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Ask Eater: What Happened to All the Combination Cafe-Bars?

A reader seeks a coffee shop with a cocktail menu, for once the clock strikes 5 p.m.

Two pink chairs with pale pink cushions are positioned in front of a wall with painted clouds.
Pink chairs at Maeve in Southeast Portland.

Welcome to Ask Eater, an Eater Portland column where the site’s editor and reporter answer questions from readers and friends. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form with the subject line ‘Ask Eater.’

Dear Eater,

I’m grateful that I’m still able to work from home even after landing a more “traditional” 9-to-5 schedule, but sometimes I need to get out and work from some place that’s not home. I’m looking for cafes that also serve “adult beverages,” places like Either/Or that work as both a cafe and as a bar. That way I can transition from caffeinated beverages into wine or a cocktail as I finish up my day.

Weirdly I haven’t been able to find any in Southeast Portland lately, and I was hoping you would have some suggestions. Thank you!

Alex Frane

Oh, hey, Alex! Boy, do I feel you on this one. As a stereotypical writer who loves to sit at a computer with a cup of infinite-refill coffee, ordering an Old Fashioned when I close my laptop for the day, I love all-day cafe-bars, or even just a cafe open after 2 p.m. There was a time where finding a coffee shop open into the evening — including one with some wine or cocktails — wasn’t a huge challenge in Portland, as ubiquitous as food cart pods with fire pits, bars serving “classic cocktails with a twist,” and restaurants name-dropping Mama Lil’s Peppers on menus. But with Either/Or closing at 2 p.m., I’m lost in the wilderness.

Looking in Southeast Portland specifically, though, there are a few “close enough” options. If you’re in the mood for wine, my immediate thought is Maeve, the combination coffee shop-wine bar in Sellwood. The food menu is pretty crepe-heavy, so you can pop in at 11 to grab a crepe and a coffee, and by the time 5 p.m. rolls around (during happy hour, natch), you can order a glass of a cool Oregon wine. To me, that’s a perfect fit.

However, not everyone is really looking for wine, right? If you’re in more of a lager mood, the vegan cafe Coffee Beer on Southeast 42nd was explicitly designed for this purpose. It has indoor and outdoor seating, and it takes the COVID-19 precautions more seriously than most these days, which can feel nice in an I’m-about-to-camp-out-here-for-a-few-hours scenario.

Outside of Southeast Portland, my rule of thumb is to seek out cafes in hotels for this specific need. Neither are in Southeast, but places like the Society Cafe in the hotel of the same name or the cafe and bar within the lobby of the Hoxton both work well for extended work hangs — with bars onsite when the mood strikes. There are also places like Buranko Cafe & Bar or Bar Carlo, which feel a little restaurant-y but definitely pull off the all-day cafe thing.

Otherwise, I will keep waiting for the Either/Or bar to return from the war, staring forlornly out the window. I understand if you do the same.

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