Speed-o Cappuccino’s bubblegum-pink coffee cart stands out against the otherwise drab strip of Southeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Oak Street. Its Progress Pride flag—a version of the Pride flag that Oregon graphic designer Daniel Quasar created to include the trans community—waves as a friendly hello or sashay away.
“People can tell if it’s going to be their thing, so people don’t approach us if it’s not,” cart co-owner Dahlia Hanson tells WW. “They weed themselves out, usually.”
Hanson and Joseph Miller opened Speed-o across the street from Sheridan Fruit Company in July. Their goal: To bend the binary blazed by bikini baristas before them, while holding on to bold visibility and an unapologetic commitment to nourishing LGBTQ+ and allied Portlanders.
Hanson, a dancer in Portland’s strip clubs for four years, envisioned Speed-o as an accepting queer oasis where sex workers could earn extra money while perking up the Central Eastside neighborhood.
“It seems like there a lot of spaces for cis women to get out there, so I wanted to create a super-queer, more inclusive space,” they say.
Miller and Hanson hired nonbinary people and trans and cisgender men to staff their cart—describing the workforce as “himbos, thembos and flirts’' on the cart’s social media pages.
Speed-o prioritizes personality over physical attributes when looking for new baristas, but the owners don’t ask the flirts to act aggressively chipper, like Dutch Bros Coffee’s infamous “broistas.”
“You can teach people how to make coffee,” Hanson says. “You can’t teach people to be friendly and kind. It just sort of radiates out of them.”
In the summer, most Speed-o staff served drip coffee and Spanish cortados (a cappuccino that’s equal parts espresso and milk), wearing hot pink crop tops and booty shorts—staff says that there have been Speedos worn at the cart, but it isn’t common. The winter uniform is similarly on-brand skimpy: sweat shorts and a T-shirt. But the cart has the heaters cranked for employee comfort.
Speed-o’s brunch menu is bright and colorful enough to wake diners up or restore them after a long night at neighboring Coffin Club. The Glory Bowl toast plate’s smorgasbord of peanut butter, banana slices, almond granola, coconut shavings, cocoa nibs and honey are the sweetest breakfast sex pun south of Voodoo Doughnut.
The cart also pays homage to gender-bending musician Lil Nas X’s genre-melting debut album with their Montero bowl: Nutella, strawberries, blueberries, honey, cocoa nibs, and sesame seeds.
“We are huge fans of Lil Nas X,” Miller says. “I feel like, for me personally, growing up listening to rap, there’s so much misogyny and homophobia in rap, and then you have Lil Nas X coming out, and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s the dopest person ever.’”
Although almost every breakfast stop has some version of the tried-and-true, mortgage-wrecking avocado toast, Speed-o’s definitely seems worth the credit check. The toast comes stacked with slices of avocado, ripe marinated tomatoes, pickled asparagus, radish, shallot and lush arugula dressed with pink beet-cilantro aioli.
As Speed-o’s forays into its first winter season it’s whipping up Christmas in a Cup: a peppermint-white mocha latte that gets Mariah Carey stans in the holiday mood. But when it comes to the signature Speed-o latte, opt for the coconut as syrup instead of shavings. The floating flakes give the drink a soupy texture.
Asked where the cart is headed, Hanson says they have plans for a drive-thru window as Speed-o’s next evolutionary phase. Service is walk-up for now, and there’s a shared seating agreement at the nearby Asian Hispanic fusion franchise Zero Degrees.
“I think that would really widen the audience, especially during fall and winter,” Hanson says of a drive-thru. “Nobody wants to get blown away.”
DRINK: Speed-o Cappuccino, 402 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 503-754-4371, speed-o-cappuccino.business.site. 7:30 am-5 pm Monday-Friday, 10 am-4 pm Saturday-Sunday.