April 6th, 2011 WW Culture Staff | Food Reviews & Stories
 

Klatch Of 2011

Portland’s newest coffeehouses, rated.

lede_klatch2011_3722BARISTA ALBERTA - IMAGE: cameronbrowne.com
     
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What makes a good coffeehouse? It’s more than just good coffee; with an hour’s practice, you can prepare a world-class cup at home. And it’s not free Wi-Fi or great baked goods or art on the walls. All those things are nice, but not essential. A truly fine cafe should, with its location, decor, clientele and general attitude, make everyone who enters its doors seem hipper and clearer of mind. It should do for the spirit what a double espresso does for the brain. It should make you sharp. It’s an ineffable quality, one that cannot be measured by conventional metrics, so we’re going with an unconventional one. We’ve rated these 14 new cafes on the same scale Aaron Mesh has devised for rating movies: 1 to 100, out of all the coffee shops, everywhere. It is subjective and a little irrational; it is also infallible.

64 Aliviar Coffeehouse

1737 NE 42nd Ave., 954-1091, aliviarcoffee.com. 6:45 am-5 pm Monday-Friday, 7:45 am-5 pm Saturday-Sunday. 

As I squeezed into a window-side seat at Aliviar, I nearly landed in the lap of the white-haired fellow at the neighboring table. Aliviar is teensy-tiny, and tables and chairs are packed tightly together. This is not a place for clandestine conversation. But it is the kind of friendly and welcoming neighborhood haunt where, seconds after sitting down, you’re learning Czech phrases and sauerkraut recipes from the patrons around you. Aliviar offers strong, single-origin coffee roasted by Olympia’s Batdorf & Bronson and Oakland’s Roast. The food selection is nothing special, but the eclectic (and slightly baffling) art collection—including a photograph of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, an ad soliciting donations for Afghan freedom fighters battling the Soviet Union, and a tapestry of Our Lady of Guadalupe—should keep you plenty occupied. REBECCA JACOBSON.

90 Barista Alberta

1725 NE Alberta St., 208-2568, baristapdx.com, 6 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 7 am-6 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Unlike its flagship Pearl location, which is all industrial-chic brick walls and exposed beams and women in yoga pants, Barista’s second location, which opened on Northeast Alberta Street in early 2010, feels like a 19th-century British hunting den. Dark wood paneling, mounted bucks’ heads, apothecary jars, flocked wallpaper and leather booths—it’ll either make you gag on your single-origin macchiato or swoon. The first cafe had a bit of a reputation for uninviting coffee snobbery, but although “flocked wallpaper” is probably setting off a few red lights, this location manages to be far warmer and every bit the community coffeehouse. Customers can still choose from an ever-changing lineup of specialty coffees from around Portland and the U.S. (even the odd international guest); the $9 vac-pots are absent, but espresso is served with the same anal attention to perfection as ever. Notably, this location also offers an equally well-curated lineup of local beers on tap—it’s only open until 6 pm, but still a jolly nice spot for an afternoon tipple. RUTH BROWN.

74 Cafe Eleven

435 NE Rosa Parks Way, 954-1375. 7 am-3:30 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-3:30 pm Saturday-Sunday.

The 5 miles between Northeast Alberta Street and St. Johns are marked by the occasional cafe, patiently grinding coffee beans and toasting bagels in the North Portland quietude. Cafe Eleven is a new addition to this archipelago of coffee outposts, along with Posies, GrindHouse Coffee, and Red E Cafe. Just off Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and a few blocks south of North Lombard Street, Cafe Eleven fills one half of a converted residential duplex—a nice alternative to the austerity of Portland’s contemporary cafe culture. Until the start of 2011 the house was solely occupied by Florio Bakery, which still bakes in the left part of the building and stocks Cafe Eleven with tasty treats. The beans are supplied by Portland’s Trailhead Coffee Roasters, and though the Altiplano French Roast I tried lacked complexity, it was brewed well and yielded an excellent cup of joe. RACHAEL DEWITT.

