Archive for December, 2012

Fresh Pot coffee house

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Fresh Pot coffee house

724 SW Washington, Portland, OR

We found Fresh Pot tucked away in downtown Portland, and decided it fit the bill for a cold pre-Christmas afternoon. It’s a functional place, one that’s apparently been around a while in some shape or form. Indeed, the floor is mosaic in older hexagon tiles, which end in a curved swath that seems to have rimmed some bygone counter (the rest is concrete). Perhaps they are in the process of remodeling. The exterior is quite appealing, and showcases the 2 window counters angled in the front. On the wall several Grandma Moses-type paintings are displayed and for sale, perking up the place with their color. In the rear of the store is a red 50’s formica table—just one, oddly; all other tables are way up front. Newspapers were available (this particular day, at least) for reading, and bike racks are located just outside, as are chairs for seasonal use. A rear entrance opens into an interior hallway lined  with other businesses.

Fare: Stumptown coffee is served at Fresh Pot. At least, there’s a Stumptown bird picture. I had a French press; it was fine.  Also offered are cold items such as imported water and cold-extracted coffee (less bitter, she explained graciously) and a few baked goods.

Bathroom: One major drawback of the place was the bathroom out the back, which required a map (or else that’s a tongue-in-cheek comment about our rampant GPS-dependencies). Anyway, the restroom was locked but required travel down not one but two long (and some might say spooky!) hallways. Not very handy if you really gotta pee!

Service and clientele: A few local working people, young and old, alone or in twos, quiet. A bike with a home-made child-carrier parked out front, and the kid and mom came in, too. Kid seemed to be a regular; maybe she’s (he’s?) addicted at her tender age. It’s the old caffeine menace….The service was not fast, but was quite friendly;  the lone woman barista chatted with me about a donation box for a nearby women’s shelter, and, of course, told me about the cold-pressed coffee.

Rating: 2.5—3 (of 5 possible ) coffee beans

2 coffee beans

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Stomping Grounds coffee house

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Stomping Grounds coffee house

21825  NE  Halsey

Fairview,  OR

 

 

Stomping Grounds just sounds like my kind of place. After all, haven’t I always spent hours dragging my family around as I sentimentalize about “my old stomping grounds”?  Consider my “under-age drinking and pinball” bar in the rural Midwest, my “police chopper-watching” LA hovel, my room on the 3rd floor of an old house back east, where the only wintertime heat was body heat, the dorm where our overflow room was in the attic, which we shared with bats. Yes, I’ve had a lot of “stomping grounds”, but I don’t hear the expression much, and never have I heard it used for coffee houses (Instead of grinding, do they take their shoes off and stomp, like with grapes? Seems that would get the wrath out, and maybe (acidic) beans would kill plantar warts. Hey! A new cure!)

But this is a coffee house review, and Stomping Grounds is a rather new offering in Fairview, a Portland suburb. And I’m certain the folks there keep their shoes on, unless they’re warming their feet by the gas fireplace, which was all decked out with Christmas stockings this time. The shop is part of a small strip mall, so it is one of those metal-and-glass boxes, but it is not unpleasant: across the street is a forest of trees, and partially covering the windows are light-filtering blinds. Tables are clean-cut (new dark wood), and there are several hanging lights. There are some coffee bean burlap bags on the wall, a table made from a large cable spool (straight from one of my old stomping grounds, most likely, as we typically scrounged up anything that would function as furniture in those days), a couch, and area rug at the far end. Most interesting was the way they dressed up the wall sconces, by drawing columns on the dark wall to “hold up” the lights. These were near the fireplace with hearth and a mantel but no flame, at least not this day. Seasonal decorations made Stomping Grounds quite festive. A fire would have helped even more, but then, we must all conserve fuel, no?

Fare: Average prices for a cuppa joe, but teas and pastries were a little pricey. When I asked about day-old goods, she told me they get taken home to the owner’s ducks. Lucky ducks! Wonder if they’ll get stollen for Christmas Day?

Service and clientele: Your typical Portland suburbia customer, young with laptop, or young and looking/acting semi-hipster. Or a jock with a baseball hat. A sprinkling of older folk.  Service was prompt and pleasant.

Bathrooms: The coffee house provides an old but clean changing table in the bathroom; good to know they welcome babies. Even supplies powder and lotion for the tots.

