Head to the new Rose City Book Pub for a read-aloud session with the kiddos, plus a menu built for bookworms.

The famed author of the Narnia series, C.S. Lewis, put it best when he wrote, “Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.”

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That’s the guiding philosophy behind the new Rose City Book Pub, which opened in early November along a supremely kid-friendly stretch of Northeast Fremont Street. Within a few blocks, you’ll find A Children’s Place Bookstore, Irving Park’s cool playground and water feature, Beanstalk Children’s Resale, a Multnomah County Library branch and a Whole Foods.

Owner Elise Schumock’s cozy new spot opened just in time for the rainy season, when gray days are meant to be whiled away while cuddled up with a book and a hot drink, be it a hot toddy or a hot chocolate.

The first thing you notice when you walk in are, naturally, the books. Floor to ceiling built-in shelves are all over the space, stacked with old favorites, and new treasures to discover, about 7,000 books in total, in all different genres. All the books are for sale, and all are from Schumock’s personal and family collection, save for the kids’ section, which she hand-picked for the store. You’re welcome to browse while waiting for your food and while enjoying your drinks (just not while you’re eating, unless you’ve already bought and paid for the book).

The kiddos with me headed straight for the bright, spacious kid nook at the front of the book pub, which has everything from board books for the littlest customers to picture book favorites including the Fancy Nancy canon and Larry Gets Lost in Portland. There’s also a bin of tween-focused chapter books — we found the graphics-heavy Big Nate series, and an original edition of Babysitter’s Club Number 1, by Ann M. Martin, Kristy’s Great Idea.

The menu is similarly accessible. If you’re just looking for a nibble, there’s a “snacks” section for $3 apiece, including cheese and crackers, apples and peanut butter, hummus and carrot sticks, or ants on a log (peanut butter and raisins atop celery sticks, for the uninitiated). Everything on the kids’ menu is just $4, including a peanut butter and jelly sammie, a grilled cheese, or plain buttered noodles; you could round that out with a fresh fruit sampler, for $5. For grown-ups and heartier appetites, there’s a puckery chopped salad laced with fresh mozzarella and salami for $10, and a vegan, gluten-free quinoa bowl served with roasted veggies and housemade chimichurri for $12, among other options. As befits a pub, there’s a big selection of well-priced beers on tap, too. (No coffee though, which seems like a bit of an oversight.)

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The kids stuck to simple, oozy grilled cheese/tomato soup combos — I appreciated that the sandwiches came on white, wheat or sourdough — and we settled into a cozy booth surrounded by books. Note that, at least on the Sunday afternoon when we were there, the noise level was, if not library quiet, then certainly a low, pleasant hum, conducive to quiet reading. If your crew is up for a raucous conversation, you might be better off elsewhere.

Schumock said she plans a slew of family-friendly events in the future, including collaborations with A Children’s Place (think readings at the bookstore, then snacktime and performances at the book pub) and an after-school homework club.

This concept seems like such a perfect fit for the Northwest, it’s surprising that no one has thought of it yet. After all, good meals and good books are two great tastes that go great together, especially on a windy, rainy, winter’s day. Just ask C.S. Lewis.

If you go: Rose City Book Pub, 1329 NE Fremont St., rosecitybookpub.com.
Open 11 am-2 am every day (minors welcome until 9 pm).

Julia Silverman
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