Strong Coffee in the ‘Hood

| February 1, 2010 | 2 Comments
  • 2 Comments

Lattes at Matching Half Cafe
Lattes at Matching Half Cafe

So I moved to the city a few weeks ago. After enduring many sweaty hours of I can’t imagine anything I’d rather be doing less, I’ve vowed never to move out of my apartment for as long as I shall live. Yes, the size of the kitchen will take a little getting used to, and I may never have a grown-up dinner party. But moving is just no fun. Getting the couch up the four flights of stairs was an unspeakable feat. That being said, I’ve put it all behind me and am settling in just fine: finding my favorite grocery store, getting the bus route figured out, exploring yoga studios to find one I like and–of course–drinking lots of coffee.

Now the Internet’s a pretty big part of my life since I do a lot of writing from home. And since Comcast rarely works with anyone’s ideal schedule, they couldn’t come out for five days after I moved in, so I set out researching some free Wi-Fi which brought me to the following neighborhood gems in the NOPA/Western Addition neighborhood. While the free Wi-Fi is what initially attracted me to these coffee shops, I love each for different reasons and still go frequently despite the fact that the wireless is up and kickin’ at home.

The Matching Half

Airy and industrial interior of Matching Half Cafe and menu
Airy and industrial interior of Matching Half Cafe

The Matching Half is one of those places I’m excited to bring people to. Yes, come and check out the new digs, and I’ll take you to my new favorite coffee place. Those are words I’ve uttered numerous times in the last few weeks. And before telling you all about how rad it is, a quick disclaimer for the laptop crowd: there are very few outlets, so if you’ve got a laptop battery that’s hanging on for dear life, this may not be the best choice. However, it’s great for so many other reasons, and I’m almost hesitant to talk about it because I like its tucked-away, not-too-crowded, neighborhood appeal. I appreciate places that pay close attention to each detail, from the lovely ceramic cups to the metal bar, to the stark but warm industrial space. I love the menu penned on craft paper. I love the vivid, industrial painting by Mike Shankman.

When not working, settling into one of the window-side tables is prime people watching territory. There are dog walkers, young families buying treats and hanging at the outdoor tables, and runners cruising towards the Panhandle. And the coffee: this is not quick in-out-and-on-with-your-life coffee. It really is slowly and carefully prepared and it shows. The lattes are beautiful and strong, and they have numerous single-origin drip coffees brewed to order. They also have a small but nice selection of breakfast pastries (the croissants are buttery, flaky goodness), sandwiches and salads.

croissant from The Matching Half

And while I haven’t had the pleasure of having a glass of beer or wine–it’s sure to happen in the coming week. They do happy hour specials from 4pm-6pm daily, and have some interesting bottles of beer available. Like Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout and PBR in a bottle. Right now they actually have a breakfast panino and PBR special. I can’t say that I’ve ever had PBR in a bottle and I definitely haven’t had PBR for breakfast…but here’s to a new home and new beginnings, perhaps PBR and all.

The Matching Half
1799 McAllister (@Baker), San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 674-8699
Hours: Mon.-Thurs.: 7am-7pm; Fri. 7am-10pm; Sat. 8am-10pm; Sun. 8am-6pm.
Cash only.

Café Abir

storefront of Cafe Abir
Storefront of local favorite, Café Abir

Café Abir prides itself on roasting their own coffee daily in their micro-roasting machine. They make a rock-solid Americano and a nice, strong latte. But so do many places in the city. So what sets Café Abir apart? What I like is their varied workspace: they have a giant, communal table along with raised round tables with red velour booths that feel like little work nooks. They play good 80’s music: I’ve been sitting here writing for the past hour and there’s been some classic Heart, Bruce Springsteen and Men at Work. Good stuff. And they also have tons of individually wrapped treats, from slices of cake, to apricot bars and chocolate-dipped Rice Krispie bars. I’ll admit, before I’d stocked the kitchen and actually gotten a feel for the ‘hood, I had my fair share of their giant Rice Krispie treats.

Café Abir serves Numi tea, and a few different selections of beer and wine. In the evening, I’ve seen couples having a bottle of beer, presumably before heading out to one of the bars nearby. The red velour couches are that good–and when it’s warm enough, the outdoor tables are prime for Divisadero people watching. So while there are dozens of incredible coffee joints around town, I’m thankful Abir’s close by, and that they’re open a bit later than most.

Café Abir
300 Fulton Street (@ Divisidero)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 567-6503
Hours: Daily, 6am-10pm
Cash only.

Apollo Coffee

A quiet Sunday afternoon at Apollo Coffee
A quiet Sunday afternoon at Apollo Coffee

When I first moved in, Apollo had a sign on the front door that they’d be closed for the next week. I wasn’t sure if this was because of the construction on Divisadero or because post-holiday business is just darn slow, and it’s a smart business move to shutter for a few days. Regardless, I’m happy they’re up and running now. This is quite literally the perfect place to get work done–oftentimes I actually feel guilty talking on the phone because the atmosphere is so conducive to quiet work and reading that it tends to have more of a library vibe than a happening coffee house vibe. So while you won’t hear the hippest live music here, there’s tons of comfortable individual seating, lots of outlets, and great natural light. It’s uber-clean, and the owner is incredibly friendly.

The lattes are great. Their espresso has smooth, sweet notes. And the drip coffee is strong–even though I have a coffeemaker at home, the houseguests I’ve had prefer to cruise over to Apollo for a cup. They have a small selection of breakfast pastries and scones, panini for lunch, and a great selection of snacks like Lara Bars, Dagoba chocolate, mini brownies, and mini truffles. In fact, I noticed a lot of options for the chocolate aficionado here, from chocolate bars to dark chocolate cupcakes. They sell beer and wine as well, although I think the hours at Apollo aren’t so conducive to this. When asked about the early hours, the owner commented that it’s a much quieter part of Divisadero, and maybe in the summer they’ll stay open a bit later. Until then, I’m sticking to the coffee, the quiet, and the chocolate.

Apollo Coffee
1064 Divisidero St. (between Turk and Golden Gate Blvd)
San Francisco, CA 94115
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 8am-7pm; Fri.-Sat. 8am-6pm; Sun. 9am-6pm

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Category: local food businesses, restaurants, bars, cafes, reviews, san francisco, tea and coffee

About the Author ()

Megan Gordon is originally from Eureka, CA although she's lived in numerous college towns around the country (another story altogether). A freelance food and travel writer, Megan has written for publications like Ready Made Magazine, The San Francisco Examiner, Edible SF and Edible Marin & Wine Country, Olive Oil Times and The San Francisco Bay Guardian. She writes regularly for Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn and maintains her own local food blog, A Sweet Spoonful. Yes, Megan even tweets @meganjanesf. In addition to writing and photographing food, Megan is the founder (and head baker) of Marge, a Bay Area baking company specializing in classic American pies and nostalgic desserts.
  • Sally

    Megan,

    Do you know what kind of coffee Apollo uses?

  • http://www.asweetspoonful.com Megan Gordon

    They use Equator Coffee :)