Archive for June, 2012

Flying Cat Coffee House

Flying Cat Coffee House
3041 SE Division
Portland, OR

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a flying black cat with a red cape, serving someone a cup of coffee at the Flying Cat Coffee House in SE Portland. I know it’s a local coffee shop, because the Steel Bridge over the Willamette River is on the sign. The shop has several wonderful rugs—each with its own caped & flying black cat—covering the floor, unfortunately ressembling some sort of road kill. But the rug cats are charming, so maybe they can charm their way back to life. In the corner flies another cat, apparently paper mache. He struggles to hold the huge cup he’s delivering; it’s really weighting him down. Cat pictures adorn the walls, but there the cat theme ends, presumably so as not to alienate the dog-lovers of the city. I happen to be fans of both, but especially of Supercats!

The neighborhood offers a lot of alternative shopping and dining, and is rather funky. The shop itself is nestled into the front of an old house; indeed, a bike-rider rents the upstairs, and patrons are requested to respect the rights of this tenant. The store is furnished adequately with older tables and chairs, a couple of easy chairs, a large central table just right for a group, and a big, plush, old velvet sectional with swirly gold-guilded wooden framing and upholstery buttons, that looked to me like something out of the set of Lady and the Tramp. I can just see the two Siamese cats curling up on its cushions, waiting maliciously for the baby to fall asleep. Prim and proper, as it were. Near the back of the store is a children’s area, with a foam mat, its own tiny wooden table & chairs, a blackboard, and a good variety of toys (another reason to be a kid again). The bathroom in the back has a changing table for baby koalas, and one room services both genders. The paper towel dispenser didn’t work for me, but wet hands are a minor problem, unless you’re petting a cat. Which brings me to my main question: What sort of flying black cat coffee house has no resident flying black cats, or any resident sleeping black cats, at least, since cats are known to sleep 80% of the time? The rug kill ones were cute, but unresponsive. No customers had brought their own cats in either, even for a bonding experience, let alone a photo session on that velvet couch. I resigned myself to drinking coffee and eating my cupcake, but it all seemed quite un-cat-like.

Fare: I paid $1.50 for my coffee, a medium roast, and a whopping $1.50 for my day-old cupcake. Their pastries seemed over-priced, and there was just a small selection. Coffee was fine.

Service and clientele: Prompt service, answered questions, and thanked me for my compliment about the cat logo. But later we observed the barrista going outside for a smoke, then tossing away the butt; this objectionable behavior seemed too crude for a “cat-place”. Then again, this is Portland. There were tables outside with customers happily munching food off their square plates, but only one couple inside besides us. Clientele blended into the neighborhood, except for us. People with a mission to be hip.

Rating: 3- (of possible 5) coffee beans. Rugs and children’s areas were good, but lack of even one single cat, I don’t know…limited the rating. Must make the judgement somehow.


The Coffee House

The Coffee House

1324 P Street

Lincoln, NE

The Coffee House, despite its presumptive name, is a nice local place in Lincoln, NE, home of U of N. And it existed three years ago, when we wandered the streets like zombies, looking for life at 6 a.m., after an (honorable) ejection from the train at something like 4 a.m. They say those restaurants that survive the first 3 years have it made, cafe-wise, and this one survived. This time it was busy even though the university was between sessions, and I’m sure students are its bread and butter. Maybe this is The coffee house in Lincoln!

The old storefront is roomy and extends back just like a comfy cave. There is a kitchen in the back; that’s where they make their own goodies. Lots of tables, chairs, and softer seating–along with a weirdly-painted table or 2–fill the floorspaces. At a central counter they sell drinks, some munchies, and packages of coffee. Opposite stand some old cabinets which, I’m told, were brought up from Mississippi and are pre-Civil War. Now that’s old! There’s a lot to look at–from stained glass to artifacts–even though there was no “art show” on the walls when we visited (Apparently they normally feature local artists, whoever requests space for an informal showing). Some posters, brochures, and newsletters were laid out for the taking, and the bulletin board area has both pay phones and a pencil sharpener.  If only they’d add a dictionary…

Fare: a generous cup of coffee cost $1.35, and it comes in light, medium, or dark roast. Refills are 50c. The cookies looked scrumptious, but they cost a hefty $1.60, I believe.

Service and clientele: Students, mainly, and young, except for one table of older men. Maybe their profs, soaking up some youth culture? Several did computer work, and one table played some game such as Magic. The servers were chatty enough to tell me about the cabinets and their experiences drinking coffee in Portland. Take that, Seattle! No kids there, and no sign of kids, but I’ll bet one or two precocious ones sip cocoa there and converse with adults from time to time.

Bathrooms: Functional and fine, towards the back. One apiece for each gender.

Rating: A 4-coffee-bean hurrah (of 5) for its zest for life plus good coffee and space.

