July 23rd, 2009
Wifi, caffeine, and coworking: 10+ Portland coffee shops for meeting up with Portland’s tech types
[Editor: Thanks for swinging by! Unfortunately, this post is severely out-of-date. But fear not, gentle reader. There's a new and improved resource for coffee, wifi, and coworking here in Portland, Oregon.]
Admittedly, we in the Portland Web, Mobile, blogging, and startup scene are a bit of a nomadic bunch. Whether finding some place to camp out in between meetings or hunkering down to crank out code for hours on end, folks around these parts are always looking for a good spot to work—preferably with an infusion of caffeine nearby. And sometimes, it’s nice to have some peers around for bouncing ideas or simply just a little company.
So where are the best places in Portland to cowork with coffee, wifi, and cohorts? Here are ten choices for your coffee shop coworking pleasure, with a couple of bonus suggestions of up and coming spots.
View Larger Map
Always great coffee with always comfy couches in the front and back, Albina Press is a favorite haunt of many a North Portland and Mississippi Ave tech type. Did I mention the coffee? Whoof.
If you’re looking for a hard-to-find-a-seat bustling atmosphere with plenty of folks moving through it, Albina Press is the perfect place to spend a few hours. Or you could always hang at the window-facing bar and keep one eye on the passers-by.
But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s what Portland Food and Drink has to say about Albina Press:
The interior is rather unremarkable, pretty much your typical laid-back coffeehouse. Still, it is a spacious place to while away a rainy afternoon with the paper. Thereâ€™s a bar area next to the windows so you can stare out on a rainy day and contemplate life. Plenty of regular tables are scattered around, and there are two areas with soft couches to dive into. Free Wi-Fi is available, with a surprising number of electrical outlets to plug in your laptop if need be. The mix of customers runs the gamut, from neighborhood regulars to coffee geeks who come from a distance. College students make up the bulk of the crowd; still anyone can feel comfortable here.
View Larger Map
Now stop. I can hear you already. “Beaverton is not Portland.” But give me a sec, would you? Jeez.
Ava Roasteria makes the list for a number of reasons. First, it’s open 24-hours-a-day. That’s right. Just like in the dotcom days. Second, it has blisteringly fast wifi. Third, it’s huge.
Now, won’t that help you overlook the facts that it’s a little off the beaten path and that they have an all Flash Web site with music that you can’t figure out how to mute?
There aren’t many user reviews, but I thought Nathan E. Lewis summed up Ava Roasteria quite nicely.
If you are in Beaverton, check out Ava Roasteria, Beavertonâ€™s new coffee house. It is beautiful! Free wireless, rich coffee, and perhaps, the new center of Beaverton, a great place to meet people. It also happens to be my new office. Come visit me and I will treat you to a cup. The owner, an Iranian woman, specializes in purchasing contaminated properties, transforming them into beautiful retail spaces.
View Larger Map
The always bustling Bipartisan Cafe is a great place to hang out in deep Southeast Portland. Don’t be intimidated by the crowd. Tables tend to turn over fairly quickly here. Or the bar is usually open. And the coffee is worth the wait.
Need more than coffee, wifi, and people? How about pie?
Bipartisan Cafe serves hand crafted coffee beverages made with world class, locally roasted Stumptown Coffee. We have a nice selection of black green or herbal teas from Tao of Tea. Our sandwiches are made to order on Grand Central Bakery bread and the soups are homemade from scratch. Our specialty is our piesâ€”made from scratch like grandma used to make.
View Larger Map
Arguably the de facto hub of the Portland coffee shop coworking and startup scene, Backspace provides an expansive space, plenty of plugins, and enough wifi for hours and hours of work.
Suffice it to say, if you’re looking to see a bunch of Twitter avatars walking around in real life, this Old Town coffee shop is the place to be. Given its locale and its accouterment, there are always five to ten people you’ll recognize at Backspace. Guaranteed.
Backspace is the default place to go when you have nothing else to do. 25 computers for internet and a mass of video games. Huge 4000 sq ft. building to enjoy stumptown coffee and see incredible art. Pool tables, X-box room, and Board games galore. Open Late! 2am every night!
But don’t just take locals’ words for it. See what a tourist has to say about Backspace:
Lest you think Backspace is a restaurant, the coffee bar is just a small part of why we go there. This is part Internet-cafe, part club, part beatnik hangout, part art gallery, and 4000 square feet more of whatever band, show, or feature is hot in the Rose city.â€¦ Ground Kontrol classic arcade is around the corner, where you can still play the old games for a quarter. In short, this is just a nice play to “be”.
iAte is surprisingly quiet about Backspace. Maybe because its just assumed that you’re there. Or you can take a look at the Shizzow traffic through that joint.
Don’t believe me? Ask WifiPDX.
Great coffee, fantastic pastries. And Ken at the counter is a great guy. It’s usually just busy enough to be interesting without being so busy that you can’t find a table. Great place.