79 Cafe Velo

600 SW Pine St., 719-0287, cafe-velo.com. 7:30 am-5 pm Monday-Friday.

A longtime Portland Farmers Market vendor, Cafe Velo opened a comically tiny shop in the shadow of Big Pink just over a year ago. There’s no indoor seating or even an espresso machine in the subway tile and chalkboard-appointed space—this is a strictly drip establishment—but there are Mediterranean-inspired flatbread sandwiches (falafel with roasted peppers, chicken za’atar with saffron yogurt sauce) and more complicated specials (tagines and paellas). Whatever’s in the press pot will be good ($1.75 for a 10-ounce cup), but for another 50 cents you can take your pick of drip-to-order beans from a bewildering variety of local coffee roasters, including Stumptown, Heart, Trailhead and even tiny operations like Sterling and Greyhound. Unless you’re willing to brave bus-mall fumes at Velo’s sidewalk tables, you’ll have to get your order to go, so give a hoot and bring your own cup. BEN WATERHOUSE.

75 Caffe Vita

2909 NE Alberta St., 954-2171, caffevita.com, 6 am-8 pm Monday-Friday, 7 am-8 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Despite years of speculation that Seattle roaster Caffe Vita would be opening its own outlet in Portland, and persistent rumors of bad blood with Stumptown, when it finally, quietly took over Concordia Coffee House on Alberta late last year, the local response was barely more than a shrug. Almost five months later, there’s still not a lot happening there. The large, echoey space remains sparse, save for a few couches and tables and a cabinet of merchandise. If I hadn’t known they moved in so long ago, I’d have guessed it was last week. On offer is espresso, press pot or cold brew, although an epic old siphon lurking in the background suggested this might expand. The roaster boasts a lengthy menu of take-home beans, but the cafe offers only one on any given day. The Sulawesi available during our visit was bold, clean and sweet, and served with a smile, but hopefully if and when the cafe starts offering manually brewed coffee, the menu will be opened up to showcase the full range the company has to offer. This is clearly still a work in progress; the cafe received a beer and wine license last year and word is that it’s going to start roasting there, too. Until then, there’s no great reason to visit this lonely little coffeehouse, unless you really can’t be bothered walking three blocks to the more inviting surrounds of Extracto. RUTH BROWN.

90 Cloud Seven Cafe

901 NW 10 Ave., 336-1335, cloudsevencafe.com. 7 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-6 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Don’t let the extensive menu and posh decor fool you—Cloud 7 is first and foremost a coffee shop. They’re damn good at it, too. The baristas do justice to the beans (from Chicago-based Intelligentsia, the Stumptown of the Midwest), and they’re big on pour-over—you’ll never get a stale brew. Tao of Tea, mimosas, wine, seasonal draft beer and smoothies are some of the other beverages available in addition to breakfast, lunch and tapas. The space is proportional to the menu—about three times the size of an average Portland cafe—but, almost one year in, the many tables are starting to fill. RACHAEL DEWITT.

73 Coffee Division

3551 SE Division St.,
coffeedivision.com, 7 am-5 pm daily.

Coffee Division, which opened in early February, has leapt onto the already crowded pour-over bandwagon—but this white-walled, airy cafe does it without pretension. Sure, there’s ceremony to the act, as baristas use a delicate, long-necked Japanese kettle to pour hot water over a ceramic filter cone (also Japanese-made), but they’re unhurried and unassuming about it. The method leads to a clean, bitterness-free brew, with no need for cream to cut the bite. Coffee Division’s light-bathed space is spare but welcoming, with potted plants on recessed, ceiling-level ledges and understated art on the walls. Pair your java (made from Stumptown beans) with a zingy, flaky orange ginger scone (one of many toothsome baked goods from Crema on offer), take a seat at a wooden table and watch the Division Street traffic putter by. REBECCA JACOBSON.

84 Courier Coffee

923 SW Oak St., 545-6444, couriercoffeeroasters.com. 7 am-5 pm Monday-Friday.

This very small roaster, which began in a garage and still delivers exclusively by bike, wasted little time in taking over Half & Half’s storefront when the beloved sandwich shop closed last year. The remodeled space resembles a one-fifth scale model of the 3rd Avenue Stumptown, without the slightly menacing air of hipness. Owner Joel Domreis serves espresso drinks and  drip-to-order coffee (he uses gold filters, not the usual Melitta disposables), sometimes in Mason jars, from behind a lovely hardwood bar with a heavy coat of nautical varnish. There’s vintage hip-hop on the turntable and friends’ art on the walls, the vanilla syrup is made on-site and the beans are never more than three days from roasting. Don’t miss house baker Leala Humbert’s excellent cake—it’s dreamy. BEN WATERHOUSE.

