coffee people
Image: Jenna Biggs

Of course, there are some mornings when even the most divine kitchen brew just won’t do; you want to hear the hiss of steam, the click of a grinder lever, the low murmur of citizens engaged in lively conversation. Fortunately, you can hardly walk a block in this town without passing a café … or two or three. American coffee drinkers throw back an average of 3.1 cups per day (and we’d be willing to bet that Portlanders slurp more than their share). Be it a Wi-Fi café, a place to people-watch or simply a quiet spot to read, Portland has a coffee shop for every type of addict. Here are 12 homegrown favorites at which to get your fix.

 

BEST CUP OF COFFEE

Stumptown Annex

3352 SE Belmont •• 503-467-4123
The only thing that outshines the glass vats of beans at this Belmont coffee shop is the sleek machine sitting in the corner. Meet the Clover 1s, considered the Aston Martin of coffeemakers. Dreamed up by two Seattle engineers, the computerized marvel combines the vacuum pot and French press methods; in a roughly minute-long symphony of whirrs and whooshes, it conjures a mug full of bliss, based on the specifications (cup size, grind size, water temperature and brew time) entered by the barista. Connoisseurs say the Clover 1s makes the best cup of coffee every time—and at $11,000, it should. —Kasey Cordell

BEST PLACE TO CURL UP WITH A GOOD BOOK

The Shop

2511 SE Belmont •• 503-230-8914
The archetypal Portland coffee shop—open layout, concrete floors, loudish jams, a motley assortment of people and furniture—incites distraction; it’s not the sort of place you’d want to tackle (yet again) your paperback copy of Gravity’s Rainbow. Dispensing with the big-room aesthetic (and its accompanying din) is the Shop, housed in a corner bungalow, where walls divide the sipping space into cozy nooks that are part library, part living room—and all invitation to linger. Plants, low lighting, soft music and a hodgepodge of knickknacks add to the cozy vibe, and no one will shoo you away for plucking one of the 400-plus books from the shelves and whiling away an afternoon on the leather chaise lounge next to the gas fireplace. —Jill Davis

Read More Five steps to brewing the very best coffee you’ve ever had the pleasure to sip

 

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Image: Jenna Biggs

BEST PLACE FOR A DATE

Fruition

1037 NW 23rd Ave •• 503-219-8600
A friend’s Milanese grandfather used to put red wine in his coffee; the sybaritic pairing struck just the right mix of stimulation and euphoria, apparently, and offers a fine argument for taking a date to Fruition, where a variety of wines are available, in addition to coffee drinks. Don’t like your date? Say goodbye after the first espresso. Crushed out? Shift from lattes to a glass of pinot noir; addled by caffeine and alcohol, let the paintings of dancing women and the mellow music carry the mood, while you work up the nerve to steal that first kiss. —Eric Gold

BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE WATCH

The Fresh Pot

4001 N Mississippi Ave •• 503-284-8928
What makes this N Mississippi Ave hub a great place to gaze away the day is not so much the tattooed creative types clustered at its tables as the floor-to-ceiling windows that offer an aquarium-esque view of the hubbub on the street. On one recent visit, three-wheeled baby strollers shared the sidewalk with hooded tweens and boutique shopaholics, while an unwashed guitarist sang a personal anthem seemingly invented on the spot. Pair this wonderful weirdness with Stumptown coffee and baristas who pack a mean espresso, and amateur sociologists (and who isn’t one?) with an afternoon to spare will find that it’s worth driving north to have a look. —EG

BEST DRIVE-THRU

Floyd’s Coffee Shop

1502 SE Morrison •• 503-230-2154
Even if your daily destination is a dead-end job in a taupe-hued cubicle, the sunny yellow exterior of Floyd’s provides a cheery jolt well in advance of the caffeine kicking in. Drive-thru customers accustomed to the crackly voices of unseen baristas yelling, “elo m i tek yr rdr” will instead encounter an old-fashioned ding-ding here. That’s the signal for a (usually) pleasant barista to appear, deus espresso machina, in the sliding window above a lighted display case brimming with scones and generously glazed doughnuts. In downpours, a well-placed awning protects patrons’ sleeves during the all-important reach. It’s the perfect place to get your morning running without having to restart your engine. —JD

