Caffeine Saturation: Comparing the Coffee Shops of Upper Hillhurst





The Bay Area third wave coffee pioneers have now expanded into dozens of locations.

Ambiance: Generic modern plywood. Extra points for the hidden back patio and friendly service. Open to 6 p.m.

Dog-Friendliness: Moderate.

Workability: No wi-fi or outlets, but the back patio has privacy.

Coffee: Pour-overs made with their house blends, like Giant Steps, will cure even serious hangovers. The drinks menu is brief, with cascara soda being the only offering beyond espresso-based drinks, pour-overs, cold brew and tea.

Food: Pastries are made by Blue Bottle’s in-house central bakery. There are no croissants or egg dishes, but there are rhubarb crumble muffins, avocado toast, toast with almond butter and jam, yogurt parfaits and other baked goods.




The Japanese word for perfect, complete and circle (as well as an adorable internet celebrity cat) describes this new addition that is decidedly-feline free.

Ambiance: More blond plywood, with a serene minimalist aesthetic that includes succulent decorations and stylish ceramic-ware. Open to 7 p.m.

Dog-Friendliness: Low. Not much room.

Workability: Free wi-fi, but not a lot of room.

Coffees: Perhaps the best coffee on Hillhurst. Beans are from premium suppliers like Coava, Sweet Bloom and Kuma. Espresso is served with a side of cascara soda. A good selection of variations includes vanilla bean latte, spiced cold brew, matcha latte, espresso latte, iced hibiscus fresca.

Food: Pastries are from the delicious Sugarbloom bakery that puts twists on French standards like a spam croissant. No cooked foods.




McCall’s Meat & Fish took over the former San-Sui space for this coffee-focused cafe that makes full use of its spacious patio.

Ambiance: Black and white checkerboard floor and deep red walls make a change of pace from the ubiquitous blond plywood. Open to 4 p.m.

Dog-Friendliness: High. Plenty of room on the patio. Housemade treats for sale.

Workability: Lots of room, but no wi-fi.

Coffees: Beans from premium roasteries like 49th Parallel and Latitude. Espresso drinks are emphasized — brewed coffee is good quality but comes from an urn. A few specialty drinks like a salted caramel latte.

Food: Pastries are made up the street at McCall’s, and the Kouign-amann is already famous. Breakfast dishes include a poached egg with mushroom duxelles. Sandwiches are available after 11:30 a.m.




Natural foods are emphasized at this all-purpose cafe at the top of Hillhurst tucked under Mess Hall.

Ambiance: Spacious, has room to spread out at large tables, with several patio tables as well. Open to 8 p.m.

Dog-Friendliness: Moderate. There’s enough room on the patio for a few.

Workability: Free wi-fi, if the bustling cafe and frequent smoothie-making don’t bother you.

Food: Avocado toast is served on buckwheat bread. Lots of vegan and gluten-free choices on the menu that also includes omelettes, burritos and pancakes. Known for a wide variety of smoothies.

Coffee: Organic espresso drinks and cold-brew, no brewed coffee or pour-overs. Matcha latte had a odd aftertaste, possibly from the almond milk.




This chain started out in Los Angeles and invented the ice-blended coffee even before the Frappucino. The Hillhurst cafe is one of their more comfortable locations, with the bonus of easy parking in the Albertson’s lot.

Ambiance: The large patio is has heaters and even a fire pit. One of the few coffee spots open early (5:30 a.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. on weekends) to late (11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends).

Dog-Friendliness: Moderate.

Workability: Free wi-fi and some outlets, though it can get busy.

Food: Standard chain coffee-type muffins, sandwiches, and pastries.

Coffee: Some prefer Coffee Bean’s flavored drinks and ice-blendeds to Starbucks. A few unique mix-ins such as candy coffee beans. Brewed coffee is average.




A longtime neighborhood favorite for baked goods, breakfasts and lunches.

Ambiance: Most of the seating is on a side street patio a few doors down from the cafe’s storefront, so it’s more secluded than being right on the Hillhurst sidewalk. Closes at 6 p.m.

Dog-Friendliness: Moderate. A few on the patio.

Workability: It’s more of a restaurant, with no wi-fi.

Food: A large menu of crepes, breakfast dishes, croissants and sandwiches makes it an easy place to stop in for a bite any time.

Coffee: Coffee and standard espresso drinks are average.




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1 Response

  1. Petmike says:

    For a real comparison, you should include comparison of costs. How much is an espresso or cappuccino at each of these places? Never mind the blonde wood descriptions. My guess: lots of overpriced coffees.

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