Portland’s a great city with a lot going for it. But even after all these years, there’s something still lacking: late night coffee shops. And by “late night”, I mean past 6 PM. While some shops close earlier than 6, you are still guaranteed to find something open until this time. After 6? The pickings are slim.
Why is this? Portland’s supposed to be this cool, cosmopolitan place. After 18 years of living here, I don’t have much of an answer. I feel that since most coffee shops close by 6, many are just afraid of being open past this hour, thinking there’d be no business. Yet the few shops that are open past 6 seem to be doing okay. Go to Palio in Ladd’s Addition after 6 and tell me there’s no market for later shops.
I wasn’t expecting this when I moved to Portland. In my years in the New Haven area, there were scads of shops open late. It was a given in New Haven proper, with Yale, the second most prestigious university in the world, based there. Students need to study, so many places were open to 9 PM and even beyond. And out in the suburbs coffee shops were places where the kids could hang out at night, so there was usually something open besides just Dunkin’ Donuts. And the Bay Area had its share of later joints. Now Portland lacks the student culture of New Haven or Berkeley, but I’d figure there’d be something.
The lack of late night shops became pretty apparent when I arrived in the Rose City in April of 2001. I like to draw in coffee shops, and liked to go out to drink coffee and sketch in the evening hours. Sure, there were bars I could go to, but back then I wasn’t much of a solo drinker. (Now I will go into a bar to drink and draw, but most places have horrible lighting, since it’s meant more for “mood” then “not going blind while trying to sketch.”) And many of the coffee shops that were open late were not that great, either crowded (take that, cafe owners who say “no one gets coffee after 6”), served crappy coffee, or both.
Since I’ve gotten back into the drawing swing, I’ve been trying to find places that aren’t exclusively bars or brewpubs for evening art. And maddeningly enough, the 2019 Portland isn’t much better for late night options, but it is still better.
It’s pretty much a desert for late night shops anywhere within a two mile radius from my house in Woodlawn (there’s a couple places open until 8, that’s it), but by Emee’s house in North Tabor things get better. BiPartisan Cafe on SE Stark in Montavilla has been open until 9 PM most of the days of the week since they opened in 2005. And Common Grounds on SE Hawthorne, open since the early ’90’s, has been open until 10 PM as long as I can remember.*
The one place that has gotten me really excited is Coffee Beer on SE 42nd and Holgate. They are obviously a coffee shop first, but also have beer on tap and in bottles/cans. (Oh yeah, they have whiskey too!) And they are open until 9 PM! I’ve been looking for something with the coffee shop ambience (airy, well lit) that also has adult beverages for awhile, surprised that’s there’s not more of this in Portland. Hopefully they’ll stick around, and be the harbinger of a good trend.
Are you in Portland? Know of a good coffee shop open past 6 PM that I didn’t already mention? Please, let me know!
*It’s been awhile since I’ve been there. I never cared much for them, but should give them another shot.