Portland-centric: Favorite Public Places to Read


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Portland-centric: Favorite Public Places to Read

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Editat: des. 22, 2006, 2:46pm

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Editat: març 8, 2007, 1:49am

I thought it would be nice to have a list of great places in Portland to sit and read -- other than the MultCo Library. Tell me the name and location as well as other good info (do they let you sit for hours and hours? do they have tea / coffee / food? what sort of seating do they have? well lit? lots of readers or lots of talkers? You get the idea...

Tea Chai Te / about 19th & Alberta in the Arts District / Sit for hours and hours / Tables and chairs (fairly comfortable), couch, stuffed chair or two / noise level depends on time of day, but lots of readers so usually quiet enough / serve terrific teas, chais, etc / cookies and related, but no food-food

Editat: març 5, 2007, 11:45am

Common Grounds on Hawthorne around 45th is pretty good. Usually busy. They have couches and tables, good food, wi-fi, don't seem to mind if you hang out for an indefinite time.

Also: Sound Grounds at SE Belmont and 37th. They sometimes play the music really loud, but you can hang for a long time - they also have a variety of seating options, couches, comfy chairs, tables, big tables. It's brighter than Common Grounds, which tends toward dark towards the back.

I was in Red and Black Cafe (worker owned cooperative, good to support them!) SE Division around 23rd, and though I haven't hung out there much, it seemed like a good place. Vegan fare, organic fair trade coffee, funky seating (as in old couches and chairs).

Also: Haven on SE Division and 35th (can you tell I'm a southeast gal??). They have a side room with couches and comfy chairs, no problem hanging out there. Can't speak for the food, I think they have prepared sandwiches and some sweet stuff and of course, coffee and a good tea menu.

I find the biggest problem with most of the coffee shops is the loud music. I'm easily distracted.

I do a lot of reading on Tri-Met buses!

març 7, 2007, 12:36pm

I recently returned to Portland and am pleasantly surprised (a little bemused) to find that my favorite street for tacos is now the Arts District!

Thanks for the tip on Tea Chai Te. Sounds like a great destination for my morning walk on this drippy day. I just started The Assistant by Bernard Malamud and hunkering down with a pot of spicy chai tea would be a good way to get into it.

If I time it right, I could swing into Sirenita for carnitas tacos on my way home. :)

març 7, 2007, 6:04pm

I've seen a couple of those taco places, but never stopped in. Is Sirenita your favorite? I'll have to try it -- I'm just over off 33rd & Killingsworth.

Editat: març 8, 2007, 1:37am

I'm really not too familiar with the arts district; I tend to hang around downtown since NE is really out of my way. (I live in Oregon City, right before 213 becomes 205; is there any faster way of getting there that doesn't include freeways or Grand?) However, Tea Chai Te sounds amazing; I think I'll stop by this weekend.

But personally, my favorite places to read are parks and public transit (streetcar fo' lyfe!). Though, parks are usually only realistic during summertime - unfortunately.

març 8, 2007, 1:53am


my folks live in Beavercreek and it takes my mom 25 minutes to get to the Alberta Arts area... she takes 205 to the Killingsworth exit, then goes west on Killingsworth to 33rd, turns left on 33rd and right on Alberta. Takes her the same amount of time to get downtown, so I'd think you could get to Alberta as fast as you could get downtown.

Just watch out because you're not *really* on Killingsworth when you take the Killingsworth exit -- after about 3/4 of a mile you have to turn left onto Killingsworth where it comes into Lombard at a sort of angle. Check out a map ;-)

març 11, 2007, 12:15pm

How could we forget the coffeeshops in Powells Bookstores?? The one on Hawthorne is a decent spot, not comfy chairs but it's a book-o-phile place, bar none. Same with the Burnside location. Lots and lots of tables and chairs and many people reading reading reading (and laptopping too - is that a new verb?? like Googling?) I think it's relatively quiet in these places. You can even take some books from the shelves to thumb through (I think - this may have changed).

Can't speak for the one in Beaverton - any of you westenders know?

