1411 SE Stark St., 971-271-8190, cloudforest.shop. 8 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-6 pm Saturday-Sunday.
For years, Sebastian Cisneros was a quiet force among Portland chocolatiers. With Cloudforest, he's stepping out from anonymity. The Buckman neighborhood spot serves as an outpost for Cocanu, Cisneros' line of chocolate bars. It's also an espresso bar and, most of all, a mecca for drinking chocolate—essentially, hot cocoa made with chunks of chocolate instead of powder. Cloudforest serves some basic espresso offerings, but the cafe is really a headquarters for Cisneros' confectionary. There's a small chocolate factory right next to the cafe, and if you walk down a side hallway, you can watch through fishbowl-like windows as chocolatiers melt giant chunks of cacao. Along one of the white walls in the cafe, there's a pale blue shelf lined with square chocolate bars in flavors that range from aromatic wild cacao to dark chocolate mixed with Pop Rocks, each covered in origami-like wrappers. Often, drinking chocolate is an endurance test of decadence. But at Cloudforest, it comes served in small, colorful ceramic tea cups with matching saucers and tiny spoons. Everything at Cloudforest is delicate—the color block tables and benches, the plants hanging from the ceiling and the poems tucked into the wrapper of each chocolate bar—but it's also austere. Even the aqua de cacao—pure cacao melted into hot water and the lightest option on the menu—is deeply rich. SHANNON GORMLEY.
4142 SE 42nd Ave., 503-946-8029, coffeebeer.me. 8 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.
At first glance, Coffee Beer is about as basic as it gets. Further inspection reveals that the Creston-Kenilworth bodega-cafe hybrid actually doubles as a design and marketing project for owner Phillip Stewart. But don't let the collection of enamel pins and coffee mugs with blunt slogans that extol the virtues of a bullshit-free life powered by caffeine and alcohol stop you from zigzagging abruptly between strong cups of coffee and even stronger drinks. Stewart's mixologist chops have improved greatly since embarking on the project, with cocktails like his namesake Phillip's Cup (Fernet, Coca Cola and lime; $7.75) or the Cuddler (Tin Cup whiskey, vanilla cream soda and a shot of espresso; $10.50) serving as optimal palate cleansers when you've maxed out on Happy Cup coffee. A spread of vegan goodies, like sandwiches from Snackrilige and pastries from Shoofly, keep the growls in your stomach at bay, and a fridge filled with diverse brews from pFriem, Modern Times and North Coast are there to counteract the coffee you've been idly ingesting for hours. PETE COTTELL.
2289 N Interstate Ave., 971-339-3681, interstate.coffee. 7 am-3 pm Monday-Friday,
11 am-3 pm Saturday.
You could call Interstate Coffee a monument to Portland's caffeine obsession. On a sprawling stretch of Interstate Avenue, a bright marquee draws passers-by to an unused loading dock space, where there is arranged one small table, an espresso machine and a striking reclaimed-wood slab countertop. The compact coffee stand was originally used for overflow timber storage for ECOpdx, Interstate Coffee's adjoining furniture store—the shop's stacks and bundles of wooden beams are still visible behind a large, windowed garage door. It's easy to imagine the cubbyhole coffee shop being a regular stop for nearby artists who rent studio space in old port warehouses. But the opportunistic cafe is also just steps away from the Albina Mississippi MAX stop. Commuters in need of an energy boost can quickly snag a Nossa Familia espresso or St. Honoré Boulangerie croissant, tart or cookie in passing. And on wintry, near-freezing Portland days, the walk-thru cafe is a welcome sight for travelers with icy digits. Just be sure to leave a nice tip for the barista bundled in multiple down jackets but still cheerily pulling shots of espresso behind the counter. ELISE HERRON.
721 NW 9th Ave. 7:30 am-4 pm daily.
Like it's name, La Perlita is a small jewel inside the three-story Ecotrust Building in Northwest Portland. In fact, it can be easy to miss if you're not paying attention. Tucked away in one corner of the first-floor lobby next to an office, you can breeze right by the itty-bitty blond wooden bar and out the back door without even realizing it. That's why there's a hot pink cursive neon sign hanging on the aging brick wall to catch your eye. And with any luck, that'll happen, since co-owners Angel Medina and Lucy Alvarez serve the best True Mexican Mocha ($5) in town. Made with cafe de olla syrup that's a holiday potpourri of comforting flavors, including brown sugar, cinnamon, orange peel, clove and anise, the drink is a triple texture of warmth and never overly sweet, thanks to additions of dark Ghirardelli chocolate and cocoa powder. The cafe nook is part of a trio of shops opened by Medina and Alvarez and serving their Smalltime Roasters coffee. Bring a friend and order each of the Cortaditos ($3.75) to share, which come in Brazilian, Mexican and Cuban varieties—the latter offering a creamy sweetness of a traditional café con leche. Pair that with a pastry from Dos Hermanos Bakery, and at least your mouth will be tricked into thinking you're somewhere other than a lobby on a drizzly winter day in Portland. ANDI PREWITT.
