Portland Whole Foods opens a pub, and thirdwave cafe

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A Chemex pourover at Whole Food’s new cafe.

The hottest new cafe in Portland is not in the Old Port, Munjoy Hill or on Congress Street. It’s in Whole Foods Market. That’s right. “Attention shoppers! Chemex pour-overs now on brew across from the asparagus display.” How’s that for a blue light special?

Open for a month, the new cafe is in a new location, featuring single-origin coffee from Kenya, Ethiopia and Mexico and a variety of brewing styles from “hand brew” to cold brews to the popular Modbar espresso system.

A series of taps feature three nitro coffees — Vietnamese, traditional and a winter seasonal steeped with vanilla beans, cardamom and cinnamon sticks with a touch of condensed milk. The latter will be your new addiction. There are also three ice teas on tap, if you are so inclined. 

This is the kind of high-end treatment we’ve come to expect from Bard and Tandem and the nearby Coffee By Design on Diamond Street. But a supermarket? Albeit a high-end grocer is impressive.

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The iced coffee and tea taps.

Featuring Allegro Coffee (roasted in house) it’s hard to quibble with the national food chain’s effort to make customers feel special (and caffeinated).

The upgrade “is just another way Whole Foods is differentiating ourselves with quality products,” said coffee team leader Orchard White. “These are the kind of brewing styles that are popular in California hipster cafes.”

Drink prices are less than most hipster cafes. The new, open-espresso bar allows Whole Foods baristas to interact with customers with greater ease. “It pulls people in and gives you a one-on-one experience,” said White, who made me a mighty fine pour-over in four minutes flat. (Order your drink and hit the aisles upon your return you’ll be sipping in style).

So what happened to the old cafe with big windows facing Somerset Street?

By April 1, it will transform into a pub. The Somerset Tap House will have four TVs, 20 local beers on draft, lobster rolls and traditional pub fare. Both new concepts for the Texas-based grocer are being tested across the country. We will drink to this!

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Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.