Here’s some O. Henry-level classic irony for you: I love breakfast, but I’m not a morning person. I know, I know—it’s a tragedy. I’m not asking for your pity, though. Two months ago, you bet I’d want you to cry for me. But now, Blackheart exists: a punk and rock bar where it’s always brunch.
“Brunch” is one of the least punk words in the English language—less punk even than like “annuities” or “Javanka.” It’s hard to imagine any of the people whose pictures adorn the walls of Blackheart—David Lee Roth, the Cramps, David Bowie—even saying the word, much less sipping a mimosa in daylight hours and throwing back eggs sardou with some pals.
And yet what is more punk-as-fuck than breakfast for dinner? Its baseline contradiction aggressively flaunts centuries if not millennia of tradition, and calling it “brunch” is a perfect middle finger to polite society. Especially because Blackheart is very good at brunch. And not some fancy new twist on brunch, but an honest-to-god traditional brunch menu.
Blackheart is an extreme mix of old and slightly less old Portland. Sure, the bar is a paean to a time when a snarling counterculture still felt possible—a sign above the bathroom sink says, “Employees must carve Slayer into their arms before returning to work”—but also to the days of extra-sweet cocktails full of fruit purée and intensely infused liquor. This place has bourbon-infused maple syrup and maple-infused bourbon whiskey on the menu. (You actually have to be 21 to get the bourbon syrup on your pancakes.)
And Jell-O shots. They call them “Biafra shots,” which is the single most satisfying thing a Portland bar has done this year ($2). There’s also a cheap shot and a beer named for legendary Portland band Dead Moon, and a considerably brunchier shot and a beer called Agent Orange: maple-infused Bulleit with an OJ back, with a wedge of vegan waffle and cold slice of candied bacon in the whiskey glass for garnish ($8).
The punkest thing about Blackheart is how often they’re out of things on the menu. On a recent visit, both the Jell-O shots and the maple Bulleit were MIA, but they happily subbed in unmapled Dickel rye in the Agent Orange. I’ll say this: straight whiskey on a waffle will mess you up more than a basement metal show.(One new-Portland thing has snuck into Blackheart, though it feels in line with both the wild abandon of punk rock and the deeply stony 2 am waffle: CBD soda. There is something really satisfying about middle aged rockers drinking Ablis while DJs play deep punk cuts on vinyl in the corner.)
Blackheart, it should be said, opens at 10 am every day. They have a great elevated patio, and minors are allowed until the evening—so for most of its operating hours, the place is actually a punk- and rock-themed brunch restaurant. But it’s after dark, after a night (or a day, or three) of reckless, anarchic drinking that Blackheart’s potential is finally clear: It’s the comedown.
Even when the bar is packed, the DJ set rowdy, and the mimosas flowing, you sort of know you’re going to have to head home to bed after you finish your Gorilla Biscuit—a densely flaked buttermilk biscuit under bacon, gravy, and a hunk of crispy fried chicken. Classics like pancakes with seasonal fruit, a fried chicken benedict, eggs sardou with creamed spinach and artichoke, or a pesto egg scrambler round out the breakfasty end of brunch, and there’s a BLT and even a brunch burger—with eggs, bacon, and a mapley sweetness—on the lunchier end. (The burger comes with a side of hash browns, which is a delight at any hour.)
The least new-Portland thing about Blackheart is the pricing: Nothing’s going to cost more than $10, except the $12 shrimp and grits if you’re real fancy.
Oh, and yes, there’s chicken and waffles. At happy hour, there’s even a $6 chicken and waffle sandwich you have no excuse not to eat. It’s not to be missed for fans of crispy sweet and savory, and if you’re vegan, don’t worry: The waffles are all vegan, and Blackheart’s chicken-fried tofu has the same satisfyingly salty crunchified batter as the chicken. In fact, you can order any dish “Dag Nasty style” and smother it with either sausage or vegan-sausage gravy for $2. (There’s even a gluten-free toast option, because that’s what punk is now.)
Partly because it’s so clearly not trying to keep up with the times, Blackheart already, not quite two months in, feels set in stone: The dishes are classics, and each drink feels like some very particular person’s favorite thing. But keep an eye out for specials, like a recent brunch of mac and cheese with bacon lardons, an egg on top, and—be still my barely beating heart—a bread crumb and hash brown topping. It’s clear Blackheart still has plenty of tricks up its torn-off sleeves.