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Restaurant Review: The Black Cat Cafe

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Restaurant Review: The Black Cat Cafe

Simple and really good: sandwiches and microbrews. ©Joshua Liberles

Joshua Liberles

Black Cat Cafe Delivers Two Eclectic Coffee House/Bars -- for Cheap!

Each Black Cat Cafe is, to say the least, an eclectic hodge-podge of a coffee shop/bar/restaurant. The original, smaller NE Alberta St location has coin-op internet computers (I can't remember the last time I saw one of those), TVs that often seem to be broadcasting soccer, with cabbies glued to them, and even some old tabletop video games, such as Ms. Pac Man. The other location on N Interstate, which has been open for over a year now, is much more spacious, has a full, well-stocked bar, and even has a free pool table. The wifi is also free in both locations, for those who opt for the more the more new-fangled laptop devices over the metered in-house desktop variety.

Both venues are laid back -- it is Portland, after all, and North/Northeast Portland at that -- and more of a locals' hangout than a destination. The beers on tap regularly rotate, but there are always good local microbrews available for $2 and $3 -- and the price doesn't always seem to correlate to the quality. At those rates, who needs a happy hour? The food menu is relatively simple, but there are great sandwiches, burgers, egg breakfast sandwich and various bagel options, as well as vegan pastries and muffins.

The sandwiches and burgers are a reasonable $5.95, and there are plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans too, including a hummus/veggie sandwich and faux-meat varieties, using ingredients like Tofurky, veggie burgers and veggie sausage patties. Carnivores needn't despair -- in addition to burgers, there's pastrami, salmon patties, a tuna melt and ham and Swiss. And egg and cheese bagel is just $3.50; the cheap skates (like me) can have a hearty egg sandwich meal with a pint, tip generously, and still walk out for $7.50!

The Vibe

The Black Cat menu -- sandwiches and sides. ©Joshua Liberles

Joshua Liberles

The Alberta Arts District location feels more like a coffee shop, and it opens at a correspondingly early 6 a.m. on weekdays, while the Interstate location in the Overlook neighborhood, with its full bar, doesn't open up until 10 a.m. I've been to each several times, and the servers at both spots -- particularly on Interstate -- are warm and friendly. Both locations also function as a small bottle shop and offer beer and wine to go, which seems particularly incongruous next to the Alberta Cat's Ms. Pac Man and internet machines. Somehow, it all works, and it keeps me coming back.

The Black Cat Breakdown

Pros:

  • Cheap, good food

  • Cheap, good beer!

  • Ultra-laid back atmosphere and true neighborhood feel

  • Free pool! (at Overlook Interstate location)

Cons:

  • The Alberta location feels hipstery, for better or worse, and maybe a little dingy.

  • The Black Cat website is straight outta 1993 -- and the info on it might be too.

The Black Cat Cafe Basics:

  • The Black Cat Cafe has two locations: one in the Alberta Arts District, the other on N Interstate Ave.

  • Getting to the Black Cat Cafe on Alberta: If driving from downtown, take the Alberta Street exit off of I-5 and turn right onto NE Alberta. Also, NE MLK provides good access to Alberta from the north or south. The 8, 9 and 10 bus routes access Alberta, or you can bike up one of the several bike boulevards that serve the area (NE 9th street provides good north-south access).

    To get to the N Interstate location, take the MAX Yellow Line line up N Interstate, or drive the same route, following N Interstate north to the corner of N Shaver.

  • Phone: Alberta: 503-287-5908; N Interstate: 503-914-6215

  • Website: theblackcatcafe.com/

  • Cuisine: Sandwiches, bagels, vegan pastries and muffins, cocktails, beer

  • Average tab per diner: Under $10

  • Happy hour: Draft microbrews range from $2-$3 and well drinks are $3 -- all day long!

  • Alberta Hours: Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-10p.m.

    N Interstate Hours: Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

  • All major credit cards accepted

  • Free wifi

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