92 thoughts on “The New Office Space”

  1. How about NYC? I work at the Greenwich Cafe on 6th and Greenwich in the Village. Are there other places ,free wifi and don’t hassle you for staying for a while… and potentially open 24 hours :). Hey, it can’t hurt to ask!!

  2. Chicago has a ton of independent mobile-office-friendly coffeehouses, too, way too many to list here. (Well, okay, I’ll list one, which is my particular hangout spot – Dollop, at 4181 N Clarendon Ave, in the Uptown neighborhood where I live.) For those who don’t know, by the way, there’s a fantastic resource on the web for independent coffeehouses, called the “Delocator” (Delocator.net; realistically known as the “Starbucks Delocator,” but they’re legally not allowed to say that). I don’t know about other cities, but that site has just about every single independent coffeehouse in Chicago now listed…and there’s a lot of them!

  3. No wifi at Reverie? Damn, that’s the only place with a patio where you can smoke. Well, the Google/Earthlink WiFi RFP was submitted to the TechConnect people yesterday. Soon they’ll all be wired whether they like it or not. I’m still waiting for my EVDO-modem phone to work.

  4. Dana Street Roasting Company in downtown Mountain View is where I spend my days. They have wireless (Live555) but don’t allow you to powerup. I think that works out well since you can be productive while you are there, but need to leave when your battery runs out, which keeps it interesting. (Personally, I have simply invested in extra batteries!)

  5. Two other great ones in San Francisco:

    Cafe La Onda (used to be Macondo) – they have full sized desks, free wifi, lots of space (on valencia between 16th and 17th)

    Maxfields – free Wifi, some seating outside (17th and Dolores)

  6. I’ve actually thought for a while with all of the business that gets conducted in Starbucks and other similar places, they should partner with Kinkos are a similar company. Another great feature would be in-house personal assistants that would edit, print, package, documents, etc.

    With more companies allowing telecommuters and freelancers working from places like this on their laptops, there is an opportunity for folks to help make these mobile workers more productive for a fee.

  7. If you’re tired of working at Starbucks or fighting for a table at Ritual, you should drop by Coworking in San Francisco; we have back door access to a coffee shop and a cool space we work out of Mondays and Tuesdays. We run it as a co-op and membership model; someone gets a “slot” in the Coworking group, with a month to month commitment; when they leave, they find their replacement person. In this way we distribute the responsibility and make the overhead of running coworking low. Check out our web page at http://codinginparadise.org/coworking, or email me at bkn3@columbia.edu for details.

  8. On the road – Panera is way better than Starbucks with nearly as many location they have better food. The independents shops are best in my book ’cause it is nearly impossible out mail from the franchises unless you use webmail (which I can not stand).

  9. I’m based in Mountain View, having come here for a six month rotation from Melbourne, Australia.

    I’ve discovered that good coffee is damn hard to find in the US (I’ll try not to get worked up about just how bad Starbucks, Peets etc is!) but two places I have found that consistently produce great coffee – coffee that I would be happy to drink back home – is at the Coupa Cafe on Ramona St in Downtown Palo Alto and at the Barefoot Coffee Roasters on Stevens Creek Blvd in Santa Clara.

    I’m not sure how regularly they are frequented by business folks but both places have free wireless and you’ll often find an Aussie software developer happily sipping his latte… Say hi if you pick out the accent. 🙂

  10. Zoka in Green Lake or the U District in Seattle.

    O Coffee! my Coffee! our fearful trip is done;
    But good luck finding a table or a spare outlet, there are none.

    Sorry, Walt.

  11. My local coffee shop in SF does pass out passwords to customers. Problem is, some folks moved in next door and have figured out how to jack into his connection. So he can’t leave it open and has to change the password daily.

    The problem with places like Panera is that the people working there don’t know jack about WiFi. A place we use in PA when visiting family has been down the last few trips. So it’s off to Mickey D’s for Freedom Link.

  12. I have been running both my business (JigZaw – http://blogs.jigzaw.com) and the MeshForum conference through mostly working in cafes in Chicago and now in the Bay Area.

    A few in particular that stand out, as well as some comments/suggestions/thoughts.

