Tucked inside Revive Upholstery & Design is a charming, petite new coffee bar offering a taste of Holland. Prince Coffee fills two crucial needs: for specialty coffee in the North Portland neighborhood of Kenton, and, whether people know it yet or not, for stroopwafel. More on that later.
“I felt like there was a big need for better coffee in this neighborhood, especially because I think there’s a lot of people like me who live here and appreciate it,” said Katie Prinsen, Prince’s owner. After more than five years working at Barista—including time spent managing its NW 23rd Avenue location—and two years searching in vain for a spot in her chosen locale, Prinsen and the owners of Revive decided to share a space.
Occupying the front of the building, Prince Coffee comfortably combines natural wood, thrift-store furniture, a hand-built bar, and Revive’s showroom pieces (don’t sit on those!). “Being in a shared space helps because it already has a great aesthetic,” Prinsen said. The space is small and homey, and every element feels intentional. Prinsen designed the coffee portion of the space herself, building the shelves, enlisting her dad to build her navy-wainscoted and copper-topped bar, and hunting through thrift stores for furniture and tchotchkes.
“The design of it was partially up to the space,” she says. “You have to go with what the space wants, almost, which is really weird because [there was] a different feel that I was going for and then this is what came out.” She adds, laughing, “Which I love.” Prinsen says she’d intended a Dutch vibe because she spent part of every summer growing up visiting her father’s family in Holland.
That doesn’t mean Prince doesn’t feature one important aspect of Dutch culture though—in fact, it gets co-billing with coffee on the website.
So, what is a stroopwafel? First of all, “stroop” rhymes with rope—“or dope,” says Prinsen. “Stroopwafel is basically a sweet dough that’s pressed and has a buttery, cinnamon-y caramel sauce in between. [Stroop] is not actually caramel, it is a little more buttery tasting.” Everything—dough, stroop sauce, wafels—is made and assembled in-house. In the morning, when they’re literally fresh off the presses, Prinsen recommends enjoying them as they are. However, you could also place one on your coffee mug to warm it up or, like Prinsen, dip them in your cappuccino.
Prinsen became a fan of the sweet delicacy from her frequent trips to Holland. “I was obsessed with stroopwafels,” she says. “We’d get off the plane and I would be like, ‘All right, let’s go!’ The only place you can get them fresh is at markets in Holland, and I loved that—there was just something about fresh stroopwafels that’s so good. So I packed my suitcase full of them when we’d come back home and give them to my friends.” Naturally, she wanted to incorporate this piece of her childhood into her cafe.
You’ll also find Portland roasters Roseline and Coava on the menu at Prince. Prinsen chose them carefully, taking stock of what would work well in the neighborhood, what would work well for her new small business, and what would work well for her. “I knew from having worked at Barista and working with so many different coffees all the time that I would get bored [if I had] one roaster; I also knew that, being a startup, I wanted to keep it to local roasters so that they could help me out.”
Her espresso drinks are made on a two-group La Marzocco Linea Classic, with a Mahlkönig K30 Twin grinder housing a coffee from each roaster. Prinsen uses a FETCO for batch brewing, which she grinds on a Mahlkönig Tanzania. Prinsen bought the equipment with a “tiny” loan and built out the cafe with her own funds. “I love beautiful cafes, don’t get me wrong, but I really wanted to show that you don’t have to have the most ridiculous build-out ever to have ridiculously good coffee.”
Prinsen serves that ridiculously good coffee in hand-thrown ceramics made by Portland-based Ashley Hardy. “I have three different [-size] cups,” says Prinsen. “I feel like people get so weird about their little drinks, like cortado, Gibraltar, macchiato. That’s why I have a set price for my milk drinks—I just want people to get what they want, not worry about the price.”
Prince’s pared-down menu is inspired by the simplified ones she saw in Australian and New Zealand cafes a few years ago. “I feel like it’s really simple, but sometimes people get confused by it,” she said. But once customers get used to the simpler language of the menu, she feels they prefer it—“they don’t have to worry about it, they just know.”
It’s not just the menu, though, that reflects Prinsen. The whole store, from her imported industrial stroopwafel press to the dad-built bar and the warm welcome customers receive as they walk through the door exude her personality. Now that her first cafe, named for the Dutch plural of her last name, is up and running, what’s next for Prinsen? “I would like a second location with a full kitchen, and I’ll probably expand what I offer as far as Dutch food and pastries go.” Our mouths are already watering.
Rachel Grozanick is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Grozanick has contributed previously to Bitch Magazine, 90.5 WESA in Pittsburgh, and 90.7 KBOO in Portland. Read more Rachel Grozanick on Sprudge.