Either/Or

The sign hanging outside Either/Or in Portland. The words EITHER/Or on a wooden board.

One of the many things I like about Portland’s coffee scene is that it’s not just confined to the centre. There seems to be good coffee all over the city, especially east of the Willamette River. Such is the case with Either/Or, which was not on my original list. However, it was independently recommended to me by baristas from both Case Study Coffee Roasters and Coava Coffee Roasters as the place to go in Portland. Although quite a way south of the centre, it’s not the sort of recommendation you can ignore, so I hopped on the Number 70 bus down to the Sellwood-Moreland neighbourhood.

What I found was a delightful little place that was well worth the trip. Either/Or is something of a rarity in an American market where café/roasters seem to be the established model. It’s a genuine multi-roaster establishment, regularly rotating beans from local roasters Roseline and Heart, plus Seattle’s Kuma Coffee.  Denver’s Huckleberry Roasters and Oregon’s Bespoken Coffee Roasters occasionally make appearances too. While coffee’s clearly the primary focus, with two tasting flights (see Slate Coffee Roasters) on offer, it also helps that Either/Or is one of the nicest spots I’ve been to in a while.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Either/Or, occupying the left-hand part of the right-hand building of Old Sellwood Square.
  • It serves coffee and it's open. Okay, I'm sold.
  • Even better, it serves Heart Coffee! Double sold!
  • If you want, you can sit outside either on 13th Av or in the square. There's a door here too.
  • Althernatively, head for the door on 13th Av.
  • I like a door with simple instructions. This I can do.
  • A panoramic view of the counter from just inside the door...
  • ... and a similar view from by the side door at the back.
  • The seating against the left-hand wall between window and door.
  • Either/Or has a number of neat features, including this ladder doubling as a magazine rack.
  • This is on the left-hand wall.
  • I even liked the takeaway station, which reuses an old bureau.
  • Even though it's very bright inside, Either/Or has some great light-fittings.
  • The logo's neat too. It's the onwer's cat, Bandit, who, from behind, looks like a watermelon.
  • A view of the counter in more detail...
  • ... with various beans from the three main roasters on sale.
  • The Kuma, all the way from Seattle...
  • ... and the local Roseline...
  • ... plus the equally local Heart.
  • Nice bottle. But ginger-spiced chai? Not for me, thank you.
  • There's cake, or sandwiches, if you're hungry...
  • ... while the bulk brew is made behind the counter on the right.
  • Either/Or's cut-down menu is above it on the wall.
  • My beverage tasting flight, beautifully presented.
  • The little cake is worth a second look.
  • I wanted to try Roseline's Catapult Blend on its own. So I did.
  • I love watching espresso extract.
  • Almost done.
  • And here it is!
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Either/Or is part of Old Sellwood Square, on the corner of SE 13th Avenue/Umatilla Street. Occupying a prime spot, it’s right on the street, but with one side facing the square. You can sit outside at one of the pairs of picnic tables, either on 13th Avenue or in the shelter of the square. Alternatively, head through the recessed front door (or pop through the side door from the square) to find yourself in a small, square and very beautiful interior.

Although small, Either/Or isn’t cramped. The counter occupies the back right-hand corner, extending halfway along the back and right-hand walls. The La Marzocco Strada is directly in front of you, three grinders (two rotating guests, plus decaf) to its left (your right), a mirror on the back wall. To your right, there’s the till and cake stand, with the menu on the wall behind it.

The recessed door creates two large window bays. A little kitchen occupies the right-hand one, where one of the staff, Marie, was cooking up a wonderfully-fragrant caramel syrup. The left-hand bay has a lovely two-seat sofa, plus coffee table. The remaining (interior) seating is a wooden bench against the left-hand wall with three square, two-person tables.

Wood predominates in Either/Or. The building’s wooden, as are the floor, counter, furniture, window frames and ceiling beams. The rest’s painted a very light cream. The lovely, high ceiling helps create a sense of space and allows for an additional top window running the width of the store. Add another window overlooking the square on the left and the half-glazed door to the square at the back, and you have a very bright interior.

When I say Either/Or regularly rotates its beans, I mean it. Barista Dave, who’s recently started ordering the coffee, gets five pound bags and when one’s gone, it’s onto the next. Two of the trio of Roseline, Heart and Kuma Coffee are represented on espresso: during my visit, Roseline’s Catapult blend (50% single-estate Panama, 25% each of two Colombian micro-lots, all separated by cultivar) and a Guatemala Finca Retana from Kuma.

Either/Or has a very cut-down menu, with bulk-brew filter (no pour-over), latte and mocha offered in three sizes, 8, 12 and 16oz, while espresso, Americano, macchiato, cortado and cappuccino are one-size-only. Either/Or offers two flights, both coming with sparkling water and a taster cake. The espresso flight is both espressos; the beverage flight, an espresso, plus espresso in milk (macchiato, cortado or cappuccino).

Dave, plus colleague Cassie, sorted me out with a beverage flight: the Guatemalan Finca Retana as espresso and the Catapult blend in a cortado. The Finca Retana was fruity, but smooth, with a slightly acidic aftertaste. The cortado was very smooth, the fruity notes of the coffee coming through really well, but not at odds with the milk, a really hard balancing act to achieve. I also tried it as an espresso, where I found it much sharper and brighter, with a real kick, too bright for my palette. Having tried it on its own, I’m impressed how well it went with milk, which really takes the edge off.

The final part of my flight was a carrot and pineapple cake with peach frosting. It was lovely, with a great texture and avoided being too sweet, even with the frosting.

8235 SE 13TH AVENUE #2 • PORTLAND • OR 97202 • USA
www.facebook.com/EitherOrCafe +1 503-235-3474
Monday 07:00 – 17:00 Roaster Rotating Guests (espresso + bulk-brew)
Tuesday 07:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Sofa, Tables (Outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 17:00 Food Cake, Baguettes
Thursday 07:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:00 – 17:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 17:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 17th June 2015

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4 thoughts on “Either/Or

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