If you happen to be driving to Portland from Eastern Washington and you just cannot drive another hour without stopping (if you’ve got kids, you might know what I mean), Hood River is a good place to get out and stretch your legs. When we drove back to Portland after Thanksgiving, I was hoping to drive all the way to Portland without stopping. However, I was outvoted 3-1, so we pulled off the freeway and drove up to Oak Street, the main street in the touristy part of town. We parked and hopped out, looking for a café. Just up the street, beyond the absinthe bar, we spotted the Dog River Coffee company. It looked like the type of place where we could get a little boost for the last leg of the trip (the café, not the bar).
For those of you who don’t know, Hood River is a small town about an hour’s drive east from Portland on I-84. It is located on the southern bank of the Columbia River and is a well-known destination for wind surfers who come to take advantage of the Columbia Gorge’s ever-present winds. It is also a popular place for people who are in transit to/from Mount Hood for camping, hiking or skiing. The downtown is geared for tourists and is full of small shops, restaurants and cafés. If you venture up the hill very far, the town offers some spectacular views of Mount Adams across the river to the north.
We walked in to the Dog River Coffee Company and for a minute, I thought we were back in Portland. The café looks like it was built by someone from Southeast Portland who decided to export a little bit of PDX culture to Hood River. When you walk in, the first thing you notice is the wall up front that is covered with old vinyl record album covers. The floor out front is a beat-up old hardwood and towards the back, it changes to bare cement.
The back of the café has an eclectic mix of second-hand furniture—old couches and a heavy old yellow lounge chair whose massage function unfortunately no longer works. A classical guitar hangs on the wall next to a sign inviting customers to pick it up and play. Some couches and a couple chairs section off the kids play area, and the café space is large enough that if you want to sit away from the kids’ area, you can.
In addition to the eccentric Portland atmosphere, the Dog River also has Stumptown coffee. The espresso (Hair Bender) tasted like it was pulled by someone who knew what she was doing. Dog River Coffee company is a good place to visit if you’re making an escape from the city or just an escape from the freeway. You can have your Portland quirk and coffee too.
Address: 411 Oak Street, Hood River, Oregon 97031 (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday 6am-7pm
Free Wi-Fi? Yes
Website: http://dogrivercoffee.com (not much there)
or http://www.myspace.com/dogrivercoffee (marginally better)