Archive for September, 2012

Coffee Party USA

The relatively new Coffee Party USA has positioned itself  to be the Democratic equivalent of the Tea Party.  Join the klatch! The elections need you!  I’ll be reposting some of the Coffee Party’s images from time to time, for caffeine’s sake.

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Case Study Coffee

Case Study Coffee
5347 NE Sandy
Portland, OR

The founders came in, gussied up the place along Sandy Boulevard with stainless-topped tables, classy wood trim and counters, some green pictures (they are all about the same color and nondescript subject—might I say boring?), and glass-and-tube coffee-brewing equipment which seems to have migrated over from some chemistry lab. Voila! Case Study Coffee was concocted. Quite impressive, that countertop with its shiny brewing stuff: There’s a cold-brew drip set-up, mama-sized and baby-sized, with spiraling tubes, a French press, a chemex coffee-maker, with its classic wood midriff and leather belt, and at least one vac-pack brewer which uses a 200-degree flame to heat water that is then sucked up into the top (where the grounds are) and allowed to drip back down. Kind of like the old percolator, but with transparent glass—vs. tinny metal–for judging coffee color and avoiding that “burnt-coffee” flavor (The old metal or electric percolators so commonly used for Maxwell House or Folger’s–remember that perky percolator song?–gave you a glimpse of the coffee as it was thrust up into the little glass dome, but the surest way of judging readiness was by the smell or, if you were a stickler, by the timer. I’m not altogether down on percolators, since using one at our cabin makes the difference between caffeine or no caffeine. The best thing about my parents’ percolators, however, involved washing dishes: When I stuck my finger up into that tiny glass dome, the glass felt “squishy”, as if I could knead it with my finger. I loved that, and this probably did contribute to my coffee obsession. That touch sensation was as addictive as the brew, to be sure! And I still get to wash dishes by hand, at the cabin).

Case Study Coffee house is in an old classic storefront, with a recessed center door complete with transom. It has new wood flooring and new tables and chairs, unlike a lot of Portland coffeehouses with random lots of used furniture or a mix of old and new. It is all one room, but the angle of the building diviies up the space a bit, and stools-sitters face Sandy in the window bays. A posting board was placed near the condiment buffet, the single piece of antique furniture. Music the day I visited was forgettable and low-key, which is much preferred over obnoxious or overbearing. Free WIFI, of course, was offered, as were outside seating and bike racks. Generally, I’d describe this place as tasteful in its simplicity, like its line-drawing logo.

Fare: I had a small French press coffee (which ended up being a medium, $2 vs. the $1.50 I expected). Refills are $.50, I was told. Case Study brews its own coffee, and they also have Stumptown coffee; I was unclear about the distinction, or what was what. My coffee must have been their own brew; it had a rather peculiar taste. Not bad, just different. I asked about day-old pastries. “Nope. Usually we eat them…” They didn’t have much of a selection of goodies; maybe the crew got the hungries early! Unfortunately the specialty brews (mentioned above) had especially-high prices ( $6.50, “because it’s time-consuming to make them”. Here I thought you’d get a thermosful for the price!)

Service and clientele: Quite a few customers, including a couple with a baby and 8-10 folks with laptops. Most customers were in their 20’s, I’d guess. They were all frozen in their seats, hooked by their bright screens, except the baby and its parents. I didn’t notice any accommodations for kids; the place has an “adult” feel. Two barristas held down the fort, and one of them patiently explained the brewing equipment to me.

Bathroom: A single clean bathroom is shared between men and women. Nice tile on the walls and floors, and new fixtures. Don’t know where they’re going to change that baby…

Hours: 6-5 weekdays, 8-6 weekends.

Rating: 3 (of 5 possible beans) down because of pricing & peculiar-tasting coffee, despite intriguing brew equipment.

Southeast Grind

 

Southeast Grind

1223 Powell St.

Portland, OR

Calling all night owls! Just found a coffee house in town that’s open 24 hours! And it’s certainly not the dreary all-night diner Edward Hopper portrayed, in which a lonely patron at the bar bends over a coffee, as the darkness from the windows along the street closes in. This place was hopping, and that means lotsa lattes and second winds. I’m told that in Portland, SE at least, the place to go after a game 10, maybe 15 years ago was the Hotcake House (and in my children’s neck of the woods, Denny’s, and in mine, King’s; in the Beav’s, The Malt Shop). NOW the kids can have, well, quality caffeine and food as they avoid going home, or if they simply get the hungries or want to flirt or think or read or talk or text or play games.  Several games are provided, including a 1970’s version of nostalgic trivia (Q’s like: Where did Beaver’s brother Wally take Mary Ellen after a date?). Or they can bring their laptops for the fast internet connection, and anti-socially latch onto the bright screen and lose track of day and night as well as their surroundings. It’s called the Southeast Grind, and it’s located near 12th and Powell. Some patrons seem to be legitimate all-nighters (and I don’t include college punks who cram or party) like the cab driver or the uniformed person with shift work who came to unwind (with caffeine? I think not). But by and large, the 20 or so patrons—yes, in the wee hours—mostly were 20-somethings. Plus me, and an older man peering at all the stylized portraits on the walls.

Southeast Grind is comfortably furnished with a conglomeration of several old couches and overstuffed chairs and some straight-back chairs and tables, and a small bar with stools. One person worked on a laptop in a closet-sized room. A long ramp led to the counter, and the wall of the ramp was covered with postings (One sign even had phone-number fringe for interested persons to rip off: seeing this regressive paper post warmed my cockles a bit). Pamphlets and artistic business cards topped the wall.  In the coffee house proper, basically just one room, decorations were done by a single artist who made brightly-colored yet stark images of Star Wars characters, Harry Potter characters, Looney Toons and South Park kooks, and others such as Hannibal Lector, Freddy, and (likely) Marilyn Monroe (not that the last three mentioned are ANYthing alike!). Ten or twelve images (identical except for color) of Star Wars’ storm trooper adorned one wall in true Warhol fashion, while a single (Harry Potter) Valdemort roared from the kitchen area (“Keep it down! Folks are trying to sleep!”) The rest of the place wasn’t distinctive, but it was comfortable, with a fireplace and many windows. It was well-lit for the night, and soul music provided a very pleasant ambiance.

Fare: I had a small (12-oz.) coffee for $1.75, in a really broad cup, and a snickerdoodle cookie for another $1.75. My companion had a chai, and reported that it was “better than Starbucks”! Other food, such as sandwiches and salads and specialty drinks (hemp, hazelnut, etc.), are available. Anytime, the sign said. They try to use natural organic ingredients, and serve Stumptown coffee.

Service and clientele: Good service, bus-your-own. Friendly enough to explain about upcoming Harry Potter days and to adlib about “bring your own broom” discount days. The sheer number of people, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed in the middle of the night, amazed me. A few eyed me suspiciously—was it 1) my graying hair (She really should be home in bed) or 2) that everybody knows all the regulars, because it’s totally a neighborhood thing? I swayed just a tad to the soul music to fit in and feel younger, perhaps, as I meandered back towards the bathrooms.

Bathrooms: 2 of them, and this time it doesn’t matter which gender uses which. Huge keys on the wall, “to insure privacy”. Always thought the lock did that…Bathroom had a lamp in it, enjoyably, rather than a glaring overhead light.

Hours & parking: non-stop hours! Parking behind the building, near the loud train tracks.

Rating: 3+ coffee beans (of 5). 24-hours is a good gimmick, and it’s a nice, unpretentious place with good stuff for those after-game kids, or me.