The Mission is a hit-or-miss kind of neighborhood. Sometimes you are walking down a perfectly lovely block of artsy shops and bike dens and the next minute you have stumbled upon a dark, sketchy corner where underprivileged youth are snorting cocaine. Likewise, coffee in the mission is either amazing or terrible. There’s no middle ground.
Progressive Grounds definitely takes the “amazing” award. This cozy coffee house is located at Bryant and 21st St. and is a branch of the Progressive Grounds mother ship in Bernal Heights. The coffee here is great, but the best part about this place is the vibe and the wide variety of food and drink. Their smoothies are fantastic and they have a huge amount of sandwiches, pastries, etc. Normally the large communal table in the center is filled with different people reading the newspaper or quietly working. Progressive Grounds is a great place to bring homework and utilize their free wifi.
Although single patrons are present more often than groups, it’s also a good hang out spot for small groups. The music will soften any private conversations you may have and the big tables are great for spreading out projects. This coffee shop has a comfy community feel that you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in the mission.
Four Barrel on 14th and Valencia is everything that Progressive Grounds is not. They basically serve one thing: black coffee. Personally, I love black coffee so that isn’t a problem for me. The problem is that the very idea of a latte seems to disgust the baristas. Be prepared for an unrivaled level of hipster smugness at this establishment. The shop itself is very large, but sparsely decorated. The tables are communal, but look like steel slabs. They roast their own beans, but the roaster looks more like a museum display than a functional machine. If you don’t have a sleek Macbook, don’t even bother coming here to work—the ostracism you will suffer might damage you for good. The coffee itself is mediocre—I hear it being compared to Blue Bottle, but I have to disagree. One day, maybe, I will be obscure enough to appreciate this place, but that is unlikely.
Philz Coffee on 24th St. and Folsom is one of my favorite places to exist in the Mission. This part of the Mission is great because it is hidden from the tourists milling around Valencia St. and the market-place feel of the main Mission St. drag. This is definitely a neighborhood coffee house, with lots of local Mission-ites working, conversing, and enjoying the delicious nature of all things Philz. Each cup of coffee is brewed on site when you order, so you will never experience that gross stale taste of coffee long ignored in the pot. The baristas are always friendly and excited to help you. Then again, if I worked at such a fine establishment, I would also be excessively pleased with my life. I haven’t dappled into the world of fancy espresso drinks at Philz yet, but that just speaks to how tasty their drip coffee is. If you decide to order something extravagant, just know you are in uncharted territory.
The Mission has about as many coffee shops as they have hipster mustaches—so, finding the right coffee shop can be a bit of a journey. Other good coffee shops to check out include: Mission Creek Café and Maxfield’s. Shops to stay away from: Muddy Water and Ritual Café.
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