Where to Go to Get Your Coffee on in Portland’s Fifth Quadrant
If you’re new to Portland or just visiting, then you might not realize that Portland has a total of five quarters, rather than the oft-heard four. If you live anywhere near downtown on the West or Eastside, then it’s all too easy to forget that there’s more to this town than NE, SE, SW, and NW.
In a word, we’re talking North Portland, or NoPo – a place filled with quirky and cool neighborhoods where families and small businesses have thrived for many years. It’s got a bit of a blue collar feel to it and boasts Kenton’s 30-foot tall Paul Bunyan statue, the majestic St. Johns Bridge and Sauvie Island, the largest island on the Columbia River with a wildlife refuge and Portland’s famed nude beach.
NoPo, the wedge bordered by North Williams in the East, the Willamette River in the West, and the mighty Columbia in the North, has some of the best coffee shops in all of Portland, a place internationally known for the quality of its coffee shops and micro-roasters.
Ristretto Roasters – North Williams
Ristretto was recently named one of the nation’s (that’s right the whole nation), best eleven coffee shops. Ristretto operates three locations: one in Northwest Portland, one on Northeast Couch, and their North Portland shop on a long block of revitalized storefronts on North Williams Avenue, right down the street from Urban Nest Realty’s North Portland flagship office!
Ristretto roasts all of their own coffees in small batches from beans selected by the owner and imported directly. They also blend their own teas.
Fresh Pot – North Mississippi
Fresh Pot has three locations in Portland: downtown, SE Hawthorne, and their most notable shop on North Mississippi Avenue. All of their locations serve Stumptown Coffee Roasters coffee, but the North Portland location does it with just a little bit more style.
You see, this coffee shop is located in a renovated Rexall Drugs store with many of the original soda fountain amenities still intact. Just for the fun of it, you can drink your coffee seated on an original bar stool at the marble counter that used to serve malteds, shakes, and cherry cokes.
The Albina Press – North Albina
Just up the strip after Mississippi Avenue dog-legs to the right and suddenly becomes Albina, coffee lovers will find yet another mainstay of the NoPo coffee scene. The Albina Press, located there, may be the oldest fine coffee shop in the entirety of the fifth quadrant.
Also serving Stumptown Coffee, Albina Press has large, comfortable indoor and outdoor seating areas with a counter, several couches, and tables and chairs for customers to choose from. They occasionally host evening events, too.
Red E Café – North Killingsworth
Red E Cafe, another North Portland coffee shop, was opened and continues to be run by a couple of New York State expats. It also continues to be one of the best coffee shops in the entire city. They have a microroasting program and have recently opened a second location in the EcoTrust building in Downtown Portland.
One of the things that sets them apart is the availability of multiple single-origin espressos at any given time, giving connoisseurs the opportunity to compare and contrast the bean’s best expression when grown in different areas throughout the globe.
The Arbor Lodge – North Interstate
The Arbor Lodge takes its name from the neighborhood that it serves. It’s just across from one of the MAX stops on North Interstate, and it’s both a fantastic coffee shop and a solid community-gathering place. They serve coffee from some of Portland’s best microroasters alongside excellent pastries and other food options.
Cathedral Coffee – North Willamette
Cathedral Coffee serves both the University of Portland student body, as well as the surrounding community of St. Johns. It’s one of the largest spaces on this list and is home to a surprisingly vast collection of books. They also do all their own baking, and the coffee is known for being absolutely fantastic.
Affogato – North Lombard
The farthest North of the bunch on this list, Affogato on North Lombard in downtown St. Johns is a combination artisan gelato and organic coffee and espresso café. You don’t have to get your coffee poured over gelato. But if it’s summertime, why on earth wouldn’t you?
North to South, North Portland Has Some of the Best Coffee in the City
You may have noticed that the preceding list of great NoPo coffee shops was presented in order from Southernmost to Northernmost. You could, if your metabolism and heart can handle it, start at either end of the list and do a café crawl via bike or Prius (go green - go Portland), hitting each of these seven great coffee shops and having a single shot of high quality espresso at each one.
Just be prepared to feel like the Incredible Hulk when you’re through!