There are not many spots in Portland where you can sip coffee and be standing on the corner of a busy Chinese intersection--but you can at Costello's Windows to the World. With two large flat screen TVs mounted on opposite walls, Costello's shows looped footage of urban and natural landscapes from all over the world. With the images set to soothing ambient beats with intermittent lapses into the natural soundscapes of the captured landscapes, Costello's scheme might sound gimmicky--but it also works.
In no small part, that's because these are actual home videos shot by members of the Costello family over a three-year period. Unlike your typical jittery, rambling tourist fare, Costello's videos are full of slice of life moments from side streets, main squares, and coastal lands from Europe, South America, East Asia, and North America.
On the food and drink front, Costello's serves Caffe Umbria coffee. Every time I've ordered a drink there, it's consistently one of the better cups of joe I've had in Portland. All their pastries are made in-house from scratch, with the strawberry scone and lemon blueberry muffin always delicate, moist, and full of flavor, obviously baked that morning.
My favorite of the restaurant's sturdy breakfast fare is the veggie breakfast sandwich, made up of scrambled eggs, melted cheddar cheese, fresh spinach leaves, and tomato layered on a warm, flaky butter croissant. The quiche of the day is also a winner, with rotating ingredients (usually vegetarian) served a la carte or with a salad or cup of homemade soup--like a delicious, hearty, and creamy potato leek. Also don't miss the big, crisp, and steaming Belgian waffles, served up only on the weekends with syrup or strawberries and whipped cream.
For the lunch crowd, the oversized (that's a good thing) grilled panini is crispy hot with mouth-watering fillings. They offer five kinds served on Pearl Bakery bread, all of which tie into the travel theme: Edinburgh (Blackforest ham, provolone, roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts), Barcelona (baked chicken breast, pesto, provolone, and tomato) or my favorite, the vegan Athenian (housemade hummus, cucumber, olive tapenade, red onion, and tomato), and all served with salad. Also on the menu are cold sandwiches with names like Big Ben, and the classic Baguette Sandwich: cheese, tomato, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. If you're looking for something heavier, try the vegetable lasagna, a saucy, cheesy hunk of Italian love, full of herbs and tons of fresh vegetables.
Costello's is open until 10 pm most days and serves wine and beer. My one complaint about the place is their lackluster selection of foreign beer. Only one of the three taps has a brew from another country--and it's the delicious, but predictable, Guinness. The bottled offerings could also use a bit more worldliness.
Costello's offers free wi-fi and shows foreign films every Friday night at 8 pm. But my favorite broadcasts are the European soccer matches they show each Sunday afternoon. It's hard to imagine a better setting for sipping beer or coffee and whiling away a few rainy hours come fall. For anyone who fancies themselves a world traveler, this is the place to reminisce about that little café in Prague, or that time in Paris, with... what was his name again? Oh, yes... Jean Luc!