We've had a few nice breakfasts at Brunswick's Code Black Coffee so figured we'd give their new North Melbourne branch a go on our way to the Queen Victoria Markets. It's another warehouse refit, although this younger sibling lets in more light and offers some cheery splashes of colour. With a bare floor, high-energy tunes and enough customers for a wait list, it's loud. The menu is shorter and lacks the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free symbols that so impressed us in Brunswick. Instead there's just some small text suggesting you "chat to your server". Gluten-free bread is available, and it looks like vegans might be constrained to salad.
After a brief wait in the sun, we were seated at a small table on the mezzanine level. Michael cooled down with an iced latte ($4.50). From there we were in for a bit of a wait for food, though our waiter did regular rounds topping up our water.
Michael ordered black beans with a fried egg, jalapeno and cheese cornbread and grilled lime ($12). He found the cornbread a little dry and lacking in cheese, but deemed the plate good value.
The heat held me back from the salted apple caramel hotcakes and I trialled the seasonal fruit plate ($12), which was interspersed with coconut cream and cinnamon maple coconut chips. Code Black earn points for pulling together something varied and vegan-friendly, but didn't match the sophisticated fruit breakfasts I've enjoyed at Wide Open Road.
Although the veg options seem fewer than at Code Black Brunswick, they also seem a little cheaper. Our experience here didn't impress me as deeply as the neighbouring Elceed and Twenty & Six cafes, but the service was chirpy and the food was pleasant. I might still make room for those hotcakes next time I'm headed to market.
The Howard St outlet of Code Black has already gotten the nod on hungrycookie, Simple Palates, Seriously, Poppet's Window, Coffee in Melbourne, confessions of a little piggy and Brunch Addict; a few flaws are noted on The Brunch Journal.
Code Black Coffee
119 Howard St, North Melbourne
Accessibility: The ground level is flat and spacious, while the mezzanine involves narrow stairs, crowded seats and backless stools. We ordered at our table and paid at a low counter. We didn't visit the toilets.