When I asked for help in locating good Portland cafés, one of the first suggestions to come in was the Bipartisan Café in Southeast. The other day I had wandered to the top of Mount Tabor, so it was just a short jaunt down the mountain and over to the café. I stopped in to check it out.
Arriving at the café at 2pm, I was surprised to find it full of people. There was only one open table. Hmm. Obviously a popular place. The wooden tables and chairs showed signs of heavy usage, as did the couches sitting immediately to the right of the door. The hardwood floor was worn through all the varnish and down to splinters in some places. It was clear that the café was a popular meeting place for the neighborhood. The front window was covered with posters advertising local bands and other events. Every Friday evening from 7-9pm, the Bipartisan has live music (no cover charge).
The café has a political theme. The walls were covered with posters of famous politicians and old election posters. On the café’s website, I read that the Bipartisan Café “welcomes the prospect of engaging political debate and seeks to promote understanding and a healthy exchange of ideas among its patrons.” Sitting there at the table, I didn’t hear anyone engaged in any political debate but that may have been due to the noise of the café.
I ordered a single espresso, which came to $1.75, roughly average for an espresso in PDX. The café serves Stumptown coffee. I knew Stumptown was famous, but I didn’t realize that so many other cafés serve their coffee. If I spend enough time in Portland, I’m probably going to end up liking Stumptown more than I ever believed possible.
The most annoying thing about the café was the noise level inside. The café has a wood-slat ceiling that reflects all sounds downwards, so every sound is magnified. When I walked in, hard rock music was blaring over the speakers. Later, the person in charge played some Edith Piaf, French pop music from the 1940s and 1950s, and it was still loud. The grinders sounded like lawn mowers and the espresso machine hissed like an old steam engine. It was difficult to concentrate on writing because it was so loud. It was also hard to have a conversation with my friend David, who had met me there to discuss business ideas. We might have been better off had we moved to one of the outdoor tables, but it was raining and there were no power outlets outside for our laptops.
The Bipartisan Café has a pretty extensive food menu, and they do use Grand Central Bakery bread for their sandwiches (a definite positive). However, for my tastes, the café was just too loud to visit on a regular basis. With so many other cafés in Portland that are more conducive to writing, I will not be in a hurry to return.
Address: 7901 SE Stark Street, Portland, OR 97215
Hours: Monday-Friday 6:30am-10pm
Free Wi-Fi? Yes
Recommend it? Not if you want a quiet atmosphere for studying or writing