Archive for April, 2013

Costello’s Travel Caffe

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Costello’s Travel Caffe
2222 NE Broadway
Portland, OR

You can go to Europe and buy a miniscule cup of cafe for a lots of Euros, or else you can go to Portland’s own, well, Costello’s own Travel Caffé and get a small cup of coffee for a small price, and pretend. OR, true to  European standards, get alcohol. The family-owned-and-run place has strong roots and  solid, quality old-school furniture—including rounded and square wooden tables with wrought-iron bases, as well as carved frames for the mirrors in the bathroom. International license plates decorate the main counter, and about 4 clocks are, of course, set to different time zones (Paris, Tokyo, etc.) in the back. I wondered about clock #3, however: What time zones divide the hour into thirds? A video silently plays on 2 separate screens; today’s feature appeared to be Amsterdam and its waterways and houseboats. An old suitcase plastered with travel decals (similar to the ones my grandparents picked up around the world in the 1920’s, when steamship travel and trains reigned) sits in the hall to the bathroom, and travel brochures are on the bathroom walls. Travel posters and pictures decorate the walls of the main room. The older building has lots of front windows, a few of which are stained glass, and tall ceilings and hanging lights. In the back is a kitchen which can be peeped into through a round glass window in the swinging door. My hope was to see the well-known pastries being made, just like the apple streudel in Vienna, but I got only a couple of friendly smiles when I glanced into the kitchen. Out front of Costello’s Travel Caffe were seating (small metal tables and chairs) and an umbrella, making it even more Continental.

Fare:  coffee $1.40, pastries, beer, and big pieces of delicious-looking pie. Expensive rhubarb-custard pie, but delicious. My resistance crumbled, and I tried it, actually believing the sign said $3.50, not $5.50.  When I said I thought it was $3.50, I had the distinct feeling that the server thought I was trying to scam him when he said, “You don’t have to buy it”. I should have simply eaten my mistake, and so I did.

Service and Clientele: The customers included several older folks and some younger ones, even a woman with young children.  Not all were playing with their laptops or mobiles, as they say in Europe. Imagine!

Bathroom:  Walls were lined with travel brochures, and a lovely mirror graced the wall. I felt elegant just gazing into this mirror.

Rating:  3.5  (of 5 possible)  coffee beans

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Rocking Frog Cafe

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Rocking Frog Cafe

2511 Belmont

(SE)  Portland, OR

They took an old Craftsman house along Belmont, transformed it and—viola!—the place became the Rocking Frog  Café  in 2007.  With a dark green main room, a blood-red ex-bedroom (multiple skull pix on the walls—was this all to remind us of pithing the frogs in freshman biology?), a gold “library” and an entry-way with a couch plunked down in it, and a single bathroom right in the middle, where you’d expect it. A community information board was over the couch in the rather claustrophobic (some might find it cozy!) entry. The library had a half-wall, or, rather, contained pass-throughs between it and the main room, and stools flanked this wall. The library, and indeed the entire place, had lots of books, skulls, plants, stained-glass windows and other interesting items, as well as dark woodwork.  The place seemed, in a word, dark, and a stark contrast to the bright light that shone in through  the windows.  In the red room was a game bookshelf, and this room had a door which opened into a back yard with tables and tall bamboo. A gas fireplace held its own in the front room, and elegant but well-used overstuffed wing chairs provided seating.  Two frog bookends echoed the frog theme (the pithing one, remember?). Generally, I liked the place, and I don’t require much of a theme. Doesn’t make the coffee any better, and variable anarchy beats frogs any day. Too many frogs become trite, or should I say too much of any theme becomes a crutch. The best thing about the Rocking Frog was the hot—made-to-order—doughnuts! (Could be that’s a bias due to the fact that the dining hall in my freshman dorm had the last known one of those machines. Last known to me, that is. I gained the “freshman 15” gobbling hot doughnuts, I’m pretty sure). I vaguely remember some cool blues music: that makes a place come alive, regardless of gloom and doom.

Service and clientele: Busy young people quietly working on laptops. Many of these hipster places are filled with really friendly folks, at least if you’re friends on Facebook. One woman worked, providing coffee service very adequately and quickly popping in our doughnuts. Later, our raving about them seemed to fall on deaf ears; she must be used to praise!
Bathroom: Basically the way it always was, not all gussied up. But the unnerving thing was that the wear caused a slit through which to peer out—or in. I liked its stained glass transom window–real class!
Fare: Did I mention the hot doughnuts? $1 each or 6/$5.  All right! Also served were chai, lattes, & the usual hot drinks, pastries, and many types of salads and sandwiches, from ham to vegan (prosciotto cheese and fig piqued my interest)
Rating: 3 coffee beans (of 5 possible). Guess I can’t get beyond the sobriety of laptop environments, but I kinda-sorta liked the place.

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Kenilworth Coffee House

Kenilworth coffee-outside

Kenilworth inside-poor qual

Kenilworth menuKenilworth Coffeehouse

3713 SE Gladstone St
Portland, OR 97202
Planted right next to a nursery in January 2013,  Kenilworth Coffeehouse was meant to fill a need in its immediate neighborhood, namely, the replacement of a now-defunct pizza-and-coffee shop. Mimicking a spindly new seedling, the place is rather spartan, with red-and-white-checkered linoleum floors and bentwood chairs placed along a wall that is bare except for a few small pictures (Perhaps it will fill out as the years pass by and become cozier, as mementos and paraphernalia fill the voids like so many wildflowers). Outside a single metal table with 2 chairs offer “dog” seating (or so I took it—actually the table had an ashtray on it), and a no-nonsense name was painted on the front window. Several overhead lights, including two new globe-like silver ones, provide the lighting. A rear door opens out into what seemed like a shared space with the garden store next door, an enticing place (but I’m just guessing about its being open to the coffee shop, come warm weather).

Fare: Coffee was $1.75 for a small styrofoam cup. Several other drinks were also available (see menu), but little else.

Service and clientele: A single woman filled the orders quite adequately, and she was also friendly. I did notice, however, that when she was told that my dog spilled my coffee outside (darn dogs!) she did not offer to replace it; I chalk this up to being new to business.  Several customers quietly drank their brew; young ones, natch. I’m hoping this is the beginning of a resurgence in brewed-coffee drinking!

Bathroom: No chance to evaluate; dogs can’t go inside for this either.

Rating: 2+ (of 5 possible) coffee beans, because it’s still in its infancy.

2 coffee beans