The Hazel Room
3279 SE Hawthorne
Portland, OR

Go through the widest door ever in an old repurposed house, turn left, and you’re in a quintessential* Portland coffeehouse. Turn right and you’re in a Etsy-like store selling fine arts products and clothing. They share a bathroom as well as a close connection, apparently. The coffeehouse, known as The Hazel Room, occupies the original living and dining room, and, as such, has dark woodwork, boxed ceilings in the dining room, an attractive bay window, a fireplace, and the original narrow oak flooring. The Hazel Room, the main seating area, has not been noticeably modified except for the installation of a sitting bar along the side wall (nice wood-and-metal stools) and facilities behind the counter. Old-style copper tiles brighten the walls in several places, while other walls are wallpapered. Because the fireplace has its stokers, I assume it is functional, but it wasn’t lit. Simple wooden tables surrounded by good fabric-seated antique wooden chairs contribute to the feeling that the place was set up with care, rather than thrown together to quickly join the bandwagon of coffee shops nowadays.  As a matter of fact, The Hazel Room is more than a coffee shop; they serve cocktails (!) and other alcoholic drinks and have a happy hour for that. They also serve soups, salads, and sandwiches, and have a weekend brunch. And tea, in teapots and fine (although ours was chipped) china!  All that was missing was the tea cozy!

* quintessentially Portland  means not run-of-the-mill, but quirky. The quirky determination is because of the  inclusion of alcohol per se and the use of teas in the alcoholic mixed  drinks.  Then there are the wall portraits, mostly of odd-looking people smoking.  One looked like a star in the contemporary TV program, Suits (The guy is an apprentice to a very rich lawyer, and a rising star in the firm, except that–surprise–he never went to law school, let alone the Harvard everyone assumes he attended. Is his presence in not one but two portraits meant to suggest something irreverant about Portland or its coffee shops?).

Fare:  Lots to choose from; as I said, they serve food, too. My drip coffee was $2.00 for the small size, and I had a “sea salt” chocolate chip cookie for $1. My companion was feeling adventurous, so ordered Earl Grey tea with lavender. The teapot was a pleasant surprise, but the salt in the cookie reminded me (slightly) of the time my young son, with the best of intentions, misread a teaspoon for a cup of salt, in one of his first forages into baking. No, the chocolate chip cookies here weren’t that extreme, but let’s just say that this seasalt business is an acquired taste! As far as other things on the menu: the descriptions sounded mouth-watering, and we noticed that food seemed fairly-priced. They do serve bacon and other meats, but who would expect a vegan place to have smoking pix on the walls?

Service and clientele: About 10 customers, all young and rather hipster. One was reading, one talking a foreign language into Skype, I suppose, and the rest busy on their laptops. Password WIFI. The server was friendly, even complimenting my necklace, but for some reason didn’t want us to stay on the stools by the counter; this seemed a tad rude. We relocated at a table, and were graciously brought our tea. Were we “outsiders” here in the heart of Hawthorne? Hawthorne was the name of my grammar school, for Christ’s sake!  Later, when I said to the woman in the next door shop that I overheard someone (the server who was busy when I wanted to find the bathroom) say that the entrance to the bathroom was in the back of the shop, the shop person said with a slight prickle, “You didn’t hear me say that” instead of telling me immediately how to approach it. I found both of these behaviors slightly odd; for that reason alone I felt somewhat uncomfortable, although I liked the place a lot otherwise.

Bathroom: Fine once you get to it. No provisions for infants; in fact, the place had no children’s area.

Rating:        3  (of 5 possible) coffee beans. Good place, generally, but a few misgivings.

3 coffee beans copy