Cafes in San Francisco

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Noeteca‘s owners spent their lives looking forward to running their own restaurant, so it’s no surprise that the French-inspired tapas spot feels comfortable in its own skin from early morning meals until late into the night. During the day, Noeteca seems like a cafe, where patrons sip on international coffees from local roasters brewed by the cup or for personal-sized French presses. At brunch menu, familiar dishes share space with ambitious French-inspired offerings—the croque monsieur becomes a croque Napoleon with slices of bread pudding layered with black forest ham and emmantaler. When the weather is nice, guests can wander out to a patio colored by a flower and herb garden to learn the sun’s secret handshake.

As evening falls, candlelight fills the dining room and guests switch their focus to wine. The award-winning list includes more than 30 varieties, each available by the glass or half-glass. For dinner, patrons can build their own cheese plates or share a tarte flambèe, Alsatian flatbreads the San Francisco Bay Guardian said have “a lovely thin, blistered crust that was a bit softer and more luxurious than a typical pizza crust”.

1551 Dolores St
San Francisco,
CA
US

Your senses seem stronger inside Samovar Tea Lounge. Warm sunlight streams through tall windows and hushed conversation mingles with the sound of tea flowing from nubbly iron kettles, their contents perfuming the air with hints of herbs, smoke, toasted rice, flowers, and revolutions in Boston. This is owner Jesse Jacobs' vision, what he describes on his website as "an escape from the overflow of information" into an intimate space for human interaction, carved out by the global ritual of sharing tea.

This global emphasis inspires an artisanal menu of small plates and sandwiches that could conceivably be served during tea services in India and Morocco, or, in a playful turn by the chef, the Paleolithic era. It is the tea, however, that enables guests to get acquainted with international terroir without sneaking small shrubs through customs. Small, family farms in countries including Kenya, Paraguay, and Nepal, many of them organic, send their whole-leaf brews to fill Samovar's carefully curated collection. Each of its three locations serves the entire menu, which is comprehensive enough to classify oolong and pu-erh separately and boast vintage blends dating back to 1989.

297 Page St
San Francisco,
CA
US

Although Gabriel Maldonado left his hometown of Michoacan, Mexico in the early 1940s for new opportunities in the United States, he wasn't able to leave behind his family's century-long baking traditions. After long days of laying railroad tracks around Suisun Bay, he spent his evenings in a refurbished garage space, baking sweet pastries and breads inside an old pizza oven. The next morning, he would load the baked goods into his 1938 Cadillac and sell them to the local port and plant workers. He finally laid down firmer roots for his business in 1951, establishing La Victoria Bakery in the Mission District.

The current pastry chef, Luis Villavelazquez, recently upgraded the bakery's Mexican pastries to gourmet status by fusing Latin ingredients into famous French confections. In addition to vegan-friendly items and traditional cookies and cakes crafted from fresh eggs and milk, the 60-year-old panaderia churns out pan dulce from a family recipe passed down through generations of text messages as well as locally roasted fair-trade coffee and Argentinean empanadas.

2937 24th St
San Francisco,
CA
US

Named in honor of the women in owner Paulo Acosta Cabezas’s life, Mamá Art Cafe creates a local hub for the output of creative energy and the intake of savory snacks. Mamá's baristas brew a lineup of specialty fair-trade organic coffees, with beans culled from Berkeley Coffee and Tea and served up hot and fresh from an array of roasts, flavors, and magic-beanstalk origins. The intimate café setting boasts an interior adorned with local and international artwork—with past art exhibitions showcasing Marta Ayala's paintings and Charles Anselmo's photographs—and the cafe regularly entertains with creative performances, such as dinner tango routines and live jazz music.

Mamá Art Cafe's tireless effort to give back to the community earned the eatery a shout-out from then-Mayor Gavin Newsom with a 2010 Latino Heritage Award for Achievement in Business, as well as honors at the 2011 Annual Hispanic Business Salute.

4754 Mission St
San Francisco,
CA
US

Om Shan Tea's kitchen flourishes with vegan and mostly organic ingredients that are locally sourced when possible, but it also can be characterized by what it doesn't have. That includes a microwave, a fryer, gluten, refined sugars, and peanuts, with few exceptions noted clearly on the menu. The eatery crafts soup, salad, bowls, and open-faced sandwiches—which are obviously more honest—with fragrant seasonings and earthy, healthful ingredients such as adzuki beans, quinoa, coconut oil, hempseed, and kale.

Echoing the establishment's emphasis on community, organic tea is served by the pot in Chinese-tea-ceremony style. A long menu of varieties includes yunnan black, raw yerba mate, and tulsi teas. The establishment also hosts a full calendar of events, including concerts, dance performances, and poetry readings.

233 14th St
San Francisco,
CA
US

Stinging nettles; squash-ginger twist; Happy Feet. Frapez Smoothie Spa's organic beverages sound like yoga poses and are likewise designed to balance and detoxify the body. Hot smoothies pack in the same fruit-sourced nutrients as cold smoothies, minus the brain freeze and moist handshakes. Teas, such as dandelion leaf, and juices, such as the energizing wheatgrass, further support the Frapez mission of infusing lives with a convenient supply of nutrients.

Frapez's in-house nutritionist provides one-on-one consultations to help clients develop nutrition programs that fit their lifestyles. Detox programs combine the shop's smoothies and teas in regimens designed to clean out and energize the body's organs.

4092 18th St
San Francisco,
CA
US