Borders books has some decent reading spots too, but I encourage buying local!

Happy daylight savings time. I think it's stupid. I want to rebel against it.

març 13, 2007, 7:41pm

The Beaverton Powells doesn't have a coffeeshop yet, but they plan on putting one in within the next year. Their new location in the Cedar Hills mall is a bit more spacious and has quite a few more chairs scattered around for sitting and reading.

març 27, 2007, 12:49am

Beaverton has a Powells? Since when? Sorry, I live about 70 miles away (stupid coastal tourist town), and nobody tells me anything.

març 27, 2007, 1:55am

Oh yes, there's been a Powell's out there for years - a suburban version, in a mall. Used to be around Cascade and Hall (?), but recently moved to Cedar Hills.

març 27, 2007, 12:20pm

Hmm.. I may have to take a trip up to Beaverton sometime... :D

Editat: març 27, 2007, 8:34pm

Just discovered another good coffeeshop in SE called Wired. It's on the NW corner of 39th and Lincoln. Very mellow, some comfy chairs, pretty quiet, even though it's right on SE 39th. And - Stumptown coffee, Tao of teas. Friendly. Wi-fi.

And: best for me - it's just a couple blocks away!

If you bike, you get a special deal.

març 28, 2007, 12:32pm

Costello's, on NE B'way and 23rd, has good coffee and sandwiches and consistently plays backgroundy non-distracting music. Don't go when there are soccer games, though, as it gets pretty packed (and sometimes on weekends too).

març 28, 2007, 12:55pm

Costello's isn't far from me -- and I've never noticed it. I've been looking for a place that actually serves some food, so I'll check it out... thanks for the tip.

març 29, 2007, 6:33pm

Yep, The Cedar Hills Powells was previously in the Washington Square area, and recently set up new digs. The only problem with this location is that parking can be tricky. This shopping center keeps adding more stores and encroaching on the already-skimpy parking space.

maig 24, 2007, 6:56pm

I'd have to second the downtown Powell's cafe...also the 24hour starbucks on Burnside, and St. Honere Bakery!

maig 26, 2007, 9:16pm

I really don't like reading at the downtown Powell's cafe. Too crowded, tables too close together, too noisy. The only thing to be said for it, for me, is that I can bring a pile of books in and go through them to decide what I want to buy while having something to drink. But you can do that at any of the chains now, too (B&N and Border's both have cafes).

BTW: Tea Chai Te changed it's name to the Alberta Tea House.

maig 28, 2007, 9:15am

True, pdxwoman, but I really prefer to keep my business local whenever possible. (Unless you go through the books at Borders cafe and then buy them at Looking Glass or Annie Blooms!) Too many of those big chains have put too many good small bookstores out of business.

Editat: maig 28, 2007, 1:18pm

Powell's hasn't? :-) I used to shop at a bookstore practically across the street from Powell's -- a great shop with lots of rare and out of print books. He closed up and sold his inventory to Powell's, even though he'd been there decades before them.

I don't consider Powell's "local" just because they are based here in Portland...Fred Meyer is/was local, but geez, they're huge and now owned by a conglomerate. I guess I have the idea that local implies small and non-spreading. Also, like you said, doesn't drive small stores out of business. Powell's is an international big business to me.

I know they aren't as big as Borders, et.al., but I imagine they will be someday, the way it's going -- they will reach a point where they have enough money to expand rapidly beyond the borders of the Tri-Counties. Like McMennamin's, who I also no longer consider local (they are a chain restaurant with (mostly) boring and semi-crappy food). They have spread all across Oregon and Washington and will keep right on going. I do applaud their renovation of historic buildings, though.

Tell me what you think, though, about this thought: chains usually put small business out of business because they can charge less money (Wal Mart, for instance). Chain book stores, though, usually charge the price on the cover. What runs the small book shops out of business seems to be the lack of variety, lack of what the customer wants.