Coffee Heaven

Coffee Heaven
At the junction of Hwys. 199 & 46
Cave Junction, OR

…and the good angel gathered up all the coffee beans and blessed them, and they were gourmet. And she blessed the sod upon which the shop had arisen, and the place was heavenly. Yes, Coffee Heaven seems to be a pleasant little oasis in the blazing heat and rugged lifestyle in the town of Cave Junction, deep in the heart of mountainous southern Oregon,. A grace, period. Cave Junction is on the map mostly because of tourist cave-visiters, old SF hippies who fled the Haight-Ashbury when it became infested with druggies in the 70’s, some of the original survivalists and white supremicists, J 0ohnny-come-lately gold miners with fancy modern methods, artists, and out-of-work tree-choppers. Plus those born and raised there. Cave-men pad around between Cave Junction and Grant’s Pass, and it is not known whether they tow their women by the hair or club their enemies. There are burls to be bought and varmints to be shot; such is Cave Junction.

The coffee shop has a light, playful feel to it, partly because it is open-air. Polished wooden counters suggest a sense of care and permanency, however, which it has—it’s been around since 1992. There’s a hand-crafted, large wooden table under the shelter, and several shaded picnic tables out back. A wood swing and bench provide more outdoor seating, and their alcove is decorated by a mural and driftwood sculptures. The coffee house itself actually has a life-size angel sculpture on its roof, greeting the customers with a gentle smile. Reminded me a bit of the huge fly on the roof of a small building in the nearby town of O’Brien, except that angels are cleaner than flies. Could it be the cave men who place sculptures up on roofs in these parts?

Fare: The coffee shop bills itself as an “Espresso and Juice Bar”, and offers a large array of products (“gourmet beans” for sale) from house coffee ($1.50 and up, medium or dark) to huge bowls of ice cream ($3) to something called a “bee green” smoothie ($5.50), made of pineapple, mango, spinach, bee pollen, and hemp seeds (facts here are approximate…). Just think, right inside your body you can grow your own hemp and pollinate it, too, if you can stomach a bright green drink. Think I’d go for the ice cream—yum!—but I had already purchased a scone when I noticed it. The scone was OK, but the day was hot!

Service and Clientele: A single friendly woman took care of customers quite efficiently, calling several by name. She was isolated from the customers by being inside a room with a sliding window. Community events ranging from the occult to hoedowns were advertised on the filled-up bulletin boards, and a variety of customers included a long-skirted “hippie” woman counting $100 bills, a sassy hip woman with cowgirl boots and long woolen socks, 2 shaven-headed women apparently from a religious sect, an older man and wife straight out of American Gothic, and 2 guys in tie-dye who might have just crawled out of a cave with their sleeping bags, as unkempt as they were. Plus several less-colorful people, myself included.

Bathroom: Assuming the bathroom, not visible in the front room, would be around on the side or back, I opened up a supply storage room. I had to return to the front and wait inside to ask if they had one at all; I was told that they use the neighboring gas station’s bathroom (by contract with them). I reluctantly went over there (gas station restrooms usually are to be avoided if at all possible, due to sheer grossness at times), and found it well-supplied and clean enough to suit me. A sign would have been helpful.

Rating: 3+ (of 5 coffee beans) since it was really a little “spot of heaven” in the S Oregon mountains.

Java Joe’s

Java Joe’s
“down by the station”
Princeton, IL







Jump off the Zephyr that rolls from Chicago to San Francisco, and you may land in the small town of Princeton Illinois. Need some java? Mosey over to Java Joe’s, half a block from the train depot. If ever there was a startling mix of the old and the new, it is in this coffee shop. Nope, they don’t serve day-old coffee and stale biscuits. But the place! It used to be a rural/small-town hardware store, and if you squint enough to cut out the glare (of contemporary sale items), it still looks like the 1900’s. The original stamped-metal ceiling is intact, the nail storage bins and old boxes still grace the old wooden shelves, and the sliding ladders remain, still used, hanging from their tracks on the ceiling. The door, its layers of paint slathered on over the years, and probably the ceiling schoolhouse lights and fans as well, are original. A lovely stained-glass window lets in a modest amount of light, but new-fangled LED or Christmas lights brighten the roomful of merchandise. Zoom into the merchandise alone, and you’d think you were in Kitchen Kaboodles or Happy Chef or some other big-city specialty store, with lots you want but most of which you already have in older, less colorful or cleverly-presented versions (a scrub brush without the giraffe spots and tall neck with ears on it, for example). The satisfying thing about Java Joe’s—and its host shop Beetz Me—is that they didn’t gut the place when they brought in the new stuff: how nice it is to preserve old beauty! The sheer quantity of stuff for sale, along with the many “bric-a-brac” decorations, makes it seem a bit overdone, but, fortunately, the genuine antique structure holds its own and makes the place worth a visit, even if you’re short on souvenir spending money.

Fare:   My coffee was $1.75, and they served the typical coffee drinks, including lattes and mochas. Also, because it is nearly summer,  iced everything. And some sweets, including candies.

Service and clientele: Two women cared for the entire store, but the coffee section had a separate name. They spent most of the time I was in there chit-chatting with another customer, but I was served promptly. No one else was in the coffee section: to see more locals, maybe I should have come at 6 a.m. when the roosters wake the farmers! I believe the place really wants to attract the Chicago(ite) who has strayed from home, or the tourist traveling I-80 west (hence the mass of stuff for sale), though, not the practical farmer.

Rating: 2 (of 5 coffee beans). Fun for window shopping and history-viewing, but coffee aspect was run-of-the-mill.