“I’ve got friends from Guatemala and Costa Rica in there,” says the bearded man with a twangy Australian accent, pointing to a coffee grinder. That’s Nolan Hirte, the excitable roaster behind NE Alberta Street’s sleek Proud Mary, talking about farmers. Hirte meticulously sources beans from around the globe—and he’s an import himself. In coffee-obsessed Melbourne, the original Proud Mary enjoys a cult following. Portland is Hirte’s first stateside outpost.
The house blend can stand up to the best local efforts, but it’s the least ambitious edge of this venture, which doubles as a fancy brunch destination serving Aussie-inflected fare and a cupping bar brewing flights of coffees so rare some aren’t available anywhere else in the US. The sprawling, sun-drenched space vibes like Kinfolk got coffee-drunk at a dive bar.
At Proud Mary, “hash” means an addictive stack of crisp potato cakes, the thickest bacon, and poached eggs pooled in anchovy-amped cream sauce. “Coffee” can be a $10 wine glass of blossom-heady Panamanian Geisha or a Cup of Excellence competition Costa Rican roast that tastes of hot cross buns. (And don’t bus your own table. They are not having it.)
It’s a bit overwhelming for Portlanders used to grabbing a to-go cup of local roast with zero fanfare. But for Hirte and US partner Butch Bannon that’s the goal: service, food, and education equal to the buzzy gold they’re pouring. “Portland made me excited about coffee again,” raves Hirte, who relocated his family here, too. “It’s the first time in 10 years that I’ve had a customer thank me and ask if they could give me a hug after they had breakfast.”