The menu disclaims, “It’s not Portlandia, It’s just coffee,” but the crowd says otherwise. Betterday Coffee, a new joint by La Montañita Food Co-op, caters to Bhakti Chai bikers, health-concerned co-operants, coffee connoisseurs and cool kids—in short, the many Portlandia archetypes.
I’m from Berkeley, Calif., where fanatical coffee shops are as ubiquitous as Starbucks elsewhere. Spoiled by my urban roots and despondent over the local coffee scene, I was bitching to my barista at another local shop about the brown soup masquerading as coffee in my cup, when he recommended Betterday.
The raw industrial feel at the narrow locale stunned me—all concrete and corrugated metal, bike frames adorning the walls like modern art. It seemed so out of place, almost obliviously trendy.
My espresso came with a cup of seltzer. As I drank my effervescent beverage and coffee, it permeated my taste buds with transient chocolate and citrus notes—sweet coffee melody. Having acclimated to my watered-down, burnt-bean caffeine fix, I wondered, “Is coffee allowed to taste this good?”
However, Betterday doesn’t rely on its premium pulled shots; its food, made with local and organic ingredients, is as alive and electric as its coffee. The real food and real coffee have made me a regular.
With items such as a “dank burrito” with quinoa and raw red chile, homemade almond milk (temporarily pulled while authorities review paperwork) and sodas made with fruit juice and agave, this place is definitely committed to purity and health.
The better-living commitment is further reflected in details such as 100 percent recycled toilet paper and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap in the bathroom. Betterday even has internet; I’m always looking for a place to sit with my Macbook with other anonymous hipsters and get my buzz on.
Betterday’s coffee, food and internet synergy make it an integral local hot spot, if you can live on caffeine and quinoa, which I have been known to do.
I could question whether Betterday can survive in a town where metropolitan-tailored trends either evaporate on impact with our atmosphere or appear suspended in a time warp. But judging from the constant business, the long absence of a place like this did not derive from a lack of interest. It came about at an ideal time, with the recent closing of the Aztec Café and the north side Java Joe’s.
Owner Tom Frost says that a general desire for community gave birth to Betterday. By giving coffee the respect it deserves, Betterday redeems coffee from its narcotic associations and reframes it as a social lubricant. This place and others like it reclaim the idea of social networking from Facebook and present opportunities to form community in real time, renewing the European romance of the coffee shop. On my last visit, an anonymous woman paid for my espresso, an example of the common need for coffee creating community.
An employee described Betterday to me as a “bastion of hope,” a love letter to Santa Fe, and I can’t help but get caught up in the hype. Betterday not only makes my day better, but it imbues me with optimism and hopeful hometown aspiration.
905 W Alameda St.
Breakfast and lunch daily
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