Portland’s tech-friendly cafes

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Apparently, New York indie cafes are cracking down on the “sprawl” of iPads, Kindles and other electronic devices, so reports the New York Times Magazine (“Table Disservice,” Feb. 11, 2011) earlier this week.

Really? OK, I get that purists might want to preserve something of the coffeehouse culture of old, but look around, and most cafes are filled with a happy mix of people socializing, eating, working or reading.

If you believe Australian Futurist Ross Dawson, the small, flat, mobile media gadgets of today are predicted to replace most, if not all, traditional print media by the year 2020. Which would mean that to read a newspaper in the coffeehouse of the not-so-distant future, you’d be browsing your tiny tablet or phone rather than flipping pages of paper. Whether you believe the prediction or not, you can check out Dawson’s newspaper extinction timeline here. Even Starbucks has jumped on the digital bandwagon with the launch last fall of its own in-store digital network, which delivers specialized content to the computers of Starbucks customers who surf for free while gulping their Trenti 30-ounce drinks.

I’ve heard of no such electronics ban from Portland’s coffee world, and in fact, my friend Rick of Silicon Florist fame blogged about his top cafe picks for techies and telecommuters in his 2009 post, “Wifi, caffeine and coworking: 10+ Portland coffee shops for meeting up with Portland’s tech types.”

A few of the Silicon Florist’s top picks (and mine) include: Albina Press, Urban Grind and John James Cafe. If the other 10 or so tech-friendly cafes on the list are like any of the others in Portland, the analog world of humans, coffee and cake will continue to co-exist just fine with their digital companions.

For the love of coffee, check out Heart Coffee Roasters

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Valentine’s Day is in the air, and as much as I love Portland’s indie coffee scene, I don’t have any good coffeehouse love stories. The best I can do is the story about a high school girl (me), who was working in a neighborhood drugstore one lonely February 14 when out of nowhere a cheesy Hallmark card, addressed to her and signed by a customer who had inquired earlier about her Valentine’s Day status, slid down her checkout stand.

Whether your most memorable Valentine’s Day is from high school or a happening coffee shop, there’s one cafe in town that offers a little bit of both — Heart Coffee Roasters. Combining the trendy, dark-wood-and-concrete look and tall ceilings of a New York loft and the weirdness of high school chemistry class, Heart Coffee has got a good thing going on East Burnside.

Notes on Heart Coffee Roasters…

Location: I like — or should I say, I “heart”? — Heart Coffee at 2211 E. Burnside for its proximity to two recent kid-friendly transplants to nearby NE Sandy, The Children’s Gym, which just relocated from Hollywood, and The Circuit Bouldering Gym, which just opened its second location. After your kids get their crazies out at gymnastics class or scrambling up boulders, you’re just a minute or two away by bike or car from a warm cup of Heart Coffee.

Coffee: A huge 1953 roaster takes up one side of the cafe in what looks like a mad, scientific experiment with coffee beans. My very first visit’s Americano tasted more like watery coffee but subsequent drinks, including cappuccino, have been hearty (no pun intended) and nicely flavored. Heart Coffee says their roasting style is inspired by Scandinavian and Portland influences. On a recent visit, my barista even threw my shots away before I got them in order to perfect my drink. It wasn’t until my coffee was halfway drunk that I noticed the signature heart on the foam.

Cool stuff: Amidst the modern feel of the space are metal school stools, crazy science illustrations of hearts and other organs and what looks to be an authentic school clock; despite the slightly sterile decor, the place is packed with adults and kids alike. And, since I’m on a love theme, it was cool running into a couple I hadn’t seen in a couple of  years who were back together. The cafe also serves pastries by Random Order, who recently received the accolade of baking “One of the best pies in America” by Travel & Leisure Magazine. Yum.

Not so cool: If raw dog food and coffee sound unappealing, you might avoid sitting outside where Heart Coffee Roasters and a raw dog food store share the sidewalk.