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“Make me some stinking coffee you damn dirty ape!”

Spunky Monkey's on Urbanspoon

I recently put out my top five Portland coffee shop list which listed Vancouver, WA as number one. Well, I believe Despair Inc. puts it best:

“It hurts to admit when you make mistakes – but when they’re big enough, the pain only lasts a second.”

I’ve bemoaned more than a few Portland coffee shops for being achingly predictable in their attempt to, well, really look like Portland coffee shops. This plague of uniformity means that dozens of independent cafe all seem to have been cut from the same “edgy” (my God I hate that word) bohemian mold. Really, what’s the point of being “indie” if you’re just going to look like everyone else?

The exterior of Spunky Monkey.

It's funny. My mom always told me not to trust purple things.

It reminds me of a situation I found myself in a few years back, when I was faced with the not-so-uncommon challenge of coming up with a last-minute Halloween costume. While I did not have a lot of options available to me, I grabbed some black clothes, black nail polish, and black eyeliner and decided I could go as a poser. It actually went over pretty well, but I recall asking a classmate who was heavily into punk culture if I could borrow perhaps a studded bracelet, spiked collar, or other prototypical punk poser items. Unsurprisingly, she was unable to help because, not being a poser, she didn’t own any of those items.

The decidedly un-poser Spunky Monkey was recommended to me by one of its employees, whom I’ve never actually seen working there in my half-dozen visits. In short: the place is effortlessly eclectic and undeniably awesome. I’ve actually been wanting write about Spunky Monkey for about a month now (not coincidentally, I haven’t posted in about a month), but it’s easier to write a bad review than a good one. Giving good reviews is not only difficult, it’s boring, so don’t expect me to make a habit of this.

Table in the shape of a door.

Who wouldn't want to sit there? Your table is a door!

Their design motif goes beyond “quirky” and quite literally into “found object.” Tables appear to be cast from halves of doors suspended from the ceiling, and the benches aren’t bolted down, so don’t let that take you by surprise. The menu transcends the chalkboard and is pretty much written everywhere. Functionally, intimate space gives easy-access to power outlets and secure (novel idea these days) wireless. The place isn’t big, but manages to be comfortable without being comfy, if that even makes sense. With seats within striking normal speaking distance of the counter, if you’re a Spunky Monkey barista, you’d best be ready for small talk.

Following my recent temperance rant, it was nice to know that such a thing still exists. Their menu drops down into 5oz drinks, the mochas don’t feel obliged beat you over the head with flavor, and their food selection offers organic meat, veggie, and vegan selections, without making a big deal of it. It’s silly, but I’m getting sick of giant signs that say “ZOMG! VEGAN!”  That said, the Basic Barbarian” bagel sandwich–bagel or no bagel, breakfast or lunch–is just one of the tastiest sandwiches I’ve ever had, period.

Lastly, Spunky Monkey encourages local music by keeping a steady stream of local music through the sound system. That single gesture in itself should be sufficient, but they take it one step further by granting any musician who brings in their original music ten free coffees ($1.25 value per free item). I was pleasantly surprised when the staff complimented my contributions on a later visit, which shows that our stuff isn’t being just hurled into the void.

Heck, being here for a half hour made me temporarily forget about my laundry list of issues which included a morning traffic court appearance, a chronic headache, mentally taxing (no pun intended) accounting snafus, and laundry. Now that is a coffee experience.

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This entry was posted on Friday, February 4th, 2011 at 5:30 pm and is filed under Coffee post. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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