Wherever you go, there you are.

October 1, 2009

While there’s all kinds of reasons not to love franchising, it does allow you to get on a plane in New Jersey, land in Singapore, and still be able to satisfy your Double Whopper with cheese craving. Sure, I’ve never had that craving myself, but there’s something to be said for dependability. With so many franchises, regions must establish their individuality by filling in those spaces between with local flavor. The danger, however, of too strong a sense of identity, is that the local flavor falls into monotony that could make even Starbucks feel fresh (and by the way, this new Via tastes better than their normal brew…).

Masks. How expectedly random.

Masks. How expectedly random. The conveniently located power strip, however, is quite original.

Tiny's Coffee on Urbanspoon
The Portland condition seems to be defined by a push toward the kooky side of liberal. In fact, some locals run the risk of throwing their back out trying so hard to be individuals. Unfortunately, when everyone is weird, the dude on the corner decked out in LL Bean stands out. In the effort to become hip and 3dgy (because “edgy” just doesn’t cut it anymore), many Portland…ok, ok, Northwest coffee hotspots have begun to feel blandly predictable. The bouquets of event flyers, local artwork, eclectic color schemes, veggie vegan food selection, Voodoo doughnuts, chalkboard menus, and yard sale tables and chairs have all become…routine. What else can you offer me?

Have I been here before?

Have I been here before?

The clever places manage to follow the PDX template, but find unique ways to fill it in that aren’t always as obvious as “weird.” Tiny’s Coffee on MLK wins by being serving up a helping of accommodating eclectic with a side dish of eclectic accommodating. While my first impression of Tiny’s was all that I would expect, upon closer inspection, they found unique ways to color within the lines.  I had more electrical outlets than I could ever need (Seriously. Over a dozen), a menu more than happy to serve carnivore needs, lots of floor space with plenty of tables, arcade pinball,  and an ATM in the corner which was also a nice touch. The layout also does some fascinating work with levels that I don’t quite understand (“Is that a window? Is that a window? Is someone watching me from up there?”).  Tiny’s certainly has the Portland look and feel, but has an identity all their own…well, except for the other Tiny’s on Hawthorne.

That coffee table looks suspiciously like a baby grand piano.

That coffee table looks suspiciously like a baby grand piano.

Elevated Coffee on Urbanspoon
Elevated Coffee on way north MLK took a whole new route altogether. Like Tiny’s, they serve Stumptown Coffee (*yawn*), offer free WiFi (no-brainer), and adorn their walls with art (actually, you can’t really go wrong with that). The main difference is the decor, and I’ll be honest here: It’s been some time since I’ve seen such a well-decorated café. The black and white scheme and new(!) furniture stopped just short of swank, and settles nicely into sleek. The internet terminals , bookshelves, and local art provide a personable balance to the white baby-grand piano in the corner that provides a dollop of chic. Arts-wise, Elevated Coffee reaches out to the jazz-ish crowd, with shows on Saturday and Sunday, and I may just break my futon again just to have an excuse to stop by and stare at their decor. Seriously, this place is gorgeous.

…if only they could do something about that Twitter foolishness.


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