As I stated in my last Coffeeneuring post, it’s going to be catch as catch can for the remainder of this year’s challenge. Maybe I’ll get in all 7 needed by November 20th, maybe I’ll get an Honorable Mention.
After a dry and actually hot start to October, the last third of October saw the much-needed rains return. But they haven’t really left. We went from summer to winter with no real autumn in between. I actually enjoy fall, so it’s a bummer to be denied of it. It hasn’t poured every day since October 21st, it just feels like it. So I try to take advantage of those dry-ish spells in between the wet. Thursday November 3rd was one of those dryish spells, and the following day saw lots of rain and wind. (I thought it was just wind that caused my power to go out around 9 PM on Friday, but it actually was explosions at my local sub-station!) Saturday turned out to be on the dry side, so bike time.
The main mission for the bike ride was to go grocery shopping. We hadn’t done any shopping since around when I got sick, so a replenishment was overdue. And “riding to grocery shop” is something that I don’t do much of anymore. Yeah, I’m a bit embarrassed by that. When I was living the bachelor life in Woodlawn, swinging by Trader Joe’s in Hollywood on the way home from work was a regular errand. But since I moved in with Emee almost four years ago, most of our shopping has been by car–while it’s not impossible to shop for a family of four by bike, it’s not the most practical thing, either. Add to that a few years of pandemic, when one doesn’t even want to be in a store–driving the Emeemobile to Freddie’s for a pick-up became default. So riding over to Trader Joe’s in Hollywood to pick up a few supplies is a bigger deal than it should.
After picking up some stuff and loading up my Heavy Duti, I went on the hunt for coffee. The Hollywood District is an interesting neighborhood: Developed in the 1920’s as the first of Portland’s “second downtowns” (and also the city’s first car-centric district a la Wilshire, though there were still streetcars plying it through the 1940s), Hollywood has always felt sleepy, stuck in the past. There has been some new things that have gone in over the years, but it still has that mid-century vibe to it. As such, there’s not a lot of great coffee options in the district. Not wanting to go that far afield, I stuck with the choices I had on a Saturday afternoon. There wasn’t many options other than chain coffee, so that’s where I went.
No, not Starbucks. I’m not as antagonistic to the Seattle-based behemoth as I used to, but I still don’t like it either. I’ll go when my options are limited to non existent. Yeah, I feel a bit snobbish that I’m old enough that Starbucks was not my intro to coffee culture. Instead my intro to coffee culture was mediocre independent coffee shops in suburban Connecticut 1 and Dunkin’ Donuts. 2
Instead I went with an Oregon-based chain. No, it’s not Dutch Bros. the ubiquitous drive-through that’s seemingly everywhere. I’ve had their coffee a few times and have found it to be okay. I just can’t stand the “culture” based around this chain. There are so many people who have “Dutch Mafia” stickers on their rear windows, I don’t get it. And I’m less inclined to go, now that Dutch Bros. is traded on the NYSE. The picture of Dutch Bros. founder/CEO ringing the ceremonial bell on the Stock Exchange while unironically “rocking” a Rage Against The Machine t-shirt makes my blood boil. 3
I went with Oregon’s number-two coffee chain, Human Bean.4 It’s by no means as big or ubiquitous as Dutch Bros with many spots around town–the location on NE Sandy and 48th is the only location within Portland city limits. I thought Human Bean is just an Oregon chain, but they are franchising all across the US! While most are still in Oregon, they are up-and-down the West Coast, and there’s clumps in Phoenix, the Colorado Front Range, and between San Antonio to Houston. The furthest east one is in a Baltimore suburb. So much for keeping it local!
I’ve only been to Human Bean once before, out in Hillsboro, where there were no other options around. It was fine for what it was, so I was willing to try them again.
Most of the Human Beans that I’ve seen are in the drive-thru vein like Dutch Bros.–the aesthetic seems to be “What if a shipping container grew two small towers on each end?” But a few have actual “dining rooms”, like the one in Hillsboro and this one in Hollywood. (I remember this location used to be a Wendy’s, or possibly an Arby’s?) The location was pretty mellow for a late afternoon on Saturday. (Compare this to the Dutch Bros. on NE Lloyd Blvd and MLK–there’s a constant line through the drive thru, and “broistas” are taking orders on tablets.) I locked up the Heavy Duti and went inside to order a Mexican mocha. Since I drink “regular” coffee at home, I like to treat myself with something special when I go out.
I took my coffee over to Frazer Park to have a few sips. It was okay–a bit on the sweet side, and definitely hot. I would have preferred more body to my drink, but it’s what was expected for a chain coffee shop.
I don’t know if I’ll be back to Human Bean anytime soon–there are so many more options in town. But it did what was needed. I’m hoping to actually get on a different bike for the next Coffeeneuring adventure. And maybe I can have some Coffee Outside action?
4.9 miles/7.9 km total ride
1 It pains me to say this, but I actually liked flavored coffee up until about 2000-1!
2 As a New England native, I will not tolerate negative words against Dunkin’. And there’s a part of me that wishes there were Dunkin’s in Portland. (There were a few when I moved here, but they were gone by about 2005.)
3 From that Eater PDX article that I linked: “Maybe [Dutch Bros. co-founder/CEO Travis Boersma] thought the shirt was a statement piece, an ‘I’m not like other chairmen’ fashion choice. But either way, the irony of a man in a Rage Against the Machine shirt making his company $484 million in its initial public offering and transforming into a billionaire in a single day is palpable.”
4 Coincidentally both Dutch Bros. and Human Bean are based in Southern Oregon–Dutch started and is based in Grants Pass, Human started in Ashland and is based in Medford. I don’t think there’s been a wide ranging Portland-based coffee chain since the days of Coffee People.
I never cared for the taste of Starbucks, always tastes burnt to me … I started on my Mom’s weak coffee and the Dunkin’ Donuts … I live in NJ and now get WaWa coffee because there is a shop on my route to work … Chock full O nuts at home!!!
Yeah, my first impressions of Starbucks when one finally opened where I lived (circa 1997?) is “This coffee tastes burnt.” I guess the easiest way for “consistent” coffee is to over-roast it. Most people probably don’t notice, since they’re getting Frappucinos and the like, where sugar and flavors drown out the actual coffee. I have noticed that their straight, just brewed coffee has improved over the last decade or so.
I think I may have drank WaWa coffee once or twice. Chock Full O Nuts seems so Northeast (along with old A&P Eight O Clock Coffee), yet I don’t think I ever had it, despite being from there.