The Arbor Lodge - Raising the coffee bar and bringing the community together

If you are an avid Portland coffee drinker or a regular reader of this blog, you know that you can find good coffee in most parts of the city. Downtown, Southeast and Northeast PDX are hotbeds for great coffee. Northwest has its share too, as does North Portland to the east of I-5.

But what about far-out North Portland, west of the interstate? Can you find good coffee up there? It turns out you can, and you don’t even have to look too hard. After a little exploration yesterday, I found a brand-new place at the corner of Interstate Avenue and Rosa Parks Way that is worth visiting. The Arbor Lodge just opened this week, and it is going to raise the bar for what passes as quality coffee in that part of the city.

When you walk in, you first notice the smell of fresh paint and varnish, as the café fixtures are all new. In its previous incarnation, the building was a struggling-to-survive mini-mart. Scott Davison, the café’s kilt-wearing owner, has completely transformed the building into a coffee shop, though he did not do it by himself. Friends from around the neighborhood helped, pitching into donate their carpentry, painting, washing—whatever they could to support his efforts. Thank you notes are situated around the café, acknowledging people for their help in getting the café off the ground.

The first thing I did, as I am wont to do, was quiz the barista about the espressos. The café had two different single-origin espressos available, both roasted by Coava. There was a Nicaraguan coffee called Bella Aurora and a Costa Rican coffee from Finca Zarcero. The barista described them as having similar profiles, with the Costa Rican being “brighter” (both “tasty,” of course). I elected for the more northern of the two. The shots she made me were consistent, with a distinct tanginess and notes of walnuts and toffee.

Everything seems new (because it is)

I sat down to chat with Davison, to find out more about his shiny new café. He began by explaining why he opened a café in the first place.

“I see coffee as a medium,” he told me. “It gives people in the community an opportunity to come together in a neighborhood that doesn’t have that many options.”

The café is named after the Arbor Lodge neighborhood where it is located. Davison explained, “We called it that because we really wanted the shop to be a part of  the neighborhood.”

Scott Davison, the owner

Although this is his first time owning a coffee shop, Davison is not completely new to the coffee industry. Originally from Olympia, he spent two years working for Starbucks, back in the days when the company still had manual espresso machines and a more coffee-focused business. Several of the friends he grew up with ended up getting into the coffee business in one way or another, so opening a shop seemed natural to Davison. He already has a popular food cart downtown, Give Pizza a Chance, and he felt like his experience running that would translate well to the coffee shop.

When I asked about his vision for the future of his new café, he said that he would like to “serve the best cups of coffee in town, without any attitude.”

Davison emphasized the importance of combining great coffee with friendly service. “Even if the coffee is excellent, if you come in and have a bad experience, you’ve had a bad cup of coffee. You can’t have one without the other.”

Beyond having great coffee and service, Davison also hopes to see the cafe become a place where the neighborhood gathers together. The café space will be available to rent out in the evenings for community events and activities. Multiple times he said he would like it to be a place where Arbor Lodge residents seek out each other.


When residents do come, one feature of the café they will notice is its unique tables. Fashioned out of a 114-year-old deadfall Sitka spruce, the tables are made from massive slabs of natural wood. Davison hired someone to cut the sections, then he and a friend attached the legs and finished the tops. Looking at them, you can imagine the once-mighty spruce towering over an Oregon forest.

Keeping it close to home, the Arbor Lodge Cafe features local pastries (Nuvrei), art (right now it’s from Jolby & Friends, a design firm in Portland that also did the café’s branding) and teas (Foxfire). To make sure you feel like you are visiting a Portland coffee shop, there is a retro olive green couch and a patch of black shag carpet at the back of the café. Throw in the carefully-roasted coffee from Coava, and residents of the Arbor Lodge neighborhood (and anyone venturing to this part of North Portland) have a new meeting place, a namesake they can call their own.  

Address: 1507 N Rosa Parks Way, Portland, OR 97217 (map)
Phone: 503-289-1069
Hours: Monday-Saturday 6:30am-6pm
            Sunday 7am-5pm
Coffee: Coava
Free Wi-Fi? Yes
Recommendations? If you need an outlet for your laptop, sit near the front

Albina Press (North PDX)

The show Portlandia has been in the news a lot lately (it will probably show up a few more times in Caffeinated PDX in the near future), and it would not surprise me if the show’s writers hung out at Albina Press while coming up with ideas for the show. Located a short walk north of the Mississippi district, Albina Press has a lot of Portland(ia) to offer you.

If you were to go online and read through the reviews of the café, you would find that it gets a lot of love (and plenty of hate) for being the best (or the most pretentious) café in Portland. People seem to think the world of it or they seem to detest it.  I don’t think you should believe too much of what you read on the internet (yes, I am aware of the irony of that statement) so I went to check it out for myself.

Albina Press in North Portland

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Coffeehouse Five-Fighting Portland Syndrome

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Stockholm syndrome is a condition where prisoners start to feel affection for their captors. It gets its name from a robbery that took place in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973. Upon their release after being held inside a Stockholm bank for six days, the hostages publicly defended the robbers’ actions, having established some sort of emotional connection with them.

In the Portland version of the syndrome, the rain is analogous to the bank robbers. After a while, you get used to it and may even start to like it. The other day, I was actually glad it was raining as I made my way over to Coffeehouse Five. I needed some good coffee to get my mind back in order.


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Ristretto on a Rainy Day

November has arrived in Portland, bringing cold, gray, damp miserable weather. Grayness, however, is just an excuse for me to drink more coffee. Hooray! So on a rainy Portland afternoon, I took the yellow MAX line north to the Overlook Park stop. From there I walked up Failing Street, crossing over I-5 and through the trendy Mississippi Avenue neighborhood. After walking for about fifteen minutes, I reached Ristretto Roasters.

Ristretto is one of the places I have had on my list to visit since I read about it in MIX magazine in September. The company has two stores, the Beaumont cafe on Northeast 42nd and the one on North Williams. The Williams café (the one I visited) is considered their “flagship” store, though they still roast their coffee at the Beaumont café. When I walked in the door, I could immediately tell that Ristretto is a place focused on the coffee and not just the café experience. The aroma in the air that greeted me told me that much.


Walking up to the bar, I saw on the board that they had two espressos available—the Beaumont Blend and an unnamed single-origin. I asked the barista which single origin she had on grind. Her eyes lit up and she exclaimed “Panama!”

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