    • The Grind cafe in Chicago in the Lincoln Square part of town – great cafe, free wifi, lots of power outlets, good coffee and friendly service. Chicago has dozens of other great cafes, but The Grind is one of my favorites.

    • Cafe Mud in Evanston IL. Another great spot, near the El, near Northwestern, with lots of large (and unique) tables, free wifi, lots of power outlets and generally very quiet during the day

    • I’ll definitely agree with the Ritual Coffee Roasters suggestion for in the Mission district. When I’m in SF, it is where I tend to work

    • In Berkeley CA – I like Fertile Ground Cafe on Shattuck, free strong wifi signal, good food and drink and a decent selection of power outlets.

    • Berkeley Expresso is one of the cafes in Berkeley that stays open the latest and has free wifi – but all too often I’ve had serious problems using the wifi, so I generally avoid them.

    • Last night I worked at Cafe Sienna on Bancroft at College Ave – open until midnight, free wifi, tons of tables (limited power however) and a huge outside patio (two to three times the size of their very large inside space). Right across the street from U. C. Berkeley, so lots of students, but generally a good (if slightly loud) environment for working.

    • Today I’m on College ave in the Rockridge area of Oakland, there are a number of cafes here that offer free wifi, a few of note. Spasso where I’m at for the moment, great skylight lit back space, good food and coffee, lots of power outlets and free wifi (but you have to ask for the key), lots of people here working, including a group discussing a website as I type. Also A Perfect Cup O’Tea on one end of Rockridge offers great teas (only okay coffees), lots of comfortable chairs, random tables and free wifi, and they are open relatively late (10pm).

    Some tips from a regular worker in cafes:

    • genreally I try to buy something more than just a drink – a cookie, a sandwich, something so I contribute more than just for my drink

    • it is always appreciated if you both leave a small tip at the counter and try to bus your own table

    • pay attention to the space and size – large cafes with lots of tables tend to not mind people who stay and help fill the space, smaller cafes with fewer tables need more frequent “turns” of those tables to stay in business

    • the best cafes as my general rule of thumb, are those with large tables. Small tables mean that one person with a laptop takes up the whole table (think small bistro round tables). Large tables, in contrast are ideal for multiple people working together at them – whether they came together or not. Part of Ritual’s success, I would argue, is that many of the tables there are large and people do share them (only occasionally having to be asked to share them).

    This is both useful from a standpoint of possibly meeting other people – but more it means that if you are working, have a laptop and perhaps some papers/books/magazines out, you are not immediately occupying lots of space.

    The other “trick” I find is that I try to move a few times in the day, rarely do I go to one cafe in the morning and stay there all day, instead I work in the morning, have lunch someplace else, and work in the afternoon/evening at another place (perhaps leaving for dinner as well). This means that I only rarely take up a table for an excessive period of time, and it forces me to get at least a little bit of exercise.

    It also means that when I do not need to be online, I can work from a cafe without wifi or with limited wifi. These often have really good coffee or other speciality items.

    A final tip – the longer your laptop can go without power, the more flexible and accomodating you can be, my Thinkpad with a fresh extended life battery can go 6+ hours without recharging, usually more than enough for much of the day working productively. If not on one charge, a second charged battery can typically be a lifesaver.

    Great list and topic!


  13. It’s A Grind is another great uncorporate chain. They are popular in SoCal but have a few locations here in the Bay Area. My favorites are in San Jose near the airport off Highway 87 and in Gilroy which is South, South, South Bay. It’s in the southern end but it is near home when I am not commuting to Hayward.

  14. In Cambridge, we work at 1369 Coffee House in Central Square (http://www.1369coffeehouse.com/) and sometimes at Darwin’s in Harvard Square (http://www.darwinsltd.com/).

    In Boston, Newbury St. is covered for free by tech superpowers inc. (http://www.newburyopen.net/), so you can sit in the Armani Cafe and be suave while coding.

    And if all else fails, there’s the excellent Boston Wireless Advocacy Group hotspot list (http://www.bostonwag.org/projects/hotspots.php).

