Archive for February, 2012

MoJoe’s Coffee

MoJoe’s  Coffee

MoJoe’s  Coffee

625 Chetco Avenue

Brookings, OR 97415

This is the first segment of the “travel version” of TrueBrew Coffee House Review.

The first town in Oregon, coming up Hwy 101 (from the south), is Brookings, famous as a small Japanese tsunami victim (its docks and harbors) and as a sort of retirement mecca. Perhaps because of this—the concentration of older people—the town seems a bit stabler than others along the Oregon and northern California coast. All are hurting, however, and many businesses unwillingly become fly-by-night. I had 2 places recommended to me: one down by the harbor (never found it—maybe it was washed away by the wall of water) and MoJoe’s. I picked MoJoe’s, although the outside façade left a bit to be desired, and it was right along the main drag.

Inside, the place was fine. A huge blackboard, seemingly scrounged from a classroom for giants, covered one wall. Customers were invited via a supply of child-sized chalk to add their own pictures or writings. Ideas were posted on the wall next to it. Creativity is always appreciated, by me! Metal chairs at the tables were new yet delightful, with cutouts of steaming cups of coffee on the backs. Lackluster metal-framed windows were graced by colored glass bottles, and, though the lighting was a bit harsh, the ambience was generally good.

Fare: Coffee was the standard $1.50 and up, with no senior specials. They had no day-old pastries when I asked about those, but he reduced the price of a fresh scone voluntarily. I appreciated that, because this time I really was low on cash, yet hungry!

Clientele: There was a table of older people having quite a discussion—they appeared to have been there talking and caffeinating for a while-and a young guy lounging on the single sofa. Mojoe’s seemed welcoming of all types, and I was told it opened its doors about 2 years ago. Hope it makes it!

Bathroom: Didn’t notice a bathroom, but it could have been there. The place probably had hours, too. Usually I check them both!

Rating: 3 coffee beans (of 5) The blackboard did it…Too bad the outside isn’t set up to draw in more passers-by.


Deli Love

playing for tips

heiroglyphics for a name

Deli Love

just W of Florida Room.

435 N Killingsworth St.

Portland,  OR

Way down by PCC, on Killingsworth, sits a small niche café/ coffee shop called, I think, Deli Love. Or something. There was no real sign outside, and when I asked her the name, she said, yes, it’s named this, but we call it that. I got confused. But it is also vegan, and I’m not so confused that I don’t know that that means it is established by the young. Young people, like oldsters my age, sometimes don’t concern themselves with formalities, and these young’uns may value the electric OPEN sign more than the name sign, since all the regulars already know the name.

Deli Love is a funky place, yet a place I could grow to love. They have a game cupboard—seems that they want folks to settle in. Two days a week they serve a full (!) plate of vegan food for $5. This day it had rice, vegan chili, collard greens, kale, and cornbread. Yum! (When I saw one served, I was sorry I had already arranged to eat at a fast food place a bit later. And when I ate at the fast food place, I was sorry all over again). I was sold just a piece of cornbread for “…I don’t know, is 50 cents OK?”, so that’s how I knew what I was missing. I also had my coffee, which was just fine. With my johnnycake.  Some of the funk is in the building, which was somewhat run-down, and I suspect some visitors might be put off by the “veganness” or “hippieness” or, to put it simply, the fact that it is really alternative with a capital A.

The bathroom said something on the door. What was it? “gender fellowship”? Maybe not. Oh, it was “gender symposium”, I think. Hard to identify until a couple of people had used it successfully (separately). The place had bulletin boards, posters, and an odd little stage. A guitar player was not so much entertaining as stretching the strings when we entered. I thought, “music for the young”, until he ended with House of the Rising Sun. That’s one of my generation’s songs! This guy knew his audience, or at least my tiny section of it. I assume that he played on an “open mike”, because he packed up and left in a jiffy, and he had zero audience contact. I clapped for House of the Rising Sun, and was the only one clapping. But this all sounds very vegan to me, and thus appropriate.

Clientele: At a nearby table sat two 20-somethings, and one of them pontificated non-stop at the other. I’ve known folks like that! I felt like telling the second guy to just wedge a word in edgewise, to show some spunk! He didn’t; just sat there and lapped it up. Another person ordered a plate as soon as the plate event started, and he seemed like a single student who’d bopped in for a tasty early dinner before heading home. Good plan, I’d say. Workers seemed to know the regulars, and share a comaraderie.  The deli seemed to be a good value for the unpicky but not the fancy-pants types, and  aimed at the local community college student and its immediate neighborhood, not seniors. I felt like an outsider, which I was.

Fare: As I said, it was great! But coffee was an alarming $2. My johnnycake was priced right, however.

