Stumptown Coffee was quite appropriately named after the city of its origin, Portland, OR. When Stumptown Coffee opened its first store in Seattle, no one, especially us coffee snobs, would mistake it as one of the Seattle based coffee roasting companies. It rose up like a star even in the what seemed over saturated microcosm of coffee shops.
I’ve been to Portland plenty of times in the past for various conferences, business reasons, but never pleasure. I’ve never seen the city eve though it was only three hours drive from Seattle. You only hear people who would drive from Portland to Seattle for good food, or drive from Seattle to Vancouver BC for good food, but never the other way around. Well, that was a long intro for me to get to my point, which is I finally visited Portland, and made homage to the original Stumptown coffee.
This coffee shop was bright and open. It was perhaps the first one that actually has a real coffee bar. I love how the photo is like one of those old time bar scenes except the guy sitting at the bar is drinking a coffee and playing with has iPhone. Somehow, that all fits so well with this somewhat hippy artistic coffee house. The place was overly spacious, making it sparse, in odd contrast to most of the cozy rich coffee houses in Seattle. The oversized paintings on the wall gave it life. I still preferred it much more than the dark decors at NYC’s 9th St. Ah.. I completely forgot to mention, the espresso at Stumptown was supreme, even better than the one I had in Seattle.
I didn’t expect much out of Portland, which is probably a good thing since good things often come unexpectedly. The nickname Stumptown came from the booming days of Portland, when so many cut trees lay around the streets without enough men to move them. According to Wikipedia, today’s Stumptown is still appropriate for the lack of high rises in its downtown area.
Our brief 24-hour Stumptown tour was a hedonist heaven. We strolled up and down quaint yet modern streets of shops. The streets were often single-laned. Most people walked instead of driving. After morning visit to Stumptown and a scrumptious breakfast at Mothers, we spent the afternoon carousing 23rd Street on the outskirt of downtown. The shops were much more than the usual trendy shops like William Sonoma, Gap, or Banana Republic. They were of fanciful things like beautiful Turkish rugs, boutique shoes and hand bags, local artisan’s galleries, etc. The afternoon went by quickly but we didn’t forget to stop by McMenimin’s for a afternoon elixir and people watch in the sun.
At night, we picked restaurants randomly in the Downtown area. There was no plan, just walked into the first shop that looked interesting, like across the street from our hard found parking spots. Maybe it was because there was many farms in the Portland vicinity, the dishes highlighted the freshness and wholesomeness of the ingredients, even a bacon cheese burger. A glass of wine from some local winery was a must-have pairing. We were comforted by the simple yet posh decor with cork at Isabella’s Cantina, great wine and food at Everett Street Bistro, and delighted by the deserts at Papa Haydn.
Stumptown’s people enjoy life in a simple pure form with an undertone to its architecture. The exception to that is the numerous bridges that span the Columbia River which wines quietly through the city. The Portlanders seemed to take effort to keep the city is a hidden gem of the West. But the word is already out. Changes are happening, hopefully for the better. I loved the little excursion to Portland and look forward to my next visit, westwards to the Canon Beach, where the Goonies found their treasure cave.