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Today’s post is the second installment in my new series Discovering PDX, where I am documenting my experiences as a newcomer to the City of Roses.

As you saw from yesterday’s post, I have not yet found the perfect coffee shop in Portland. But my spirits are buoyed after my experience at Oblique Coffee Roasters this morning. Below is my review. (Thanks to Carl Metz for the recommendation.)

What it has going for it:

A Great Story:

In 2006, the owners, Heather and John Chandler saved this 1891 Victorian building from demolition and turned it into their home on the second floor and a great coffee shop on the bottom floor. They named the coffee shop Oblique because the building was leaning 20 inches to the southeast.

Location:

Oblique is on SE 30th Place and Stark, just a little too far to walk on a rainy day from my place. But that’s ok, because it forced me to break out my bike for the first time. On my bike, it took me less than 10 minutes to get here. I’m happy to report my first bike ride in Portland, albeit short, was easy, pleasant and uneventful. I also very much appreciated the plentiful bike parking in front of Oblique when I arrived.

Welcoming:

When I walked in, there was no one in the shop and I was distractedly taking photographs for this post. The man behind the counter was friendly and asked why I’m taking all these photographs. I told him why and we got to conversing. It turned out to be the owner, John, and it was really great to talk with him. I appreciated his welcoming presence and his beaming pride in this place he and his wife created together. John and Heather bring their wonderful energy to Oblique and make you feel at home. They say on their website, “We have effectively opened our living room up to our neighborhood in the hopes of creating a community center for connecting with the rest of our world…” And so they have. Oblique feels more like an urban living room than just a coffee shop, which is exactly the thing I’m looking for in the perfect coffee shop.

Working Atmosphere:

The working atmosphere is great here, with plentiful outlets, excellent wi-fi and lots of room to spread out. You can be sure I will be back to work here on a regular basis!

Design:

John lived in Phoenix for 9 months and one of the things he mentioned is that Phoenix has a terrible historic preservation record. Unfortunately, I could not agree with him more. Hearing about the great efforts he took in saving and renovating this building, I can tell that rehabilitating old buildings is important to John. This comes through in the design of Oblique. The beautiful original wood floors remind us that we’re in an old building, along with the original (though beefed up) wood columns and center beam. The cobbled-together wood counter is gorgeous and definitely goes with the warm feel of the building. I love the upside down bikes that do a great job in creating a unique sense of place. The bikes along with the exposed ducts remind us that while we may be in an building from the 1800′s, we’re in modern day Portland.

John and Heather had to replace the entire storefront during their renovation and they did a good job of it. The glulam beam and the clerestory windows below it are beautiful to look at as well as bring in great daylight deep into the space.

I like the little touches everywhere that communicate the owners’ personality, including the piano against the wall with paintings of dogs above it. I also like the color scheme, with the warm woods in conjunction with soothing blues.

There are some missed design opportunities, however. The light fixtures are just ok, where they could be really terrific. And the furniture is comfortable, but not remarkable in any way, where there was an opportunity to make a statement with it as well.

Food & Drink:

I had the most badass cup of puerh tea at Oblique today. It came in this giant mason jar and it was pretty darn good tea. Oblique gets its tea from one of the finest tea merchants in town, Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants, who I am planning to visit soon.

I also had a really good Portland bagel, supplied to Oblique by Tastebud: Wood Fired Rustic Baking. Besides bagels and some baked goods, Oblique doesn’t have a huge selection of food, which is ok by me, because the stuff they do have is really good.

Vibe:

The funky design, the great energy of the owners who operate the shop themselves, and cool music make for a great vibe. Also, the fantastic storefront brings in plenty of light and the view to a large and beautiful brick apartment building across the street just adds to the cozy and comfortable vibe of the place. The combination of modern day touches with the predominantly historic aesthetic is warm and pleasing, but not too nostalgic.

Another great thing about this place is the cool crowd of people it attracts, ranging for mothers with children, to coffee shop free lance workers like me, to people just here to relax and chat. What I like about Oblique is that I can see myself coming back for different things besides working on my laptop, like reading a book, meeting a friend or just hanging out. This is why Oblique is not just a coffee shop and more  like an urban living room.

Why it’s not the perfect coffee shop for me:

I like Oblique a lot and don’t really have quibbles with it (other than some missed design opportunities). But it’s too early to declare it the perfect coffee shop because there are just so many great coffee shops that I have yet to explore. But have no doubt, I will be back here often and who knows, it just might become the perfect coffee shop for me over time. I’ll definitely be back for the DJ on Sunday, as it reminds me of DJ Danny Velvet at Lux Coffeebar in Phoenix on Sunday.

For now, my search for the perfect coffee shop in Portland continues!

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2 Responses

  1. jamie says:

    Looks cool! I can’t wait to try it! What part of PDX?

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