See who’s hanging out in St. Johns via Shizzow. Or listen in on what the Twitter types are saying about James John via iAte.
View Larger Map
If you’re in the Belmont area and you’re a nomadic worker, you’ve not doubt spent some time at Opposable Thumb. The big bonus to the Thumb as opposed to the Stumptown further up the street? Space for one thing. Opposable Thumb has plenty of space to spread out. And usually some places you can hole yourself up to avoid the foot traffic.
Food is another plus. If you’re going to be heads-down on a project for a few hours, tasty sustenance is well within reach.
In fact, marathon sessions at Opposable Thumb are a common occurrence.
The Opposable Thumb is a pretty delightful place to hang out and do work, especially if youâ€™re a twenty-something hipster, like most people wandering around the 20â€™s and 30â€™s blocks of Belmont. To give you an idea of the amount of time you can spend here, Iâ€™ll mention that I once remained here for about eight hours without once going outside.
View Larger Map
Since World Cup in the EcoTrust building closed, the next best “near Jamison Park” location for grabbing a cup of coffee and banging out a few lines of code has become Sip & Kranz. And now they’ve—somewhat sadly—torn out the kids area. But that just means that there’s more room for the highly refined and mature activities of surfing the Web and making snarky comments on Twitter.
What’s more, Neighborhood Notes gives Sip & Kranz rave reviews.
The service is great: there are ample (Pleasant!!!) folks on hand to help with coffee, pastries or juice. Sip & Kranz proudly serves and sells Stumptown Coffee– the staff went through a lengthy training process to ensure that they meet the quality guidelines of “the holy grail” of coffee roasters. And it gets better… the pastries are from Nuvrei Fine Cakes & Pastries and there are glorious cupcakes from–where else– Saint Cupcake (the patron saint of sweet!)…
View Larger Map
Yes, it’s loud. Yes, it’s crowded. And yes, you have to carry that big damn duck to the restroom. But I’ll be damned if Stumptown on SW 3rd doesn’t have the finest con panna in town. And that rocket fuel combined with wifi is more than anyone needs to be a productive little worker.
And while I’ve singled out Stumptown Downtown, to be honest, they’re all pretty good locations to work on whatever it is you need to get done. And the one at the Ace allows you to wander over to the big cushy lobby couches.
But let’s get back to the location at hand. Now the most common complaint about the downtown location is the noise. Whether it be the crowd or the music that’s always jacked up. But you know what? I actually think that’s the big positive for this location? How can that be? Well, I’ll tell you. You see, Stumptown Downtown is perfect for meetings. Because when you want to sit down and chat about your top-secret stealthy startup project you can be sure no one is eavesdropping. Because the people next to you can barely hear themselves think. Yay for aural obfuscation!
And honestly? You come here for the coffee. Don’t believe me? Well, do you believe The New York Times?
But Mr. Sorenson and a few like-minded coffee hunters around the country will go almost anywhere, do almost anything and pay almost any price in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee.â€¦ But itâ€™s not a point he feels the need to argue stridently, because the proof â€” for anyone to taste â€” is in the cup.
They’ve each got their pluses. NW tends to see more folks traipsing through, thanks to its location, and it’s always easy to find an outlet. But NE has a ton of room. And more secluded areas to hide. Both of them have great connectivity and comfy seats for hours and hours of slaving away on your projects. And, at either location, the coffee and tea are good and the staff is knowledgeable. So you’re set there.
Portland Octopus gives Urban Grind a thumbs up or maybe eight thumbs up. Suction cups? Whatever. They like it.
Urban Grind is living proof that getting your daily fix doesnâ€™t have to involve paying above average prices for a below average experience. On the contrary, this place is a perfect example of a local business that has established a huge following by providing a great atmosphere to compliment amazing products.
Who winds up where? Well, here are the folks who frequent Urban Grind NE. And here are the folks who wind up at Urban Grind NW. For what it’s worth, it appears that Urban Grind NW gets far more love on WifiPDX than Urban Grind NE.
Bonus: Up and coming coworking coffee shops?
Now, sometimes, you’re looking for somewhere to work that’s a little less coworking and maybe a little more isolated.
Taborspace: Thanks to Chase Reeves for introducing me to Taborspace, yesterday. Great coffee. With a big wide open room lit by stained glass windows—it’s in part of an old church—this nonprofit coworking coffee shop was an inspiration for this post.
Tiny’s on MLK: I’m hearing more and more folks mention Tiny’s as a place to get some work done. Great coffee. Comfy seats. And they’ve got food too.
It’s common knowledge that you can never build a list of recommendations without slighting someone’s favorite spot. So, if I’ve left your favorite coworking coffee shop out of the mix—and you’re interested in other folks starting to show up at your secret hideaway—feel free to add it to the comments.
But be forewarned. If you make a compelling argument, I’ll be adding it to the list.
(Image courtesy ennuidesign. Used under Creative Commons.)