83 Oui Presse

1740 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 384-2160, oui-presse.com. 7 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 7 am-5 pm Saturday-Sunday.

OUI PRESSE
Credits: IMAGE: cameronbrowne.com

A newsstand, ceramics gallery, bakery and coffee shop, Oui Presse holds a lot of allure for inner-Hawthorne cafe-goers. Since it opened in December, sparsely furnished and bare-walled, the cafe has evolved into a charming hideout from the rain, with good eats, drinks and reads. The beans are the same Stumptown blend you’ll find everywhere, but Oui Presse delivers a French press and espresso pull of uncommon quality. Shelves bulging with magazines line two walls of the shop, and carry titles ranging from Harper’s to Opera to Vogue in three languages. Owner Shawna McKeown (formerly WW’s associate publisher) has been blogging her experiences as cafe owner and discusses additions to the shop. She bakes the chocolate-chip cookies and coffee cake, and Ken’s Artisan Bakery supplies the toast and croissants, making Oui Presse one of the only spots on the east side to serve Ken’s. RACHAEL DEWITT.

82 Public Domain

603 SW Broadway, 243-6374, publicdomaincoffee.com, 6 am-7 pm Monday-Friday, 7 am-7 pm Saturday-Sunday.

No, the name does not mean your Americano is open source—although the downtown location, which used to be the couch-filled late-night street-kid hangout Portland Coffee House, gets its share of freeloaders still. (You know that guy who paints his face bright blue? He knows when there’s an excess pour to be had.) Newly immaculate, with white walls that may remind former customers of THX 1138 and first-time visitors of an Apple store, Public Domain is now the public face of longtime wholesale roaster Coffee Bean International, and a handsome face it is, if a little antiseptic. The coffee’s excellent: The pour-over is a precisely choreographed floor show, and the direct-trade Peruvian blend my show produced was smooth, with a harvest-festival taste. There’s a happy hour with $1 espresso shots twice a week, plus a pastry case where you’ll find a $2.50 pumpkin-zucchini muffin that will, like the former owner’s hippie tchotchkes, magically vanish. AARON MESH.

71 Spunky Monkey Coffee

35 NE 20th Ave., 234-1660, monkeyroasters.com. 7 am-4 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-3 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Bring your own recorded music to this Kerns neighborhood shop. Not only will you hear yourself over the speakers during your regular morning coffee run, but you will get 10 free coffees for contributing to the “95 percent local” soundtrack. Gray Nieland of Monkey Roasters encourages über-local everything, from the music he plays at the shop to the coffee he roasts in Sellwood and the chickens he raises for sandwiches. The best part of this little hole-in-the-wall? The staff loathes refined sugar. Spunky uses sugar substitutes of the natural kind—stevia, agave and a bitter, housemade chocolate mix come standard in the shop’s custom mochas and sweets, and it’s offered up at the counter as well. Be sure to check out the plastic drum machine in the restroom—it’s never too early to rock. NIKKI VOLPICELLI.

86 Water Avenue Coffee

1028 SE Water Ave., 808-7084, wateravenuecoffee.com. 7 am-5 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm Saturday, 9 am-3 pm Sunday.

Half the third-wave houses in Portland are piggybacking on pour-over cups—hell, the other day a Starbucks barista asked me if I wouldn’t mind waiting five extra minutes for this innovative new technology—but at inner-Eastside industrial outpost Water Avenue the glass cones and Chemex carafes are lined up gleaming three in a row, at the front of the gleaming wood counter, under the gleaming neon-blue coffee sign. It’s as if the place were the soundstage for a mod ’60s movie, with pour-over coffee as the starlet instead of Marilyn Monroe. The coffee will certainly blow your skirt up: Roasted on-site in a 1974 Samiac machine imported from the Swiss Alps, Water’s nine blends are richly gobsmacking even if you don’t succumb to the allure of the individually brewed mug. AARON MESH.

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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