It’s Friday night in Portland’s Central Eastside, and the sounds of drums, guitar and angsty lyrics permeate the chilly fall air. Dozens of masked-up fans stand, dance and jump around in a parking lot outside a cafe. Inside, a much quieter, calmer Friday night unfolds: People sip cappuccinos, type away on laptops, share laughs with friends.
That’s the beauty of Honey Latte Cafe. It provides a space not only for coffee drinkers, but for all-ages music fans, too.
In 2016, the cafe’s owner, Angelyna Tropets, founded a DIY booking agency dedicated to helping local and small touring bands find audiences around Portland. She called it Honey Latte Presents. Since then, the agency has evolved into a team of volunteers, including Tropets’ close friends and family. Now 24, Tropets and her team have turned Honey Latte into a brick-and-mortar coffeehouse.
In June 2021, Honey Latte celebrated its grand opening with a weeklong schedule of shows—different groups each night. On the first night, Tropets says the realization finally hit her hard.
“It felt incredibly healing,” she says. “The moment I started to hear music, like the live music and live amps and the drums and feeling it in my body, I was just like, ‘Oh my God, this is really happening.’ It’s back, we finally have music again.” The cafe’s hosted more than 50 shows since then.
Tropets grew up in Southeast Portland, so she understands firsthand the lack of all-ages venues in the city. She started going to shows at 14 and often found herself missing out simply because she was a minor. She sought out the few dedicated all-ages venues in town, like the Analog—which closed in 2019.
“Portland needs more all-ages places where music is the main event,” says Johnny Franco, a musician who writes upbeat twangy folk songs and has performed at Honey Latte thrice. Franco moved to Portland from São Paolo three years ago. There Franco was used to all-ages events because the city invested heavily in its artists and culture.
When he first got to Portland, he started busking every day in Pioneer Courthouse Square. “I started to see the same faces of these same young people over and over again hanging around me,” he says. “They told me that there were really not a lot of all-ages places, so they would just come downtown and hang out with me.”
Honey Latte, Franco says, provides a perfect space to bring young people together for a good reason, he says. “And coffee goes very well with it because, in my opinion, it’s the best drug yet.”
Tropets’ cafe is plant-based and dairy-free, with staff frothing a variety of alternative milks. The drink menu’s more standout items are two cereal-themed lattes—Fruity Pebbles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. You can also order cereal milk straight up.
The name Honey Latte originated from Tropets sitting in cafes around town. She ordered lattes with honey in between emails. “I chose the name so we could focus on shows being all ages,” she says. “Most of the time, nowadays, most venues rely on alcohol to make their sales and stay open, and that’s why they’re all 21 plus.”
Eventually, Tropets hopes to open a venue with a capacity 300 to 500 to host even bigger shows, but the same DIY ethos would still be there. Whether that happens in a few months or a few years, Tropets says she’s determined. For now, the Honey Latte team is plenty happy to jam in the parking lot.
GO: Honey Latte Cafe, 1033 SE Main St., honeylatte.cafe. 8 am-6 pm Monday-Friday, 9 am-6 pm Saturday-Sunday.