These Cruisy San Francisco Cafes Just Might Be the Gayest in the World
In a sea of pour-over houses, these select few have earned their popularity by creating a special space for the local LGBTQ community to thrive
With more than 250 coffee shops within 49 square miles, you can tell locals love their daily grind. Some are so popular, they’ve grown from humble corner stores into national chains. You may recognize Philz, a major third-wave player that started in San Francisco. Or perhaps Peet’s? This Berkeley-born brand gives Starbucks a run for its money. With honorable mentions like Chromatic, Sightglass, Ritual, and Blue Bottle, just to name a few, San Franciscans are never more than a few blocks from the best brews in the world.
But sometimes it’s not just about a great cup of joe—but the vibe. Truth be told, cafes are as much about people-watching and meet-cutes as they are about the grounds. That’s why in a sea of pour-over houses, these select few have earned their popularity by creating a special space for the local LGBTQ community to thrive.
Spike’s Coffees and Teas
Spike’s is a staunchly independent, eco-friendly cafe situated in a prime gayborhood people-watching spot off Castro Street. Spike’s gives back to local nonprofits. When you get a cup of delicious, locally-roasted coffee at Spike’s, you’re helping them support worthy causes.
Where to enjoy your brew: Sip a cappuccino on their sidewalk terrace, or take your cup to Dolores Park, a short jaunt down 19th Street. The hilly section is known to locals as the gay beach because it’s the perfect place to boy-watch and catch some rays.
For those who care more about what goes with their coffee than the coffee itself, walk to the other side of Dolores Park and visit Tartine. There will probably be a line, but it’s worth the wait. Tartine is famous for its dedication to the artful craft of baking, serving French classics alongside creative seasonal creations. A true delight for gourmet foodies, francophones, and dessert people alike.
Bon appetite: If you still have room for more, make your way to Bi-Rite Creamery and treat yourself to a scoop of ice cream.
Walk north and you will find an all-day queer cafe, Milk SF. Unlike many popular coffee houses in the Mission District, Milk rejects single-batch, pour-over coffee in favor of an innovative brewing technique created by Oakland start-up Ground Control. Milk SF strives to create a daytime space in a neighborhood saturated with nightclubs. It hosts regular art exhibitions, drag shows, and more.
After your cup: Meander two blocks up Valencia Street to the bright orange multi-story mecca of all things vintage, Stuff. While wandering the aisles of this sprawling, Black-owned antique collective, you’re sure to find something, or someone, that catches your eye.
If you don’t like your coffee too vanilla, head on over to Folsom Street and visit Wicked Grounds. This cafe is more than just a place to get a great cup of coffee; this queer-owned-and-operated community space hosts a variety of workshops, munches, and mixers aiming to bring San Francisco kinksters together. Catering to more than just coffee lovers, Wicked Grounds sells a variety of fetish items, books, and local artwork.
Want more? If you can’t find what you’re looking for, pop into neighboring shops Leather Etc. or Mr. S Leather for a wider selection.
Jane on Larkin
Nestled in the center of the Trans District near Polk Gulch, you’ll find the hip, women-led, up-and-coming San Francisco chain, Jane. Its unassuming Larkin Street location, around the corner from famed nightclub Divas, serves as a cheerful meeting place for community builders, coffee addicts, and brunch lovers alike.
Offering house-made bread, pastries, and breakfast dishes alongside Equator Coffee drinks, Jane is a great spot to fuel up before exploring the many eclectic shops and eateries that line Larkin.
Field Trip: A few blocks away, on Polk Street, you’ll come across Utsuwa Floral Design, a plant daddy’s dream. Stepping inside this lush, beautifully curated store will transport you to a tropical jungle in paradise.