What are the key ingredients to a good coffeehouse experience? Some might say, the coffee. Others might say, the baristas. Still, others might say, the coffeehouse itself. Maybe it’s all three. Which, if you want to stick with the rule of three’s, makes Three Friends Coffeehouse and Cafe something of an anomaly.

There is a buzz about Three Friends every time I’ve ever stopped by, maybe because it’s one of the few coffee shops in the SE Portland Buckman neighborhood and looks so inviting with its old-store, corner building and outside seating. Three Friends has friendly staff, loyal customers and the coffee is really good. But the mish-mash of extremely worn furniture, scuffed up floors and crazy colors (two different solids on one wall, sponge-paint purple mottled look on the opposite wall) leave me feeling like I’ve stepped into a fraternity house living room from the 1980s or a cluttered second-hand store on Hawthorne. If Three Friends are open to a little friendly advice: give your patrons that coffeehouse trifecta with some fresh paint and de-cluttering.

Notes on Three Friends…

Location: You can’t miss Three Friends (201 SE 12th) if you’re driving up SE 12th (at Ash) in Portland. The building, one of the only things happening on the block, pulls you in.

Coffee: Three Friends is yet another Stumptown shop and brews it up very nicely. Flavorful and never burnt. A long wooden counter, reminiscent of the drugstore soda counter it probably once was, displays large, glass jars of loose-leaf tea from Lindsay’s of San Francisco. Tea is another beverage to enjoy at Three Friends.

Cool stuff: Rumor has it that Gus Van Sant used to hang out here and write; racks of poetry for everyone to share; tall windows that let the sunshine in; interesting artwork that changes monthly on the walls; plenty of loyal customers; regular art and music events (Show and Tell Gallery, Caffeinated Art, Poetry Open Mike, etc.).

Not so cool: Scuzzy furniture. You’re better off sitting on the bar stools looking out the window or going out to the tables on the sidewalk. Last visit found the poetry shelves woefully empty.

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