  15. What really struck me after my recent visit to San Francisco was how few free WiFi locations there were in the city – particularly in coffee houses. It seemed that SBC had the monopoly in the City (charging $10/day to connect). I ended up at Metreon one evening and while it did have free WiFi, it was very slow and very unreliable (eventually failing after about 10 minutes of use).

  16. Reminds me of how I worked 5-6 years ago when I ran a network infrastructure startup here in Tucson. I’d often head out to our one big local client in the morning and check up on how things were going with our guys there, and then stop at a downtown coffee shop and make any cell phone calls needed to the East Coast for the day. Then that evening or night I’d end up at The Safehouse with my laptop for some work via wifi. Local music and movie folk still meet there a lot, even if the volume of geeks is lower these days (still free wifi and great coffee if you’re ever in Tucson and need a fix).

    Since I’m moving to the Bay Area this next week, I’ll certainly keep the coffee shops mentioned here in SF, Berkeley and Rockridge in mind, as I’m going to be working at CNET in SF and living in Rockridge.

    Whodathunkit, Tucson leading in front of the Bay Area on anything!

  17. Om, love this conversation. You really need to explore this social experiment more. Especially where it might be in another 5 years.

    I wrote about this a while ago and I have gone a bit further in ways to capitalize on this.

    Create executive office suites/incubators with huge cafes open to the public.

    This is the way to retire from this life of crime.

    Check out my thoughts at http://www.venturefiles.com/2006/02/22/gogo-coffee-shops-are-the-new-garages/

  18. Here’s a couple more for the Lower Haight dwellers. The Grind on Haight @ Scott usually has ample tables to spread out and wifi on, as well as front patio where smokers can get their butts on.

    My new favorite place with wifi is Cafe du Soleil on the corner of Fillmore and Waller, the old Movida Lounge space. As the name hints, it’s a nice little french cafe with great coffee, pain au chocolate, French bread, French toast, great salads and open face sandwhiches. Please just save me a seat when you go as this secret can fill up fast.

  19. Located in Astoris, Queens (NYC), Freeze Peach Cafe offers a variety of teas, coffees, and other fun drinks and snacks. We also have wireless and wired high-speed internet and a number of customers telecommute from the cafe on a daily basis.

    Free 30 minutes internet with purchase. Hourly and monthly high-speed plans available.


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  22. I have blogged the past couple of days about the setting up of our new office. I have stumbled across some other people struggling with the same sort of issues. Let’s just face it, offices have their drawbacks, in addition to many good points. One option is to try to jettison the whole idea…

  23. A bunch of choices in Ann Arbor downtown – Espresso Royalle, Sweetwaters, Eastern Accents lead the pack.

    Panera is a good place to go if you also need lunch.

    There’s a Caribou near my house but it has Freedomlink, SBC’s un-free wifi. So that’s the cafe I go to when I want to be offline.

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned libraries, but public libraries often have wifi access for patrons and visitors.

  24. Thanks to everyone for commenting! Every single thing improved upon what I wrote (including Om’s masterful editing). And nobody pointed out my grammatical errors!

    First, somehow the link disappeared for the Charter Street post that Om originally recommended. Basically, after reading that, I did a total rewrite, because it put my own experience and what many of my friends did into perspective.

  25. On http://www.jiwire.com/ they have a client you can run offline to dicover new wifi locations. It keeps a local database on your computer of the different types of wifi locations and whether or not it’s free, etc. It runs offline. It’s a decent tool for finding you new favorite spot.

    As for me, I love Happy Donut in Palo Alto moderate noise levels and open 24/7. And Atlas Cafe at 3049 20th St @ Alabama St in SF but they do make you pay for internet access a la zrnetservice.com but all in all a nice place to study/work (with great food).

  26. Seattle has a great coffee shop with wifi, the Fargonian at 23rd and Madison in the central city.

    As the day advances you can move next door to Philly Fevre for cheesesteaks and beer and user their free wifi.

    Got you covered from 6:30 AM into the evening and for all major beverage and food groups.

