Café Marino, Not an Ordinary Place

By Sam Adelman

A Bosnian man checks his phone on the free wifi to see how his online advertisement for the refrigerators he repairs is doing. A Japanese woman orders a double Americano at the counter and jokes with the barista from the Ukraine. A photographer and house painter sit at the counter and talk politics.

Dario’s river home town Banjaluka, Bosnia

It’s morning at Café Marino on 41st and SE Division Street. People are here for their coffee, as they are all across the city, but it is somehow different here.

“They respect you and the coffee here,” says Al the painter, one of the regulars seated at the counter with his three-shot Americano. “Other places act like they’re doing you a favor making you a cup of coffee.”

“They use the expensive beans,” says Akmhed, a doctor sipping his four-shot macchiato sweetened with Nutella, as he writes an article for a medical journal on his laptop. “It costs them more, but they know the people here trust them.”

“It’s not just the coffee,” interrupts Julie the barista. “Here is like family. My life has changed since working here. People feel safe here.  That’s why they come here for first dates and why some people come here three times in one day.”

Dario and wife Jasna

“We are small business,” adds Dario Jungić the owner, making cappuccino for a couple of punk rockers. “Big business is about system. Make sure system is efficient, coffee just good enough, chairs just comfortable enough so people come, but not so people stay long and cut profit. Here is small, not about system, about people. Some coffeeshops become big business, but lose soul.”

The soul of Marino starts with Dario. His journey began in Bosnia where he learned the European cafe traditions and techniques at a friend’s Italian cafe. His life wound through a love of music and years of work as a coordinator for refugees from the former Yugoslavia before making his way to Portland, where he opened Marino Cafe eleven years ago because he couldn’t find a European cafe like it here.

“The cafe is needed,” he says. “People need a place to meet and make community. This could be at bar, restaurant, or cafe. Of these, cafe is best because bar is not for children and going to restaurant cost too much to do every day. For price of a cup of coffee, people can have place where they come and talk with others, where they make community, where they have someone know them.”

In the afternoon, folks are sitting at tables on the sidewalk in front of Marino Cafe. “Hello my friend,” Dario greets a man walking by with his customary greeting. He seems to greet everybody as his friend, and this sense of welcoming and acceptance flows through the cafe.

This vibe at Marino is undoubtedly influenced by the immigrant experience. If you’ve lost everything once and come to a new place, it may be that you’re more inclined to live in the present moment. As Dario puts it, “Enjoy now, as no one knows what comes tomorrow.”   Perhaps, if you’ve had what you knew uprooted and taken away, you might spend less time planning for retirement or trolling the internet and more time in the present enjoying the person or cup of coffee in front of you.

Funny thing about creating a place where folks feel welcomed and respected, as the native-Portland regulars at Marino’s attest, is that you don’t have to be from somewhere else to appreciate it. We all have times in our life when we just want to talk to somebody, be part of something, have somebody smile at us and have a cup of good coffee.

Café Marino is at 4129 SE Division St. and celebrating their eleventh year music on Division music. Every second Friday evening is live music and bellydance.

Café Marino, Not an Ordinary Place

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