One realm in which the San Francisco street food world doesn’t exactly thrive is coffee shops. But before you throw this newspaper in the gutter and get your New Orleans iced coffee from Blue Bottle, hear me out. I’m not talking about great artisanal coffee or beautiful cafés; San Francisco has those in spades. I’m talking about the doughnut shops, or the place your retired grandfather meets his friends every day for endless cups of Joe and conversations about this week’s game. We have the famous Bob’s in Nob Hill and the adorable Jelly Donut on 24th Street in the Mission, but places like those are sparse. There is one shop, that opens before the sun comes up, and often seems to disappear in the San Francisco backdrop. We all know it, and it’s about time it gets a little credit.
Happy Donuts is a chain with seven locations all over San Francisco that’s been around as long as I can remember. They offer about six different flavors of coffee at all times, and make homemade doughnuts day and night. Each store is a little different. Some, like the Financial District location, include Asian fare like noodle soup or BBQ chicken. Others specialize in apple turnovers and jelly twists. The location on Sixth Street even offers Louisiana Famous Fried chicken. The variety in which each store is operated can vary, but they are always reliable for a quick coffee and a snack to go.
My favorite shop is in Noe Valley, which serves some of my favorite sandwiches in the city, 24 hours a day. Try the turkey club with pickles and Swiss cheese on a freshly baked croissant ($6.60), or the homemade chicken salad on an everything bagel ($5.50). Whether you’re grabbing lunch on the way to the park, starving at 2 a.m., or desperately in need of a hangover cure before work, these sandwiches will save your life. They’re cheap, they’re delicious, and they’re built for the road.
In a city without an all-night bodega or sandwich joint on every corner, we fail to recognize how essential this little coffee shop has become. So I would like to start 2019 with a salute to the little guy. It can be easy to forget, but I sure am happy we have Happy Donuts.
Happy Donuts, 3801 24th St., 415-285-5890, no website.