When Portlanders started tweeting in mid-August that there was a new stop for coffee in town — a “recycled, 1970s-era bus shelter,” to be clear — I had to make the trek to the shady, diesel-infused downtown transit mall to check it out. Even before I saw Caffe Viale’s new digs, it was easy to picture the plastic-bubble-roofed Trimet bus stop of my youth with the symbols in bright 70s color palettes denoting various bus lines.

In fact, I’d probably waited at the very shelter where Viale now stands on one of my journeys riding from the Westside suburbs on the NW line (symbol: Orange Deer) before transferring downtown to the NE line (symbol: Yellow Raindrops) to visit my grandmother across the river. Once, as a frizzy-haired tween, I had gotten homesick after a night at Grandma’s and wanted to go home early. The old lady put her foot down: there would be no 12-mile ride back to the ‘burbs in her massive green Chevy Impala for me. Instead, she gave me a handful of change and sent me back home on the bus.

Funny enough, as I ordered an iced Americano from the proprietor of Caffe Viale two days after their grand opening in the bus stop this summer, we got to talking about the last-retro-looking bus shelter design of the mall (the city saved one for retail while replacing all of the others with a modern glass-and-pipe look) and the funny symbols like the Beaver and Leaf, and realized we both grew up as riders of the Orange Deer line.

Notes on Caffe Viale…

Where: Caffe Viale is located at 1001 SW 5th Ave., between SW Main and Salmon in a dark-bronze, bubble-roofed structure that screams bus stop 1977.

Coffee: Caffe Umbria is the roast of choice at Viale, a decent, mild-mannered coffee that is served in many Portland restaurants. Coffee lovers from the 90s may remember Umbria, roasted out of Seattle, as the coffee from the now-defunct Cafe Torrefazione, where you could sip cappuccinos at the NW 23rd location and listen to the chatter of real Italian exchange students, who may have come for the name or the authentic Tuscan ceramic cups.

Cool stuff: Original bus direction signage and symbols still intact; friendly staff who seem to be overjoyed to be out of their previous location in the lobby of a nearby office building; good coffee at reasonable prices.

Not so cool: Waiting at Caffe Viale for your next bus transfer; passing it by entirely because you think it’s just another bus stop.

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