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Ristretto (Nicolai Street)

July 4, 2012

The Incomparable Ristretto Coffee Bar

Just on the West side of the Fremont Bridge, right about the time you think you’ve sunken yourself so far into the Industrial District the only coffee you’ll be finding is a 9 hour old glass pot full of Folgers in one of the surrounding warehouses manned by 4 toothless rednecks and a pitbull, you notice jutting up on the horizon the Schoolhouse Electric Building.  If you think to yourself, “Ah, just in time!  I was needing some high end light fixtures for my new million-dollar condo buildout in the Pearl”, and you just happen on inside there, you will discover not only the most majestic light fixtures, etc. this side of Boston, but the sexiest Coffee Bar in Portland:  Ristretto on Nicolai.

To be honest, I can only imagine what insanity led Din Johnson, founder of Ristretto to decide to put a coffee bar in this otherwise God-forsaken “ell-ole”, but once it was decided they really went for it.  Rockin’ the new darling of baristas these days, the La Marzocco Strada, along with a bay of Mazzer E-grinders, flanked by a sexy beast of a pourover bar and the requisite understated pastry offerings, this place is just simple elegance.  Designed by the same folks that designed Coava’s space, it is raw wood and metal, it is classic elegance, it is function-thought-through (the grinder bays have a TROUGH to catch the grounds so there’s no mess, no where – though the baristas say it’s kind of a pain to empty).  And the coffee?  Well, for a Stumptown Coffee guy, it’s a bit roasty.  But I can definitely say it was a welcome reprieve from Stumptown’s tendency to obtain roast profiles that tend to highlight the nuances in the flavor profile.  It’s kind of a nice place to visit, though I wouldn’t necessarily want to live there.  But they have chosen this approach, I respect it, and I definitely enjoy it.  On a few different visits (read:  a few different machiattos) I had some experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed, and then at least one that was, to my palate, “off”.  But man, I give these guys definite cred for targeting something and going after it with a passion.  I kind of chock that up to the ol’, “The pioneer’s take all the arrows” kind of thing.

The feather in the cap?  That space!  Enough of my jabberin.  Let me let some photos do the talking:

La Marzcocco Strada: Maker of a Million Machiattos

Wanna see what $10,000 worth of E-grinders looks like?


Even the condiment bar got my attention

A bit of info about the “Project”



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