Crema Bakery & Café (2728 S.E. Ankeny St.) takes a little more effort to get to than the downtown cafes, but it’s just far enough from campus to be a perfect cure for southwest burnout – you can only spend so many hours studying at Chit Chat Cafe or Smith Center. The change of scenery, comfortable interior and food with actual nutrition value make the inner southeast bakery cafe a great studying alternative.
The café is modern in a friendly way: spare enough to appease design nerds, but with just enough detail and idiosyncrasy to not alienate people who are uncomfortable with minimalism. The industrial motif avoids pretension with functionality: the exterior walls are comprised of glass and metal rolling doors that flood the café with light and are left open on warm days, so you can actually see your textbook and don’t feel deprived having to spend pretty days studying inside. An assortment of magazines I’d actually want to read – Surface, Wired, Wallpaper – makes procrastination easy. Oh, and did I mention the free WiFi?
The food and beverages, for the most part, live up to the image. Crema offers a wide selection of fancy teas and all the standard espresso bar combinations (made with Stumptown coffee), but most exciting are the fresh baked goods ranging from sandwich bread to cookies to extravagant layer cakes. There is also a limited but delicious soup and sandwich menu. Some selections are more flavorful than others, but everything is fresh and thoughtful without being overly self-conscious.
The pastries are Crema’s strong suit. The little apricot scones ($1.75) are maybe the only scones in Portland that are dry, crumbly and buttermilk heavy – like they’re supposed to be. The chocolate espresso loaf ($2) is lacking in the espresso department, but it’s dark, rich and extra moist, and I don’t think I would mind eating it every day for the rest of my life. The cheddar corn biscuit ($1.75) has good texture contrasts and is snacky without being too sugary. There are even house-made peanut dog cookies (25 cents). (I kind of think the Portland trend of cafés offering dog cookies is more about creating a cute, quirky, Portland image than anything else, but whatever.)
While some cafés may be more successful in terms of consistently knocking your socks off with their food, Crema is still better than most, and as a study spot it has all the right ingredients: clean design, nice ambience, beautiful light and internet connectivity.