  27. Actually – a similar version is begining to be noticed in Bangalore as well. Ofcourse Coffee Day with 40 odd outlets in Bangalore lets you settle down with your lap-top, a coffe and WiFi (you pay $1 an hour – but was free till Dec of 05). But you also have folks that use their own CDMA phones to go online, chk mails and hold meetings. I have done this myself a half dozen times since Jan. Favourite haunt: Indiranagar Coffee Day or the one in ITPL.
    A lot can start-up over coffee?
    Sridhar Tonse Pai in Bangalore

  28. In SoCal – A good spot for wifi and good scones and bagels is Manhattan Bread & Bagel -1812 N. Sepulveda Man. Bch., CA
    They have had free wifi for 4 years and the best bagels in ca. Plenty of elect. outlets and the place just got remodeled – looks good.

  29. One more in SF: Java Beach Cafe at the end of the N-Judah line by the Great Highway. Get your geek on, get some sun on and watch the sandy surfers stroll in for a warm-me-up.

  30. My favorite is the Art Bistro at 33rd & Geary. Their ‘net connection is OK, the owners are awesome, the focacia is out of this world. It’s small, but comfy & quiet. I hold a good number of meetings there, and tend to meet a lot of other developers in this place.

  31. In Palo Alto:



    Neotte – A tea cafe right across borders & apple on University avenue, great design, great wifi, friendly staff, a graet change from coffee.

    Mountain View:

    Red Rock Cafe

    Verde Bubble Tea

    Quickly Bubble Tea (Plush hi-back executive chairs available)

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  33. Panera has become my preferred place to office on the road. The WiFi has been reliable and the food is great for the price. Much better than fast food for only a buck or so more.

    Panera seems to be getting a lot of attention for their WiFi. I’ve written about that here:

    The only time that doesn’t work is over the lunch hour. I’ve never been in one that isn’t crazy busy at that time.

  34. When I’m in New York, my favorite work spot is at Cafe Pick-me-up on Ave A and 9th, right by Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. The park itself isn’t bad, either.

  35. As you say, coffee shops don’t always like to have Wi-Fi users stay for too long if they are not buying coffee or snacks. Gigazad is helping to address this by providing coffee shops and other businesses with revenue from local advertising that is displayed periodically in the customer’s web brower. Any coffee shop anywhere can sign up for this service.

  36. On my teleworking days, I like to spend the afternoon at Batdorf & Bronson in downtown Olympia, WA.

    On a few day trips up to Seattle, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality & comfort of working from the downtown library. There’s even a coffee cart!

    Like Shannon, I usually buy something in addition to coffee, depending on the time of day (and condition of my pocketbook). It seems like the fair thing to do.

  37. Putting in another vote for Coffee to the People. Free and fast wifi. Very solid. Best overall atmosphere I’ve been in, too.

    Someone above said something about ripping off People’s Cafe. LOL, that’s a joke. People’s Cafe has no wifi, no atmosphere, and their coffee sucks. It is a good point, though, that you wouldn’t want to accidentally go to People’s Cafe if you are looking for Coffee to the People, which is on Masonic, not Haight.

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  40. I myself am working for a startup company Developers Filing Service and we have found the resources at My Day Office to serve our company in every way possible. We only use their Associate membership for $50 a month and they provide us with free WIFI, free Starbucks, conference rooms, cyber cafe, open work areas, cubicles, fireside lounge, and the perk we love the most Admin. Assistants. We did the Starbucks and coffee shop thing for a while and as it turns out the free WIFI didn’t compensate for how much we spent on their coffee everyday.

    My Day Office 2820 Elliott Ave. Seattle, WA 98121

  41. The majority of British coffee shops are mainly interested in volumes of coffee sold to take away. You are even charged more if you decide to have your coffee in their premises, increasing the cost of shop maintenance, cleaning, washing up after you etc. Secondly, many British office workers prefer having their morning coffees at their desks, therefore the ‘take away’ model works just fine.

    Excellent article, thanks!

  42. I always knew that American’s were crazy about their coffee but this is just amazing to read all these comments. There were talks of Star bucks coming to South Africa but I don’t know what happened there. I would love to taste this coffee and see what all the fuss is about

  43. I have a pretty idea about this that no-one seems to have considered.
    Don’t bring your laptop into a coffee shop. We don’t want you there. You’re all creepy.
    We go to a cofee shop because we like coffeeshops, not because we wanted to get stuck in your ‘office.’
    Go away. Consider that.

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