Rating: 3 coffee beans (of 5 possible)

3 coffee beans copy

Contrary coffeehouse

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Contrary Coffee

1876 SW 5th Av

Portland, OR

It looked like a cozy hole-in-the-wall, especially in the darkness of early evening. Yes, it was small, that Contrary Coffee. But it didn’t feel really cozy to read “If you don’t like {something} get the f**k out.” It was an oddball place, on 6th and across from PSU. Yup, that helps explain it. College kids express themselves in a strong way, so shops catering mainly (entirely?) to college kids must do the same. Contrary Coffee embraced oddness in its soul, and I have since been led to understand that the owners can be very contrary, hard-to-deal-with, or downright unpleasant (hence the “get the f**k out!”). That, of course, is hearsay, and any bonafide reviewer does not rely on hearsay. What I actually observed, besides the message to “get… out”, was this: my companion and I were the only ones in the place, and after we got our stuff, the guy said to me, “you’re in charge”. He then went outside for quite a while, as we sat there drinking our coffee. What did he do out there? Leave? Smoke? Have a private conversation?  He also knocked 50-cents off a cookie, since we couldn’t scrounge together enough for it. Wouldn’t say he was unpleasant to me at all, just a bit weird. Maybe has an attitude. But this is Portland.

The other reason for “not cozy” was the décor. Black or dark and strong colors predominated, with lots of loud or otherwise-provoking paintings, which looked like students’ works. One was of two women connected by their braided hair.  Ravens were popular, and a colorful mural (ravens over an orange and gray and black metropolis) perked up the wall behind the counter. A small bird skull was on another wall, and ravens adorned a table. Seating was limited but comfortable enough, but it all seemed drab, as if it had been left out for the birds years ago. There were black couches and a few dark wood tables and chairs.

Fare: good, modestly-priced coffee. Good cookies. Honestly don’t know what else they have, and you can bet I’m not going back to find out. Mochas and the usual.

Bathroom:  Good color. A picture of the bathroom with a picture of the bathroom with a pic…..get it? Very deep for a plumbing paradise, but It’s been done before.

Service and clientele:  One can mostly just speculate. No other customers, and “barista” was outside during most of our visit. We found the service OK otherwise.

Rating:  2 (of 5 coffee beans).  Not a comfortable place for somebody older (and saner?), and I no longer cringe at accumulations of birds, except when the place tries to pass as Hitchcock-esque.

2 coffee beans

Kobos Espresso Bar & Retail Store

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Kobos Espresso Bar & Retail Store

2355 NW Vaughn
Portland, OR

Unless you’ve been clued in, it’s quite easy to overlook Kobos, which seems camouflaged in its heavy-duty business area. Don’t overlook! Kobos Espresso Bar and Retail Store is a blend of a coffee/tea shop and Kitchen Kaboodle. I like the use of the words, “retail store” on the building:  not pretentious. The store, which is new or remodeled, has a high ceiling with exposed vents, plumbing, etc. (“form follows function”) and is well-lit. It is chock full of tempting gizmos, kitchen utensils & pots & pans, seasonal decorations, and things like aprons & linens & kids’ chefs’ hats. Over towards the coffee/ tea area, a shift is made to display bulk teas, including oddballs such as birds’ nest tea and rooibos tea; teapots & cups; and the rest of the kit . Several small round wooden tables, with simple chairs, are sprinkled at the E end of the shop, where there is a door to the umbrella’d and decked seating area. Stalwart beverage drinkers sat out there in the pouring rain, but we found it much pleasanter inside!  A polished cement floors offers a welcome feeling of openness, if not warmth.

Fare: inexpensive drip coffee, $1.40 and good! They serve fancy “mixed” coffees and chai, and eats.

Service and clientele: The baristas also tended the shop of kitchen goodies. They were young, and seemed enthusiastic about their products. Mine allowed me to open my purchased bag of tea, giving me complementary hot water, so that my companion could try some of my tea without an extra counter purchase. It was quiet in the coffee shop, and clientele were mostly people who came there alone and seemed to be dressed for work. Then there were the drenched guys outside who were talking up a storm (making their own rain?).

Bathroom: Located the opposite side of the kitchen goods, it made me somewhat self-conscious to wind my way through the merchandise. I suppose that was as much to capture my attention (for impulse buying) as to share with store customers. The room was quite functional and clean.

Rating: 3.5 (of 5 coffee beans), because the openness and table choices/ placement didn’t offer coziness, but all else was basically fine. Nice find.