Three dollars may seem like a lot for some hot liquid, but any Portlander will tell you that coffee in this town is more Orient Express than Amtrak. Crisp espresso, sinewy foam, knowledgeable baristas and the comfort of a warm cafe—that's luxury, and at three or four bucks, it's pretty affordable. These are the cafes that do it best.
The most exciting cafe in Portland right now, thanks to the looming launch of Cherry, a new small-batch roastery that will operate out of the space beginning this summer. In the meantime, Extracto offers beans from California's excellent Barefoot Coffee Roasters, making it a must-visit for coffee enthusiasts.
This cafe, oozing warmth and a fierce devotion to the barista's craft, serves the most lovingly prepared coffee in Portland. The recent addition of stunning pastries by Nuvrei makes the experience whole.
A staple in the city's coffee scene, the Fresh Pot offers enlightened espresso with an attitude. Their motto speaks truth: Life is beautiful, when coffee is your life.
One of few top-notch cafes that make their own pastries. Testament to the humble dignity of Crema's rustic wares are the spongy chocolate espresso bread and countrified huckleberry scones. Their routinely excellent coffee is overseen by some of the best-trained and most professional baristas in town.
The only place in town roasting artisan coffees that rival Stumptown's. If your highly trained palate is tired of ubiquitous Hairbender espresso, stop in for a sip of Ristretto's Beaumont Blend and taste for yourself. A second location will open at North Williams Avenue and Failing Street in June.
Perhaps the pinnacle of brew in Portland, despite the fact that it offers only single cups of coffee (no espresso)—you choose from the roaster's selection of some of the best beans in the world. To expand your horizons further, stop in for one of the free daily cuppings (11 am and 3 pm). Cynics may scoff at the similarities to wine snobbery, but the proof is in the cup.
"The Press" is one of the tightest ships at sail on Portland's ocean of coffee. Owner and barista Billy Wilson is the man behind the whipstaff. He's loud, elaborately tattooed and an inspiration to many younger baristas. A new location at Southeast 50th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard will open this spring.
Don't go for the coffee. Do go for the emphasis on atmosphere with a conscience. The quiet
dedication of the staff to promoting a sense of community is apparent. It's a cafe for reading, debating, watching and
reflecting, and it's one block from the new vegan "mini-mall" at Southeast Stark Street and 12th Avenue. 400 SE 12th Ave., 231-3899. Open until 11 pm daily.
OK, it's not coffee.
Sahagún is a tiny oasis that offers exponentially increasing rewards. For $2.50, an "exploding caramel" will bring you bliss that will linger for hours, if not days. For $5 you can have the same experience in liquid form: The rotating menu of rich and slightly erotic drinking chocolates will leave you giddy.
The standout collection of political ephemera and housemade pies (try the pear-raspberry!) almost overshadow the perfect neighborliness of this former hardware store in Montavilla. What could be more American? Thankfully, the better-than-average coffee is served in ceramic, not Styrofoam. [i]7901 SE Stark St., 253-1051. Open daily.