Well, I think we all saw this one coming.
I’m a coffee nerd. An evangelist for a great cappuccino, a sucker for exceptional customer service and the community hubs that are most coffee shops. When I was choosing a location for my time away, it came down to the fact that I wanted to spend this time working on some big ideas and my favorite place to do that is in a coffee shop. So, I went to the mother ship that is Portland, OR.
Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Water Avenue
This is the one that I’ve probably talked about the most. My favorite cappuccino came from here, their customer service felt refreshing and they offer a sidecar for $1.50 with any drink. (A side car is a shot of espresso to go along with whatever you order) The space is industrial and has a medium amount of seating inside. There’s a nice patio on the exterior and it’s just a few feet from the river, from Hair of the Dog Brewing & from Boke Bowl. I would have spent a lot more time here if my hostel had been closer. It was about a 45-minute journey to get there and I made it twice. It honestly felt like a shop made for coffee professionals and I was into that.
If I could only go to one shop in Portland, I would want this to be it.
2. Sterling Roasters
It felt the most like a neighborhood shop of any that I went to. People came in, made small talk with the baristas and sat with friends and not laptops. The space is sincerely tiny, but, it’s classy. The coffee was superb and the customer service blew my mind every single time I visited. I’m also a huge fan of enjoying my espresso out of a brandy snifter. (I know there’s controversy over espresso served in glass, but, frankly, I don’t care. I like it.)
3. Coffeehouse Northwest
I wasn’t sure if this should be a separate shop on the list since technically it is owned by Sterling. However, it felt worthy of it’s own spot. I found this shop a little too late I think. I ended up going there on my last two days in town and really enjoyed the experience. We’ve established that I like Sterling’s coffee already & the atmosphere/customer service both transferred well between locations. I got the majority of my breakthrough planning moments done in this shop. There were plenty of spaces with outlets to plug in here too, which I appreciated for what I was working on.
I only made it here once. But, I really enjoyed my experience. The coffee was great, the atmosphere was industrial, open and inviting. The baristas were friendly and it was set up well for using your laptop if that was necessary. This was another shop that was a bit away from my hostel, so I didn’t feel the urge to make the journey here more than once. But, overall I had a great experience.
I only visited the heart on the westside. I think it would have been nice to see both, but, I was trying to fit in as much as I could into everyday and it just didn’t seem like a priority at the time. It was nice, although, I’m just not the biggest fan of the espresso that they use on a regular basis. It has this orange mandarin thing that I think mixes really strangely with milk. I had a killer shot of their single-origin one day though. It was a really large shot which I found fascinating. It was large and tasted exactly as I’d hoped it would. This was the only roaster that I was already really familiar with before visiting and I won’t say that I was disappointed, but, I will say that it’s kind of like going on a mediocre date with the person you’ve had a crush on for months but, hadn’t really had a full conversation with just yet. They were doomed from the start because they’d never live up to the beautiful love story I’d already written for us.
6. Barista (on 23rd)
This was the only shop that I frequented which didn’t roast their own. I honestly have a great appreciation for shops that don’t roast. I like when people do what they do and highlight other people who are doing amazing jobs at what they do. They’re a multi-roaster coffeehouse (which means they serve coffee roasted by several different companies) I liked this location because the atmosphere was inviting, cozy and inspiring. It was beautiful and easy to tuck yourself into a nook and write. There’s no wi-fi from what I could tell, which inspired me in it’s own way. It’s also a dream of mine that a successful shop could still thrive without the lapotop faced scene that we’re used to. Rather encouraging people to talk to one another and create without digital stimulation. (granted, for practical reasons, I need wi-fi for the majority of my coffee shop visits. However, I never missed it while I was there.)
Last but, not least. Again, this was a jaunt from the place that I staying. However, it was right next to one of the Pok Pok locations (which we’ll talk about in a future post) and it was also not a horrible trip from Sweedeedee which I was already traveling out to see. I had great coffee here and the service was lovely. My first trip I actually got an iced latte to-go which is abnormal for me. I have this belief that the cappuccino is the perfect drink to get a feeling for the quality of the shop. If you get a great cappuccino, chances are you’ll have great experiences with their other offerings. But, I was getting my coffee to-go and just think iced coffee travels better for a reason that has no backing.
Either way, it was good. The second time I visited, I did get a cappuccino and it was great as well. The thing I noted the most about this shop is that they had brown sugar on the condiment bar. This is something that I saw a lot when I was traveling in London. I had so many great coffee experiences there that it kind of brought me back to that feeling, which was pretty adorable. It’s surprisingly rare to see brown sugar on bars here, but, I think it’s a nice touch even if your coffee is so good that it feels strange to add sugar to it.
I tried to sound balanced here and not just tell you that every single shop was great and leave it at that. But, the truth is, every single one of those shops are great! If you find yourself in Portland anytime soon and are looking for a great cup, I’d recommend any of the 7 listed here. What’s your favorite Portland coffee shop experience?