We test-drive the pancakes, ball pit and art projects on offer at Milwaukie’s Two Sisters Play Café.     

it was a sad day when Pied Piper Play Café closed in Southeast Portland. The idea was genius in its simplicity: a place for young kids to play while grown-ups had a chance to caffeinate and meet with friends, get in an hour of work — or, hey, even read a few pages of a book! (Remember those things?) So when rumors started of a new play café in Milwaukie, Southeast Portland residents watched Facebook like a hawk, counting down to opening day. 

It seemed to take ages, but Two Sisters Play Café is now officially open. Conveniently located on the first stop of the MAX Orange Line, it’s an easy jaunt for parents of young kids in the southeast, and a worthy destination for those farther flung. (Pro tip: There’s no parking lot; street parking is available.) 

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I took my three kids, ages 5, 7 and 9, to the café just after 7:30 am on an August morning. (Summer sleep-in? Bah! But come the start of school, no alarm will wake my children.) For the better part of an hour, we had the place to ourselves — but it was filling up fast by the time we left around 10 am.

The space is divided into three rooms. First, the dining area, where you can fill up on eggs, pancakes and other breakfast favorites. There are also plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options. (Huzzah, New Cascadia!) My kids went for pancakes, pancakes and (wait for it) pancakes — with a side of bacon. I went for the eggs and hash browns. The hash browns were spot-on — crispy and not at all greasy. And, of key importance, the café had delicious espresso drinks in abundance. Two Sisters also has a lunch menu, which includes kids’ menu staples like PB&J and grilled cheese with a side (chips, veggies or applesauce), as well as paninis and salads for more sophisticated palates.

Directly behind the dining area, with a cut-out window to observe, is the play area. There is a small fee to play, but it is very small ($2 for one child; $3 for two). The main attraction of the play space is a large multi-level climbing structure, complete with ball pit. The structure is meant for kids under 5, but because we were the only ones there at first, the café’s co-owner, Anne, let all my kids play on it. Even with permission, this is probably the last year Grady, age 9, physically could play in it — unless they’re reenacting Jack and the Beanstalk and are short one giant.  

The other toys in the play area, too, are mostly aimed at younger kids. Think lots of Fisher-Price Little People toys, trucks, dress-up clothes and other toys squarely in the toddler sweet spot. Teddy and Clara both had fun — in particular with a few Etch A Sketches and a magnetic dress-up doll — but there were fewer toys that interested Grady.

However, if you are bringing older kids, you’ll be saved by the third room — an art space. You can buy either a blank canvas ($5) or a pre-drawn sketch to color in ($8), and spend as much time as you like creating your masterpiece. Clara and Grady opted to create their own, while Teddy chose to paint a pre-drawn pot of gold and rainbow. The fee includes all the paint you can use as well as the use of a smock. (Although, for my kids, no measly smock can protect their clothes.)

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Of key importance for parents: the bathroom situation. There are two of them, both very clean, with changing tables and emergency diaper supplies, should you run out.  

When we left, close to three hours after arriving, the kids were already clamoring to come back.  They loved the art project, and the license to play with someone else’s toys for awhile. Oh, and the pancakes. Those were pretty great, too. 

Before you go:

Two Sisters Play Café, 11923 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Milwuakie. Monday-Thursday, 7:30 am-5 pm; Friday, 7:30 am-6 pm; Saturday-Sunday, 8 am-3 pm.
503-344-4883, twosistersplaycafe.net.

Check their website, or the kids calendar at pdxparent.com for special events, including performances by some of your favorite local kindie artists. 

Ali Wilkinson is a Portland-based writer, lawyer and mother of three kids (ages 5, 7 and 9). She’s also the co-founder of PDX Kids Calendar. When not scouring Portland for great pancakes, she enjoys running, hiking and exploring Portland with her family.

Ali Wilkinson
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