maxine-from-the-Hallmark-cards vibe.

Upstairs table

Upstairs table; toffee cookie

The Pacific Heights cafe proclaims that it wants to be “your fun respite from your busy anonymous city life” and “your home away from home,” statements that are music to our lunch-and-laptopper ears. The cafe does regulate laptop use in the downstairs area, with several tables reserved for lunch patrons from 11:30-2:30, but everywhere else is a work-friendly zone at all hours. On a recent visit, we overheard a couple of computer programmers talking about Jane as their regular work spot, but it also draws those taking a break from shopping on Fillmore Street or just meeting friends for an afternoon chat.

Jane's coffee bar

Jane's coffee bar

Four Barrel provides the coffee, Five Mountains does the tea, and Jane does the rest, including some unusual cookies (toffee, Nutella). We haven’t tried the lunch, but the menu looks like a solid list of cafe classics (ham and gruyere panini; chopped salad; daily soup).

Pluses: friendly staff; relatively easy to get a spot with an outlet

Minuses: spotlight-y lights make the upstairs a little stuffy

Mercury Cafe

1 Aug
Mercury Cafe vegan baked goods

Mercury Cafe vegan baked goods

Mercury Cafe serves individually brewed cups of De La Paz coffee–beans delivered by bike messenger–homemade vegan and non-vegan baked goods, and sandwiches on Acme bread. Despite their high-brow foodiness, the place is a casual local hangout.

The place fills up most weekdays, though you can usually snag a table if you time it right (or wait for your own spot at one of the counter stools).

They serve beer and wine in the evenings and even have some happy hour specials. They have occasional evening events, listed on their Facebook page.

The cafe has big windows that open onto the sidewalk, so you can pretend you’re working outside on nice days without suffering from screen glare. Seats with plugs, however, are along the back wall; this area can get a little stuffy on hot days, so come fully charged if it’s warm by SF standards. They are currently raising money for their own parklet, so here’s hoping they’ll have a real outdoor seating area soon.

Pluses: Tasty food, plugs, happy hour, reliable internet, big windows

Minuses: Can be busy

The Summit

29 Jul

The Summit got a bunch of attention when it opened late last year, probably because it seemed to bring together three of the things San Francisco loves most: tech entrepreneurship, local food, and fresh coffee. Officially, a whole bunch of start-ups have their offices in this building, thanks to incubator I/O Ventures. Unofficially, a bunch more are probably getting started at any one of The Summit’s long worktables or cushy couches.

Long communal tables at Summit

Long communal tables at Summit

The warehouse-like space accommodates plenty of laptops, and that’s part of its problem: The Summit seems like it would be a great place to hang out and work all day, but with only about six outlets in the whole space, it’s not practical to count on this place being your office-away-from-home. Our tip: Head straight for the back, where you can keep an eye on the prime seats near the wall outlets; bonus points for bringing your own extension cord.

Even if the “laptop” part of Lunch and Laptop can be a challenge here, the “lunch” part is a big winner. It’s not cheap, but it’s also not your standard cafe fare; you’re shelling out for seasonal salads, 4505 Meats sausages, and inventive drink specials. Coffee is from Blue Bottle; teas come on adorable trays with timers. We hear desserts are the real specialty, but they’re only served in the evening, after the laptops are put away.

Iced coffee at The Summit

Iced coffee at The Summit

Pluses: General atmosphere of productivity and start-up-y energy; quality food and drink; collectively produced soundtrack that on one recent day included everything from Radiohead to TLC’s “Waterfalls”

Minuses: Competitive outlet situation; awkward stools instead of proper chairs; pricey

Bean There

29 Jul

Bean There might as well be Lunch and Laptop’s HQ; we’ve been frequenting the Lower Haight spot for almost two years now, celebrating many of grad school’s milestones in the sunny cafe. It’s a quiet cafe frequented by locals, with wooden bench seating in the long main room, a small section of booths in the back corner, and loads of natural light from the windows lining two sides of the cafe.

Bean There

Bean There's sunny interior

The booth area and one side of the main room have outlets; the other side of the main room doesn’t. That means the crowd tends to divide neatly along technological lines: laptop jockeys under the windows or in the back, and newspaper-readers, novel-writers, and chatty visitors occupying the other long bench. There are also a few basic outdoor tables along Steiner and Waller for nicer days.

Bean There’s been making some upgrades lately to its coffee service and food menu. The sandwiches are fine but generally nothing to write home about; more recently, though, the cafe’s introduced some pre-made but yummy-looking empanadas, quiches, and burritos, all priced under $5. Other winners include tasty bite-sized pastries and desserts (including, on a good day, mini cinnamon rolls), and the iced coffee fiend among us gives theirs two thumbs up.

Pluses: Bright and (if it’s actually nice outside) breezy; rotating exhibits from local artists; generally excellent soundtrack

Minuses: Sandwiches are pricey for what you get; outlet-stalking can be necessary; cash only


25 Jul
Sugarlump's empanada

Sugarlump's empanada

Sugarlump is a modern coffee shop with mid-century decor. They focus on fair trade organic coffee and a few tasty treats, including vegetarian empanadas and vegan tamales. In the evening, the place converts into a mini restaurant called Sous Beurre Kitchen.

There are a few highly coveted plugs sprinkled around the place. The place is decent-sized, but there aren’t all that many tables, so there is a nice distance between you and your fellow laptopers.

Pluses: Dark and quiet, if you like that kind of thing

Minuses: Some of the chairs, though stylish, are seriously uncomfortable.