Bathroom: average, except for previous comment about its strange label. Someone off the street, probably, used the bathroom, and hung around long enough to appear to be the customer he was not. Maybe the deli purposely keeps it open to everyone.

Rating: 3 (of 5) coffee beans.  Not quite a fit for me, I believe, though not unlike some of the “hippie” places I once frequented.


Speedboat Coffee

5115 SE Foster Rd. ,  Portland, OR

Nestled amongst the carpet stores and other small businesses along Foster Rd. is a rather simple coffee shop called Speedboat Coffee, which intrigued me. I wondered, Why the name? Maybe, Java This or Grounds That, Cuppa Jo Something or even Speedy Caffeine Fix . But Speedboat Coffee? Do boaters even drink coffee? How about water skiers? Somehow the image of a boating person downing an ice-cold beer on a warm summer’s day, zipping past the slo-mo fishing boats and watercraft and giving the jet-skis a run for their money, better suits the speedboat image. If the speedboat riders drank coffee on-board, wouldn’t they be doused with piping hot liquid whenever the boat bumped across the bay or hit a wake? How would they get their refills? Maybe the idea is to serve those boaters who unwisely venture out on a questionable-weather day or those who fall in or otherwise get drenched? The shop’s mission might be to provide post-boating coffee or hot chocolate, to warm the cockles of the boaters’ hearts, afterwards. More likely the coffee shop people had speedboat paraphernalia they inherited from a dying tradition, and wanted to furnish their new place uniquely. They succeeded in that! The shop returns the patron to the 50’s, in a fun, boating sort of way. (If I ever set up my own coffee shop, I’ll have sled-dog photos and race posters, and gut-laced snowshoes on the wall and lots of furs around, and be a place sled-dog racers can thaw out after the snowy action is all over).

Back to the Speedboat coffee shop: It is basically a 2-room place, with a small area off the bathroom for kids “to make noise in”. Odd. The interior room has a fireplace (gas, I believe) with a couch in front of it, cozy-like, along with ordinary tables and chairs. Water skiis adorn the wall, along with boating pictures. Two small picnic tables outside offer you pleasant seating in the summer months, assuming, of course, that summer actually comes and your teeth haven’t been chattering all day from icy water drenching you.

The most remarkable thing about the place is that it had an unpretentious, welcoming feel to it. The server’s name was written on a chalkboard, and she was outgoing and friendly. I was allowed to use my own commuter cup for the coffee—10 cents off, just like the big guys at Starbucks(!)—and she considered my idea of having “senior coffee” (I like to ask about this because regular plain old coffee drinkers are practically being priced out of the market, and I find this offering almost as delightful as 10-cent Sambo’s coffee used to be. Alas, Sambo’s decline was inversely proportionate to PC’s rise: Little Black Sambo was determined to be a racist story, demeaning to the boy who offered his clothing up to the hungry tiger who wanted to eat him, even though he managed to get the envious tigers to chase each others’ tails around the tree, making tiger-butter out of them all. I always thought he was rather smart to save himself and get butter for his pancakes, but I guess I just don’t get it. Sambo’s the restaurant used the little boy on its sign, so fell along with the blacklisted kids’ book). I didn’t get my senior coffee, but I planted the seed. Prices were generally in line with most other independent shops.

Unfortunately, I have incomplete info. about the hours, etc., and even the fare, but I do know they make a yummy hot chocolate. And they have a down-home, wordy website that can answer logistical questions and more. This particular review is more of an “impression”, and, I now realize, is rather wordy itself!

Rating: 3.5 coffee beans (of 5), due to comfortable “vibes” (how’s that for impression?)

Thatcher’s Coffee

Thatcher’s Coffee

104 Grand Blvd.,  Ste 100

Vancouver, WA 98661

A good way to spend a sunny afternoon is by walking the grounds of Fort Vancouver. And a good way to top it off is by visiting the nearby Thatcher’s coffee shop (not affiliated with the fort). A modern place in a brand-new shopping area, Thatcher’s is none-the-less pleasant, with its many glass walls and ceilings high enough for birds to roost in the rafters (no, they aren’t residents presently!). Great feeling of openness! Getting to the place took a bit of determination, and the need to ignore the cookie-cutter mainstream stores that shared the mall, however. Reminded me of a big chain place…

Thatcher’s had nice wooden tables and chairs, a few over-stuffed chairs covered with—you guessed it—burlap coffee bags, and counters along the windows for looking out. Two modern-looking quilts hung on the wall, one in the children’s corner, which, alas, was not very well-developed. Thematic but odd lights resembled coffee cups, and several plants were potted in old coffee tins, for character, I guess. Actually they “humanized” better than the burlap bags on the chairs; come spring, those baggy chairs will be mighty scratchy for anyone with bare legs!