1633 SE 3rd Ave., 971-322-3753, nossacoffee.com. 7 am-5 pm, Monday-Friday, 9 am-4 pm, Saturday.
Houseplants seem to be required flourishes at Portland coffee shops, and Nossa Familia's Central Eastside cafe doesn't deviate from the trend. The small shop, situated on the floor level of an industrial office complex, embraces rainforest aesthetics more than most. That's because the shop, one of three in Portland, is uniquely "Guatemala-inspired," according to a note on the company's website. "Every item in this cafe—from the coffee, the colorful textiles, to the delicious tamales, and the hand-painted mugs from Guatemala—has its own story," writes founder Augusto Carneiro. Of the vibrant décor, one burgundy-colored woven tapestry zigzagging the length of the store stands out. That contrasts with dark, stained-wood tabletops and latticed, black metal cubes acting as shelving. The space seems custom-made as a meeting space for neighboring office workers, but that doesn't mean it should be overlooked. Nossa's coffee, sourced from Carneiro's family farm in Brazil, as well as other small plantations around the world, is consistently robust and delicious. And every Thursday at noon, baristas offer a "farm-to-cup" coffee tasting. When Portland's weather turns nonstop gray and dreary, escape here to soak up tropics-inspired warmth sans actual sun and humidity. EH.
815 SE Oak St., 503-334-3685, portlandroastingcoffee.com. 7 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-9 pm Saturday.
If you've wandered the corridors of Portland International Airport or the Oregon Convention Center in search of coffee, you've probably had some from Portland Roasting. It wasn't until this year, however, that the familiar coffee purveyor made an attempt to lure coffee drinkers with spaces they'd actually want to spend time in. Last winter, the company converted the old Clay Pigeon Winery space on Southeast Sandy into a modern cafe that balances woodsy adornments with futuristic touches like flat-screen TV menus and a custom-made espresso machine built into the bar that looks like a tap system from some Jetsons-style retro-future world. With hours spanning into the early evening, a trio of familiar draft beers from pFriem, Royals and Double Mountain, as well as a clutch of coffee cocktails like the Up & Up (Fernet, cold brew, coffee liqueur, simple and orange bitters; $11), it's a place where the lines between caffeine-fueled productivity and boozy lounging are blurred, and all the better for it. PC.
Push x Pull
821 SE Stark St., pushxpullcoffee.com. 7 am-5 pm Monday-Friday, 8 pm-4 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Last March, startup roastery Push x Pull opened its first tasting room in a window-lined space on Stark. It was a ballsy move—the cafe is only a few blocks from craft-roaster darlings Water Avenue and basically across the street from Portland Roasting Company's headquarters and cafe. But instead of feigning experience, Push x Pull has effectively branded itself as a scrappy labor of love run by coffee obsessives rather than experts—one of its slogans is "Roasting coffee since a couple of days ago." The tasting room leads with its quirks, too. Push x Pull's roaster stands in a corner of the cafe, and there are usually buckets and burlap sacks of beans scattered nearby. The only food items Push x Pull serves are a small selection of baked goods and an egg-and-cheese sandwich. The closest thing to a novelty drink on the menu is a matcha latte. The coffee list is standard espresso drinks, plus a long list of things that "don't require currency" like hugs, advice, good vibes and fresh beats—though the cafe mostly plays indie folk from the first half of the decade. All of that might sound like neo-bro kitsch, but Push x Pull's penchant for not taking itself too seriously feels friendly and unassuming. Plus, its pour over ($5) is totally satisfying—Push x Pull's light, natural roasts are simple but deep, slightly sweet but hearty. SG.
The Red Gate
7434 NE Fremont St., 971-254-8896, redgatepdx.com. 7:30 am-5 pm Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm Saturday-Sunday.
Part third-wave cafe, part bubble tea house, the Red Gate serves just the right amount of suburban Chinese-American charm in a location graciously removed from the disjointed strip-mall dystopia where such places might generally be found. It's a coffee shop at heart, but you're probably doing it wrong if you ignore the thoughtful spread of bubble teas and funky spinoffs like the coffee-infused boba and taro root drink. Red Gate's signature dish is its jianbing—a crepelike whole wheat or green onion pastry folded around crispy greens and a signature Sriracha-style hot sauce—which is worth the trip alone. It's a worthy complement to the housemade matchas and tea beverages, which make it the perfect place to warm up on a cold, drizzly day. But traditionalists will find plenty to love with its delicate pastries, seasonal lattes and fluffy, fruit-covered bubble waffles that are a huge hit with the throngs of young families that have overtaken the Roseway neighborhood. PC.
2112 NW Quimby St., 503-224-3420, queuecoffee.com. 6:30 am-9 pm Monday-Friday, 7 am-9 pm Saturday-Sunday.
At a glance, Queue Coffee looks like just another third-wave coffee shop installed in the ground floor of a gleaming new apartment complex in Slabtown, albeit with a floral-themed, navy-blue color palette rather than blinding Kinfolk white. A bright yellow La Marzocco espresso machine sits on the counter, alongside modernist furniture spaced widely enough to give the place a hotel-lobby look—the actual apartment lobby, visible through the open counter, isn't decorated much differently. Menu items are a standard list of lattes and mochas, with beans from Extracto, Dapper & Wise and Tanager, plus pastries from Lauretta Jean's, teas from Tao and an array of toast options. It's certainly a comfortable place, but the real reason it stands out are the hours. Few coffee shops in town are open until 9 pm as it is, but those are just Queue's winter hours—it's open until 11 otherwise. That's absolutely clutch. Especially for, say, the office full of journalists who often work late right down the street. MATTHEW SINGER.