Monday, August 4, 2008

Where Was I?

There I am, a coffeehouse miner in the dark cave of Portland, toiling away to find the hidden gems of coffeehouses long forgotten. And after weeks and weeks of running around the same ol' tunnels, lo' and behold there is a coffeehouse that has apparently been around since 2004, right there in plain sight on NW 21st. It's Coffeetime!

I don't know how I managed to overlook this one, but here it is.

This place has so much working against it, aesthetically speaking. Not-so-great decor, downright ugly murals, cigarette smoke wafting in from the tables outside. But it is what cannot be designed or forced that drew me in and had me sticking around for a couple of hours.

It's that over-used cliche, "community", that makes this place so homey and inviting. People both seem to know each other and leave each other alone.

Somehow it seems that a city will not function if not for these small spaces that serve coffee at all hours. We need more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Caffe Destino

Feel free to congratulate me, I've officially "arrived" Portland style: I bought a bike.

With the bike comes bike-commuting, which comes with it some serious consideration as to how many blocks out of my way I will pedal to get good coffee pre-work. So far the number of blocks is zero.

It's incredible that I can name at least half a dozen locations that are open and selling coffee on my way to work and yet still not be satisfied with my options. Portland has spoiled us all.

Anyway, when you are absolutely fed up with your half a dozen morning coffee options sometimes it's worth it to look just a little bit harder and voila! I found Caffe Destino.

This coffeehouse works hard to avoid being detected. They have no website that I've found. The are off of 15th Ave. on Fremont behind Whole Foods and down the block from Starbucks.

If you get there early enough, this place is just about perfect. Lots of breakfast options, Caffe Vita coffee, large tables and competent staff.

If you get there later in the morning....well, I've never witnessed it, but the comments on those restaurant review sites are an even split between those who seem to hate loud kids and the mom's who hate people who hate loud kids.

It's the classic "family-friendly" vs. "public Romper Room" conundrum that many neighborhood coffeehouses have to face. It's hard to spurn either camp as both are dedicated customers.

A good warning sign is the mini kid's table and available toys tucked in the corner. If you see this in any coffeehouse then you should evaluate how important that espresso is to you.

Which brings to mind an incident I experienced in a popular coffeehouse last weekend. Three dogs tied up outside, with owners, and one dog says to the other "I can bark really really loud, and for quite a long while without stopping!"

Not long after that, a barista emerges and says that people have been complaining about the barking and then kinda left the solution hanging in the air. The owner wasn't really pleased and didn't do much to fix the situation. Such a rock and hard place scenario.

Perhaps if the coffeehouse has one of those water bowls out front for dogs, then that would be an equally valid warning sign that dogs are expected to loiter and occasionally bark. You can't really complain if the coffeehouse is being inviting to animals, right?

So if a coffeehouse puts out some copies of Dr. Suess and a tiny table tucked in the corner, then you can't complain about the rug-rat infestation.

You'll just have to look a little harder to find your own coffee niche, but trust me, it's out there.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm a Tall Non-Fat Latte, Trapped in a Double Short Americano

I would bet that any coffee-drinker can remember with great clarity their drink preferences throughout their life, chronologically. We all go through phases where our signature drink changes over time due to age, financial situation, fads...

Here is my biography-by-coffee:

16 oz. mocha (high school years)
16 oz. iced mocha (high school years during the summer)
8 oz. americano, with cream and sugar (college)
12 oz. latte, no cream, no sugar (post-college)
12 oz. non-fat latte, no cream, no sugar
drip coffee

I notice a pattern.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Evergreen State has a Clover

Since my spring-time studying has finally slowed, I am anxious to get back to blogging about new coffeehouses that have sprouted up all over.

First though, an email from a reader:

On Sat, May 3, 2008 at 10:25 PM, River Maiden wrote:
I enjoyed reading your blog. Taking a journey into Portland's elite coffeehouses is definitely a worthwhile journey.

If your perception of 'Portland" is in the metropolitan sense, you should take the journey north to Vantucky. We carry Stumptown Coffee as many of the great Portland coffee bars do. We know how to execute it to it's highest potential as well. Also, with the Annex and the Ace taking out their Clovers, River Maiden Artisan Coffee is the only coffeehouse in the world where you can have your favorite Stumptown variety on a Clover.

If you dare venture to the suburbs, you won't be disappointed.


Aaron Flies
River Maiden Artisan Coffee

I am very curious to try this Clover machine and with Stumptown beans no less. Road trip!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Heard Around Town

Slow economy? Not here in Portland. Our coffee market is all but booming with more shops opening and expanding at a swift rate!

By now most Portlanders are aware that the famous Albina Press is going to open a second location on SE Hawthorne and 50th. It's been slow-going, but excitement is certainly building around this SE coffee addition and it should be worth the wait.

Also replicating themselves is Ristretto with a new location under construction at N. Williams and Failing in NE Portland. They will be in the same complex as Nutshell and since it is on my commute route to work, I think I'll be stopping by very often.

Remodeling work is coming to a close over at Random Order Coffee. Hopefully the spiffed up shop will give the bakers a more efficient space with which to churn out those lovely pies.

Having previously served Stumptown coffee, Extracto is currently trying out a few different beans lately. They just finished a rotation of Seattle's Caffe Vita coffee and are currently serving Barefoot Coffee from out of California's Bay Area.

I'm not so much a fan of this Barefoot stuff, but not to worry, Extracto is just having some fun bringing in different beans before they start roasting their own. As soon as April they will begin cooking up their very own blends.

Just today while at Extracto I ran into Dani Cone from Fuel Coffee in Seattle. She was a fantastic barista at Caffe Vita before opening her own coffeehouse and then quickly expanding to three locations around Seattle.

Dani is currently working on a book about her fellow baristas in Seattle and wanted to add some Portland flavor to the mix. She had visited Albina Press, Crema, Stumptown on Division and the Fresh Pot before stopping by Extracto to snap some shots of baristas in action. Look for the book to be out this winter.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Seven Virtues and Bipartisan Cafe

This weekend I boldly went where I rarely go: East Portland. Hanging out at the same places around my home in Northeast was getting old so I did some research and picked a couple of interesting places to spend the weekend afternoons.

On Saturday I tracked down Seven Virtues, an light-filled space on Glisan and 60th. I was very impressed by the great design elements. It's a very neat and well-organized location without being too sparse and hollow.

Each table has their logo stamped on top with a different virtue written on each. I sat at the Honesty table.

Following a very popular trend in Portland, they feature vegan baked goods along side of Crema's animal-filled treats. The vegan cookies came from Sift Bakery, a bakery I haven't heard of yet, they seem like a budding Portland endeavor from their sparse site, but you can also find them at K&F Coffee on Clinton. (Though if you are more interested in a non-vegan delight you need to try the cinnamon roll with gobs of frosting.)

The coffee was decent the vegan soup was passable, but what will keep me coming back is the bright space and great crowd. Lots of neighborhood families and couples enjoying a peaceful afternoon.

But if you want your coffee served with a little more bustle and action, then go check out Bipartisan Cafe. Hilary and Obama have been seen at this coffeehouse over on Stark and 80th. Ok, so it was a cardboard cut-out of each of them. But really this is the place to be this election year. They held a mock caucus recently and are gearing up for the Oregon primary in May. They have the delegate counts posted from all the states up to now and have the best collection of political memorabilia I've ever seen. It looks like a high school history class with a selection of house-made pies in the corner.

All in all it was a very exciting weekend, coffeehouse-wise. East Portland, who knew you had so much to offer?