Fare: I had the standard $1.50 cup (they didn’t emphasize the brand) of coffee—no senior coffee!—and decided to spring for a unique-sounding “fig and buckwheat” roll. It was a disappointment in its dryness, especially considering its high cost. Sales tax roared its ugly head, too, but only Oregonians suffer from the perception of a problem here in WA.

Bathroom: this had a changing table and clean, new fixtures. No complaints here.

Clientele: Mixed, but more computer-users than usual. One with a bright orange shock of hair.

Hours: (missed this—sorry!)

Rating: 3 coffee beans (out of 5). Not “earthy” enough…personal preference.

Temptations Cafe

view from a window seat

Temptations Cafe

1130 NE Holladay St # A
Portland, OR 97232

The best thing about this shop is the people-watching possibilities. I sat at a glass counter facing the window, directly across from the Max station and the Lloyd Center’s Holladay Park. This particular day I saw a steady stream of umbrella-toting folks coming to wait for the train. At one point I counted: 13 at that given moment! So much for the myth that “true Northwesterners” don’t use umbrellas. I think it’s because nobody had rapid transit until Portland got its, so commuters didn’t walk to or wait in the rain for trains as they do in East Coast cities (When you bop directly from your residence to your car you don’t get very wet). This is an unproven and flawed theory, but I like it, and it implies good things about Portland!

The place was an older modern glass cubicle, nondescript except for its wrinkled starched-cloth-like hanging light fixtures and one red wall with a Japanese picture on it. Not exactly cozy, and the techno music didn’t help much. Waitperson was friendly enough, however.

Fare: Longstreet Breakfast Blend coffee only $1.50; no senior coffees. Cream (1/2&1/2) came in a half-gallon carton, only upon request. They served several other drinks besides coffees, such as bubble tea, boba, and jellies. Pastries appeared mediocre, but may have been fresher in the am.

Bathroom: Keyed to keep out the Max riders, I presume. It seemed male-oriented: somewhat messy, with the seat up.

Hours: 6:30-4 pm. Good for morning people only.

Customers: A trickle; mostly to-go people who were regulars and known.

TrueBrew rating: 2 (of 5) coffee beans, due to building, ambience. Tempted to return? Probably not.

The Albina Press

The Albina Press

4637 N. Albina,    Portland, OR

When most Americans think of Mississippi, they think of the Deep South. Not in PDX! Here “Mississippi” is the funky area crammed in just E of the freeway, a neighborhood anchored by the huge, popular Rebuilding center (everything salvageable, including the kitchen sink). Nearby an art store sells big metal insects and a nursery sells wiggly red worms. Pizza trivia pub and a food cart add atmosphere. A little farther up the road is The Albina Press, today’s featured coffee house (Ah, yes, it has art on the wall, as does the typical PDX coffee house–or so the Portlandia spoof goes. I do not judge art!).

Albina Press is housed in a very old building with revamped old beams and a very well-used floor patched with small pieces of scrap metal (as if straight out of the original Depression), each carefully nailed down with enough nails to show any mouse who’s boss. The front street door is recessed and flanked by 2 windows containing seating. Lots of old pipes and old-style ceiling fans add to the antique look, though track lights on the ceilings detract. Oddly (or maybe not so oddly, considering the track lights), the tables and chairs are matching and of a simple black-and-wood look. In the back there appears to be an add-on room (more recently acquired) with 3 couches and coffee bean sacks on the ceiling. The most charming décor offering was the 1-lb. Hills Bros. coffee can holding sugar & such (the guy on that can does look sleepy as he traipses by, drinking from his cup. Mississippi is a sleepy little area, not bothering to “dress” for the public either).

Fare: I had the standard $1.50 in-house Stumptown coffee and a day-old muffin. They had the average range of teas, specialty coffees, and fattening eats, and sold packages of coffee. Stumptown is good, and very Portlandic.

Bathroom: old worn linoleum, and interesting graffiti (on the towel holder and scratched on the mirror). Also a stained-glass window that you don’t normally notice unless you look up. Bathroom did the job.

Clientele: a good trickle of customers of all kinds, including bicycle riders, computer users & readers, and dog-walkers (the dog sauntered in–on its leash with its humans–unbothered by those in charge). I was impressed by the lax attitude (BTW, that same attitude might contribute to the feeling I had that I was “out-of-place”; everyone else seemed to have his/ her role down pat, including the dog and a drop-in bathroom user).

Rating: 3 beans of coffee (out of 5). Definitely a neighborhood place.