Today marks two months since I moved to Portland. And I think I have come upon a favorite coffee shop in the southeast after some searching. Up until now, since I hadn’t found the one, I had set up a rotation of coffee shops to work from, one for each day of the week. I went to Crema on Monday, Heart Coffee Roasters on Tuesday, Townshend’s Tea House on Division on Wednesday, Heart again on Thursday, Stumptown on Belmont on Friday, Fresh Pot on Hawthorne on Saturday and Oblique on Sunday. All of these are either within walking or biking distance of me.
But something changed: the weather. Spring arrived in Portland, as evidenced by the copious blossoms that are popping up everywhere.
Going to the coffee shops on my rotation just seemed dreary last week. They carried with them a reminder of the overcast skies of winter, and I was ready for something new. I came upon Stumptown on Division (which, it turns out, is the original Stumptown Roasters location) on Yelp and discovered that it wasn’t very far from me, probably a ten-minute bike ride. So I decided to try it and boy am I glad I did!
What it has going for it:
Division is quickly becoming one of my favorite streets in the southeast. It is very residential and quite relaxed, but dotted with little bursts of activity stemming from great little businesses embedded in the street. Division embodies a quite and accessible urban vibrancy on a neighborhood scale. It is home to the famous, James Beard award-winning Thai restaurant Pok Pok that is constantly packed and at which you usually have to wait for hours to get seats. But even this busy spot folds right into the quiet and slow pace on Division, where the energy is kept at a simmer rather than turned up to a boiling point.
I discovered one of my favorite bike routes getting to Stumptown on Division – the Lincoln bike route. It is very beautiful and easy-going and you can take it all the way up to Mt. Tabor if you continue east on it. It is also equipped with bike boxes and traffic-slowing turnabouts, making for a very pleasant ride.
Stumptown on Division is extremely welcoming as it is truly a neighborhood coffee shop. The old-fashioned awning, outdoor tables that are usually busy with people and great sign all say, “Come on in neighbor!”
I would say the street front of Stumptown on Division is the most interesting and alluring part of the coffee shop. It is a community hot spot. Lots of dogs can be seen waiting for their owners out there too.
The working atmosphere at Stumptown on Division is so-so, but that is by design. There are outlets only is specific areas, like in the back room. Apparently, the owners wanted to reserve some areas of the shop for non-computer uses only, such as socializing, reading and just plain hanging out, drinking coffee and staring out the window, which makes sense and is quite nice. But I am an obstinate coffee shop-worker and lucky for me, there is an outlet in the front, near the bar seat facing the window, which is my favorite spot to work.
I love partaking in the simmering energy of Division and watching the constant stream of people coming in and out of the shop. As it becomes warmer and brighter outside, the trees become fuller and greener and as more and more people start walking and biking outside, this window-side seat will be the place to be to watch it all unfold.
Just like at the Stumptown on Belmont location, the design at Stumptown on Division is simple, elegant and well-done. The original materials – the concrete floors and the steel posts – bring an authenticity to this third place. And new touches that fit right – such as the wood bar with the concrete countertop and the industrial light fixtures – add to the high-touch, textural feel of the place.
The back room is narrow and confined and in my opinion is not a very pleasant place to hang out, except if you’re sitting close to the garage door facing the street. It is, frankly, the most disappointing part of this coffee shop. Also, it doesn’t help that the bathroom is architecturally unconcealed in the back, so people walking in and out have to disturb people sitting in the back room, particularly those against the back wall.
The best part of the back room is the part the garage door in the front, a rare Portland example of well-executed blurring between the indoors and the outdoors.
Another interesting aspect of the design at Stumptown on Division is what appears to be an alter to the coffee roasting machine. An entire half of a room is dedicated to the coffee roasting machine, but I suppose this alter to the coffee roaster is only appropriate as Stumptown Coffee is considered some of the best coffee in the country. The prominent and public position of the roaster reminds customers of the origin and the source of success of this esteemed coffee shop. It does, however, make for an odd flow in that room, as the busing station is tucked behind the coffee bar and you have to squeeze between the roaster and the coffee bar to put your dishes away. You have to navigate this same narrow path to get to the second bathroom tucked away in the back behind the roaster.
Food & Drink:
As I mentioned on my post about Stumptown on Belmont, “the coffee is unparalleled and super excellent.” They don’t have a huge selection of pastries, but what they have is good, so no complaints about the food and drink at Stumptown on Division.
The vibe at the Stumptown at Division is my favorite part of the coffee shop. It has a unique neighborhood feel, and as such is a real community gathering space. It resembles one of those quaint and vibrant neighborhood coffee shops you would find in a small town in Europe. Though it is famous throughout Portland as being the original Stumptown Coffee location, it remains a neighborhood-scale gem. As you step outside, you don’t step into a bustling, urban atmosphere, but rather a quietly vibrant neighborhood street. People will hang out in groups, bring their kids, bring their dogs, or bring a book to this Stumptown location, as it is very relaxed, yet full of people at the same time. This easy-going, yet busy vibe is why Stumptown on Division is a place I feel like going to every day of the week, bypassing my previous rotation of coffee shops. I may very well have found my favorite coffee shop in Portland! (For now.)
Photo credit: All photos by the author.
*Upcoming Event Alert: For those of you who live in Phoenix or will be in town for Modern Phoenix Week, come check out the Modern Phoenix Superlite Plant Tour I will be hosting on April 19, 2013. Tickets are $40 and a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the Arizona Preservation Foundation. Click here to buy tickets!*Tags: bicycle boxes, blooming rock, discovering pdx, division street, in search for the perfect coffee shop in portland, lincoln bicycle route, pok pok, portland, roundabouts, southeast portland, stumptown coffee roasters, stumptown on division, taz loomans
Very well written Taz. Portland has gained a gem. Stumptown has great coffee – I’m a fan of the pour over rather than the french press, but that’s subjective. I’m happy to read about all your adventures. Oh, I may have you pick me up some Stumptown beans before you come back to Phoenix for a visit.