The most striking thing about East Portland Coffee Roasters is the unusual humidity. A bubbling fountain in the middle of the shop keeps the windows perpetually foggy, especially during the cold Portland winters. It makes me a little concerned for my laptop, but in reality it is no more humid than any coffee shop one would find 1,000 miles closer to the equator. Adorned with mythical sirens, the gentle stream of water from the fountain can be pleasing, but at times clashes with the slightly-too-loud music playing in the background.
The next thing that catches the eye is the décor. Seating consists almost entirely of live edge wooden tables and the same type of wooden chairs you can find in Eliot Hall classrooms (minus the attached desk space of course). Hanging from the walls are works of local art: paintings, weavings, jewelry, ceramics, etc. The first time I went the wall featured large prints of macro-photography. The subject matter was various strains of marijuana. At the time of writing the walls are lined with spiritual tapestries reminiscent of Alex Grey, for the low price of $85 a rug.
Their coffee is okay. I’m no discerning aficionado but a cup is $2.15 and refills are $1.00. The chocolate éclair ($5.40 — kind of pricey, don’t you think?) was small and tasty but the other pastries look less appetizing. At risk of exceeding the maximum pretension allowed in an article, I thought the almond croissant ($3.90) was uninspired. If sweets are more your speed the shop has a wide variety of “natural” Italian soda flavors and chocolate candy. Not house-made chocolate bars, but tiny fare like M&Ms and Reese’s pieces.
There are two main attractions that draw me back to EPCR: the hours and the distance. One aspect is a convenience and the other isn’t. EPCR (ugly acronym) is open 24/7 making it, to my knowledge, the only reasonable competition to Southeast Grind if one is looking for a warm place to study at well into the night. The place is either a 10-minute drive or a 40-minute bus ride from Reed, making it accessible to Reed students with and without cars or those who work or live near 82nd Ave. But for whatever reason, there are few Reedies at EPCR. Actually, the only Reed students I’ve ever seen there are the ones I’ve brought with me. Compare that with Southeast Grind, which typically has a half dozen current or former students on any given weeknight.
If you are a nocturnal Reedie who likes to study off-campus, and if you like getting-away-from-it-all, humid air, and colorful woven mandalas, then EPCR may be the place to go. If not, just go to First Cup