There is on element of urban life which is conspicuously missing from downtown SF – cozy, comfortable coffee houses with couches which are open late. Between various overrated douchy restaurants and high end bars, there seems to be no space downtown for such places as “Simple Pleasures” on Balboa or even Blue Danube on Clement, which is unfortunate.
A combination of high rent that cannot be sustained by coffee drinkers that sit around for hours and spending just couple of dollars, and surprising lack of people who are actually out during weeknights and who would be interested in reading, surfing internet/working or just hanging out in cafes until late hours of the night, created this cold, sterile vibe downtown, where when it comes to coffee – only Starbucks/Peet’s can survive.
Considering how greedy the local landlords are who would rather have their commercial space be vacant for years than rent it to a promising business for a below-market rate, I don’t see much hope for the revival of the coffee house culture downtown San Francisco. The few such cafes that are left in the city will only be able to survive in cheaper areas, such as the Tenderloin and Outer Richmond, while they are still cheaper than downtown.
I was almost about to suggest that once the new residential developments in SOMA are built and populated, there will be a need for more places like Philz, but I seriously doubt it, as so far, SOMA has been much more welcoming to overpriced, not so great restaurants and bars.
This site is a great resources for finding non-corporate coffee houses in San Francisco.