I did not know how much I was missing coffee shops, more precisely dawdling in coffee shops, until the morning of the day I am writing this, when I stopped by the new location of Speckled Ax for breakfast and coffee.

“Stopped by” being the operative words, as hanging out in the sunny space with Portland waterfront views, breathing in the smells of seriously good wood-roasted coffee, listening to the conversations of coffee drinkers at neighboring tables while pretending not to, making googly eyes at any wandering toddlers, and doomscrolling the news on my cellphone (in one hand), cappuccino in a ceramic cup (in the other) — such pleasures are not to be had in this pandemic time.

Treat yourself: The cappuccino and the breakfast sandwich at Speckled Ax. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

Instead, I efficiently followed the by now oddly normal pandemic ordering procedures – mask on, six-feet apart, sanitizer squirted, leaning on the counter or pastry case verboten. All of this was efficiently spelled out at Speckled Ax and, for the 30 minutes I sat in their outdoor patio nursing my coffee and eating my breakfast sandwich, followed to the letter by the steady trickle of customers. (Not their dogs, however. One rambunctious 6-month-old, presumably a pandemic puppy, was eager to meet, greet, kiss and slobber on all comers.) It was a dreary morning, and I looked a little longingly at the funky-meets-industrial-chic-meets-vintage-charm indoor sitting area that no one may yet sit in. For obvious reasons.

One can dream: someday we will sit inside Speckled Ax, enjoying the clink of coffee cups and the chatter of neighbors. For now, though, it’s off limits. Thanks, pandemic. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

For now, Speckled Ax, which opened in this location on the ground floor of the Twenty Thames condominium complex on Labor Day weekend, offers just three breakfast choices: yogurt and fruit ($5.50), bagel with cream cheese ($4.50) or “loaded” ($8.50), and my breakfast sandwich ($7.50). This being Speckled Ax, the yogurt was Milkhouse, the granola was Grandy Oats, the honey was local and the flavor add-on was black sesame seeds. Similarly, the bagel was from Rose Foods, and the generously sized English muffin for my breakfast sandwich was baked at Chaval; it left commercial specimens in the dust.

My sandwich was well executed and nicely balanced (more of a rarity for sandwiches than you’d think). Pickled onions, baby (local) arugula, Sriracha mayonnaise, bacon (or avocado, your call) and a big square of baked egg made it simultaneously perky and rich, creamy and crunchy, all with a tickle of heat.

Readers, I took the calorie hit for you (you’re welcome), polishing off this cranberry-frangipane Danish as well as the vanilla cream trocaderos. Photo by Peggy Grodinsky

Delicious as it was, the coffee made me sad. Cappuccino hates a paper cup. (First World problem, I know.)

In the interest of thorough research, I also ordered a cranberry-frangipane Danish baked for the coffee shop by Norimoto Bakery (Atsuko Fujimoto, formerly of Ten Ten Pié) and a vanilla cream trocaderos (a lightly sugared, buttery brioche filled with custard, dangerous!) from Chaval ($3.75 each). Hours later, I ate them at my own dining room table, where I drink my coffee and eat most things these days. Yum and yum.


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