Behind the Museum Cafe, $2.75
Certain things about the Pacific Northwest have helped generations of homesick Japanese visitors and settlers to feel more at home: the stands of tall, dark cedars, the intricate coastlines with little islands emerging from blankets of haze, the familiar grandeur of Mt. Rainier or Mt. Hood.
Now add to that Portland's Behind the Museum Café.
In the neighborhoods where I lived and worked in Tokyo there was almost always at least one gem of a coffeeshop. While they varied wildly in style and size, all tended to be tricky to find and strongly atmospheric, with an unusual selection of carefully prepared drinks and food.
Behind the Museum fits that description--except for it's relatively prominent location in back of the Portland Art Museum. It's a narrow, high-ceilinged room in a modern glass highrise; a selection of Japanese antiques and contemporary crafts adds warmth to all that chrome.
Owner Tomoe Horibuchi was a cafe manager and culinary instructor in San Francisco before feeling the pull of the Pacific Northwest. She's dedicated to cultivating a space that's more than just a cafe, offering exhibition opportunities to artists, tables large enough to accommodate small group meetings, and regular demonstrations of Japanese traditions such as the incense ceremony and calligraphy.
The cafe serves tea, locally-roasted coffee, Japanese beer and sake. Appetizers and small meals are made in house, with organic ingredients wherever possible. In addition to cookies and pastries, Horibuchi handmakes fresh Japanese confections such as the manju of the day above: a small, soft bird filled with smooth red bean paste and flavored with toasted soybean powder.
Behind the Museum Cafe
1229 SW 10th Ave