A childhood portrait of Ed Wampler, who once owned a restaurant supply company in NW Portland, overlooks the counter of his granddaughter’s elegant neighborhood cafe. Naomi Diallo learned the restaurant business from him and from her father, Roger Wampler, who owns Ron’s Restaurant on SE 82nd Ave, but it was three months spent in Italy that inspired her to open a European-style cafe, serving coffee, beer, wine, and pastries.
Twenty-six Cafe is named for the year the single story commercial building was constructed. In its 89 years the space has been home to a variety of businesses including Mrs. C’s Wig Shop (which later relocated to the corner of 7th and Fremont now occupied by Rerun), a salon, and most recently, Cartola, a coffee house that Diallo herself used to visit before it closed its doors in 2012. “I wanted to reference the neighborhood somehow and the history behind the neighborhood,” Diallo says. “I think it’s important to know the history around here.”
Diallo, who grew up in nearby Alameda, loves her business’ location in Eliot. “I like the mix of people. We seem to draw a lot of younger, single people, and students. But then we’re butted up right against Irvington, which brings more families and older clientele. I like that mix. The diversity of the neighborhood has gone away a little bit. I’ve always liked Northeast Portland because of its values,” she explains. After the cafe endured two break-ins in the past year some of Twenty-six Cafe’s customers expressed concern that she might want to relocate, but she says they don’t need to worry. “I’ve never felt down about the neighborhood” Diallo says, adding “I feel really lucky to have such great customers.”