In so many ways, the new location of beloved Sellwood coffee shop Either/Or feels just like what owner Ro Tam wanted to do all along.
Opened five years ago in Sellwood, the original Either/Or remains a quaint spot to grab Tam’s famous Tanglewood chai or a coffee mocktail, and read poetry magazines. But it seems that Tam had an eye for more: In 2016, she and her brother Simon opened Tam, serving excellent wonton soup harkening back to the family’s Taiwanese roots. After just a few months, however, a flood closed the shop for good.
Now on North Williams, the second Either/Or is a restaurant, coffee shop, and/or bar, depending on the time of day. Tam teamed up with two of the former minds behind the Scandinavian-influenced Fenrir, Tyler Hauptman, Angela Fink, and Ian Wilson. Fink is the bar manager behind the slushy and cocktail program, Hauptman is their wine guy, while Wilson is the menu man.
The result is a place where you could hypothetically spend an entire day inside Either/Or’s emerald green walls, listening to whatever’s spinning on the twin turntables. Start in the morning with an espresso flight ($8) starring a strangely salty but great Costa Rican blend and one adorable shortbread cookie, alongside a plate of griddle-fresh breakfast tacos heaped with egg, beans, and salsa ($9). Ease into afternoon with an “am cocktail” of Campari and cold brew, and finish the night sucking down a classic steak tartare with capers and egg yolk ($12), and the amazingly smoky yet fresh Devil in a White Dress ($10), a blend of Scotch, crème de cacao, St. Germain, lemon, and egg white.
The food menu is a mish-mash of influences, with a plate of two soft boiled eggs in cups with bread, cheese, and jam ($9) sitting next to a Chinese sausage bowl ($10), rice topped with sweet sausage, kimchi, bok choy, and a six-minute egg. The bowls are available all day, and I’d happily eat the pork belly bowl—braised super soft and oozing soy richness—at any time. (Like any proper coffee shop, pastries are also available at the counter). The only misstep we tried were the nachos, with chips fried to order, mostly because to fully load the plate with house-made chorizo and avocado (because duh), this usually cheap bar food classic runs up to $15. They’re good nachos, but they’re not $15 good.
In the winter, Tam promises to bring back her long-lost wonton soup—and between this ball-sweaty July heat and that, I’m stanning January big time.
Either/Or in Sellwood made its name on non-alcoholic coffee cocktails like the cold brew Old Fashioned ($5). On North Williams, the menu is expanded to include newcomers like the excellent Coffee Flip ($7), cold brew and Tanglewood chai shaken with a raw egg, and topped with nutmeg and an orange twist. In a city where I constantly think I’ve had ALL things coffee, this was a delightful something I’d never seen before.
Hauptman, who’s coming off a couple of years at Pizza Jerk, took his slushie game with him to Either/Or, and it’s worth grabbing a cup of whatever is swirling away. But don’t skip the mixed drinks, which make great use of coffee, Tanglewood chai, and sodas, like the Dirty Chai ($11), which mixes bracing blackstrap rum with chai and cold brew. Just don’t have more than one or you risk being up all night—unless that’s your goal. A tall glass of tequila with Tanglewood honey grapefruit soda, Campari, and lime ($10) sounded excellent, but wound up watered down on too much ice. No mind, every one of the $7 happy hour classic cocktails we tried packed a super solid liquor punch.
There have been a welcome stream of coffee shop-meets-restaurants opening across town (hey there, Proud Mary and Guilder!), but Either/Or seems to be the most successful at making the bar/restaurant/coffee shop prospect anything but an either/or choice.