Tracy Olson: Baker

Owner of Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery

When Tracy Olson opened Random Order Coffee- house & Bakery in 2004, she had a lot more in mind than a simple coffee shop. With a background in law, Olson had spent a lot of time working with environmental groups and nonprofits while also moonlighting in the restaurant business and focusing on her artwork—experiences that all played a role in her vision for the cafe. “I wanted to create a space that could cultivate community. That was a big priority for me,” Olson explains. “I had worked with a lot of farmers and artists and nonprofits, and so I tried to cultivate an environment where all those people could come together and feel relaxed enough to be inspired.”

Nine years later, Olson’s vision for a community-minded space has manifested itself as the staple of the Alberta Arts District that Random Order is today. But along the way, the cafe also became something that Olson did not originally anticipate: a destination for pie. While Olson has always offered a number of pastries at her cafe and focused on providing, in her words, “simple food, made really well,” it wasn’t long after opening that she realized that her pies were a customer favorite by a landslide. “People just love them. It’s ridiculous!” she laughs. But Olson does understand the appeal. “Pie is unpretentious, it’s simple, and it’s a treat,” she says. “I think it speaks a lot to what’s going on with folks these days.” There is, of course, also the added bonus that customers who enjoy Random Order’s pies don’t have to bake them themselves. “Pie can be difficult to make,” Olson notes. “Even though it’s a simple concept, to make a pie well it takes a lot of time and talent.”

These days, Random Order offers 15 to 18 different sweet and savory pies daily in addition to soups, salads, sandwiches, drinks, and cocktails. Pie options range from peren- nial favorites like chicken pot pie, cherry pie, and chocolate cream pie, to creative twists on the classics like the cafe’s Catalan vegetable pie, brandied peach pie, and the popular salted caramel  apple. This  summer,  in addition to all its staples, Random Order’s seasonal pies will include nectarine raspberry, gingered plum, and boozed-up berry.

A reflection of her original vision, Olson works with local farmers whenever possible, sourcing  ingredients for her pies from vendors like Old World Apple Farm (an organic, heritage apple farm in Ridgefield, Washington), Portland’s own New Deal  Distillery and Tails & Trotters.  Random Order is also an avid supporter of various local nonprofits including Disjecta, p:ear, PICA, Friends of Trees, and Sisters of the Road.

Random  Order  is open daily.  Wholesale and catering options are also available.

About The Author: Katie Mitchell