My last café review was about Albina Press, a place that I said could be a good substitute for the Portlandia set (I probably have mentioned the show too much already, but this time it’s more relevant than usual). Coincidentally, the café that I’m writing about today was part of the actual set for Portlandia. That’s right, part of your favorite satirical show about the city we drink coffee in was actually shot on-site at Oblique Coffee Roasters.
Somewhat hidden away on Southeast Stark, not too far from Laurelhurst Park, Oblique Coffee Roasters is one of the nicer spaces for a café that I have seen around Portland. The café is located inside what used to be a mercantile, built in 1891. John and Heather Chandler, the owners, completely remodeled it after they bought it.
Actually, ‘remodeled’ makes it sound like they just did a little fixing up, and it doesn’t accurately describe what they did to the building. You can see all of the work they did here. The transformation of the building is remarkable, and I don’t use that term lightly. What they have now is a beautiful space that makes a great place to write or drink coffee.
When I went to Oblique, I had no idea that the café had been involved with the TV show (the picture on Facebook of the Portlandia cast with the Oblique crew showed up the day after I was there). When I walked into the café, oddly enough, the stereo system was tuned to talk radio. Emily Harris, of OPB’s Think Out Loud, was interviewing Carrie Brownstein, one of the stars of Portlandia. When the interview was over, Heather switched it over to some relaxing light jazz.
If you look around at the café space, you see that Oblique retains some of that grocery store feel, with a shoebox shape and square wooden pillars running down the middle of the café (when I first saw pictures of Oblique online, I immediately thought of the columns of Albina Press). The well-worn wooden floor appears to be the original one from the old mercantile.
While I was sitting at my table, John came over to hang some photos and prints from his personal collection on one of the walls. He told me that the artist who was supposed to be showing on that wall, didn’t show. (Note to aspiring artists: This was the second time in a week that someone complained to me about artists who didn’t fulfill their obligations. Creating great art is important, but you have to be responsible enough to answer phones and show up when you promise to do so. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up being a talented and hungry artist.)
I had a couple of double espressos while I was there. Unfortunately, I lost my tasting notes for them, but I do remember thinking that the second was better than the first. Heather told me that she thought the second had pulled better than the first. She then offered me a single-origin El Salvador that they had on grind. It hit the center of my tongue pretty hard and was very nutty. It also grabbed the back of my throat and didn’t want to let go.
Both of the coffees I had were roasted in the café. Oblique has a Probat roaster named “Bart” and it sits just behind the front counter. I stayed around long enough to see John fire it up and start roasting. It’s a sensory pleasure to be in a café while the coffee is roasting. It’s a little noisy sometimes, but it’s worth it.
I had a good visit to Oblique Coffee. I enjoyed the friendly service, the interesting espresso and the beautiful space. Located where it is, Oblique Coffee is not a café that you’re going to just stumble upon, but it’s worth your time to seek it out, especially if you dream of the 90s. . . .
Address: 3039 SE Stark, Portland OR 97214 (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday 6am-5pm
Free Wi-Fi? Yes
Recommend it? Especially for fans of Victorian architecture
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