Just thinking and wondering what others think. I'm willing to admit I'm enough of a contradiction to want to shop locally, but that I usually just go where it's most convenient. If I'm willing to admit it, I'm not a hypocrite, right? :-)

juny 27, 2007, 2:17pm

My daughter just watched "You've Got Mail" the other night with Tom Hanks putting Meg Ryan's bookstore out of business. The script was just all wrong. How could she fall for the guy that emptied her bookshelves? I agree ... chain booksellers seem to be taking over. Thankfully there are still some small bookstores left, especially antique books, and there are some real treasures there.

I now live in the Mid-West, but I remember a really neat fountain in downtown Portland ... my allergist was in a skyscraper there ... I was just a child at the time, but it had all kinds of levels, tiers to it, with lots of cascading water. Can anyone tell me what that is called? I hope I'm describing it correctly. Anyway ... I think that would be a great place to read ... to watch it and to hear it.

Editat: juny 27, 2007, 2:43pm

I think you may mean the Ira Keller Fountain. It is a great place to sit, read, contemplate.

Here's a link to a google image search that gives you about a million pictures of it.


(Edited to try to make the link work.)

Editat: juny 27, 2007, 3:44pm

It used to be called the Four Court Fountain (or maybe Forecourt). Sounds like the one you're describing, it's right across from the Keller Auditorium (used to be called the Civic Auditorium). Who is this Keller guy and why are they naming things after him???

Editat: juny 27, 2007, 4:43pm

I can't claim to have known this all along, but I just happened to have read an article in Portland Magazine on the 100 People Who Shaped Portland or something along those lines, so had a vague recollection that Mr. Keller had somethig to do with the Portland Development Commission.

Sure enough, he was the first Chairman. Here is a bio on Ira from the Oregon Historical Society:


That said -- I remember the fountain being the Forecourt Fountain in front of the Civic Auditorium, although all we called it was The Fountain by the Civic Auditorium. It really needs a catchier name.

juny 28, 2007, 9:43pm

Thank you, ggchickapee and teelgee! I was never in Portland very much, since we lived halfway between Eugene and Florence on the coast, at a place called Triangle Lake, near Blachly. We occasionally came to the Portland area because my father's parents lived on a farm near Logan, east of Oregon City. They later sold the farm and moved to Tigard. My memory of Oregon is that it rained frequently. Do you have a favorite place to read when it is raining?

juny 28, 2007, 10:10pm

It's actually raining right now. June is typically rainy here. Oh who am I kidding, so is January - May and October - December.

Haven coffeeshop on SE Division/35th is my current favorite hangout for reading and sipping.

juny 29, 2007, 10:21am

Teelgee is right -- it pretty much rains from October 31 to July 5 every year (you'd think Labor Day would be a more popular holiday around here -- it the only one where you can count on good weather).

When I was younger and lived near downtown, my favorite public place to read on rainy days was the main branch of the Multnomah County Library. What a beautiful building! There were always hidden corners in some of the upper rooms (the Map Room, etc.) where you could hide away with a stack of books and not see anyone else for hours.

juny 29, 2007, 11:59am

Oh, and the library has been completely remodeled and is even more beautiful now - don't know if you've been there recently, gg. Highly recommend a visit! It's right on the lightrail line and the streetcar too.

juny 29, 2007, 4:46pm

I was there a couple of weeks ago, but I don't go as often as I used to. Frankly, I don't like wading through the crowd outside and congregating (to a lesser extent) on the main floor. The remodel is nice, but until you get to the higher floors, the place now has about as much charm as the Greyhound Depot.

juny 29, 2007, 7:35pm

Dear ggchickapee & teelgee: It is fun to listen to the two of you go back and forth with your answer and comments. I love the word picture "Greyhound Depot"! My ability to talk about Portland reading spots is going to diminish quickly. I visited one of my uncles in Newburg back in the mid-1990's to do some family history research. My favorite reading spot at that time was in a Portland government building looking for some federal court records. The book I was looking for was huge and stacked in a tall pile by a floor-to-ceiling window ... and it was raining outside! Anyway, that book helped me to find the court case I was looking for.