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.