BEST PLACE TO COMPUTE

Backspace

115 NW Fifth Ave •• 503-248-2900
“Kinko’s is our only competition” for hourly computing, says co-owner Eric Robison, who charges $6 an hour—half the price of his corporate rival. Robison and his brother, Kris, opened Backspace in 2003, and it has since become the local mecca for network gamers owing to its 25 gaming computers and “unbelievably fast” Internet connection. A group of up to 25 men, for example, gathers each Tuesday evening to play Call of Duty: “They sit down for two or three hours and just shoot each other,” Robison says. Those less inclined to virtual violence, however, can surf unperturbed on their own laptops in the voluminous space while sipping in the youthful, urban downtown vibe. —EG

BEST PLACE TO SIP AND STROLL

Village Coffee

7781 SW Capitol Hwy •• 503-244-3954
What this tiny café lacks in capacity (there are just four tables and 14 chairs) it makes up for with its location in the heart of Southwest Portland’s charming Multnomah Village. Grab a cup of one of the custom-roasted organic coffees and take a stroll around the village shops, such as Annie Bloom’s Books or Thinker Toys. Or continue down the street to 90-acre Gabriel Park, where unpaved paths through shaded ravines, stretches of lawn, a kids park and off-leash dog areas cater to all varieties of morning perambulations. —EG

 

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Image: Jenna Biggs

BEST PLACE FOR BABIES

Sip & Kranz: A Coffee Lounge

901 NW 10th Ave •• 503-336-1335
During the summer, legions of squirming tots run amok in Jamison Square, but when the weather dictates that fun be had indoors, they, along with their parents, decamp to Sip & Kranz’s Kidz Lounge, a Pearlized play room complete with a flat-screen television, pillows and brightly colored building blocks. Those sans offspring—or those looking for a moment’s peace away from offspring—will be glad that the Kidz Lounge mayhem is fully muted by a glass wall, so that adult conversation can be thoroughly enjoyed scream-free in the café’s comfy barstools or wicker chairs. —EG

BEST 24-HOUR COFFEE SHOP

Nob Hill Old Pharmacy Café

2100 NW Glisan •• 503-548-4049
The antique sign behind the counter that reads “Cosmetics—Prescriptions” speaks to this café’s past as a neighborhood apothecary. Today, though the pharmacist is long gone, OTC stimulants actually are still available—in the form of good, strong coffee and shots of espresso. With its yellow pegboard walls and rows of hanging metal light fixtures, Nob Hill may be a little rough around the edges for some, but then you can show up here at 3 a.m., wracked by insomnia or suffering from heartbreak, and imagine yourself one of those romantically sullen characters in an Edward Hopper painting or, if that doesn’t appeal, order yourself a big ol’ greasy grilled cheese sandwich. Just the right medicine. —EG

BEST PLACE FOR HIPSTERS

Stumptown Downtown

128 SW Third Ave •• 503-295-6144
Walk into this Wi-Fi hotspot most afternoons, and the mini-wall of Power Macs will burn tracers of glowing apples into your retinas. Such brand identification is but one feature that makes this downtown coffee house hipper than average; there’s also the dual-turntable DJ station, the 20-foot-high exposed brick wall, the racks of Juxtapoz and Magnet, and the option of adding a shot of espresso to your pint of beer. Recently, we spotted one man who was so fashion-forward that he matched a pair of pegleg stretch pants to a pair of pixie boots. Hipsters may be the only ones who can enjoy using the bathrooms here, since the keys required for entry happen to be attached to life-size plastic ducks. —JD

BEST PLACE FOR THOSE NOT FOND OF HIPSTERS

St Honoré Boulangerie

2335 NW Thurman •• 503-445-4342
When you enter St Honoré, located on NW Thurman St where the dense retail strip of NW 23rd Ave gives way to industry, you’ll find a sipping spot tinged with Paris. The little round tables in this boulangerie, with their beige-and-black woven chairs, combine with a long wood table reminiscent of a French country house and a refined clientèle to exude Old World sophistication. For those with piercings and full-sleeve tattoos, this place is too cute; recently we found not one, but three patrons decked out in various shades of baby blue (try that at Stumptown). —EG

BEST PLACE TO WATCH A ROASTER AT WORK

Schondecken Coffee Roasters

6720 SE 16th Ave •• 503-236-8234
With three small tables and shelf-lined walls crowded with jars of tea and spices, Schondecken recalls the general store from Little House on the Prairie. Thankfully, the proprietor is not Harriet Oleson, but 59-year-old Nancy Duncan, who since 1996 has been lovingly roasting coffee four pounds at a time in her Sivetz air roaster, a process that regularly suffuses the shop with a tantalizing, smoky-sweet aroma. Ask the soft-spoken Duncan to choose a favorite among her dozen varieties, and the former pharmacy tech will demur like a parent asked to pick a favorite child—but when pushed to select a good springtime brew, she might recommend a Brazilian. —KC