Even the renderings are charming. Image via Dunn and Hobbes.

I’m not sure what’s more exciting—that Volunteer Park Cafe's Ericka Burke is opening a new restaurant, or that we finally know of at least one occupant of the Chophouse Row project taking shape near 11th and Pike. 

Burke technically has two new projects in the works. Chop Shop Cafe and Bar will be front and center in the project's actual namesake, a former auto garage, most recently home to the Chophouse Studios rehearsal space for musicians.

The restaurant will do breakfast, lunch and dinner in a space with stunning 22-foot ceilings, says Burke. Days will start European-style, with a breakfast spread of granola, yogurt, fruits, scones, fresh juices, and four types of toast awaiting adornment with butter and preserves. Lunchtime is about salads and sandwiches, and while Burke is still devising the seasonal dinner menu, she says the building's history has compelled her to do a signature chop, be it a ribeye for two or a double-cut pork chop. Other details are still being finalized—no surprise considering the building itself is currently a shell. Chop Shop won't be ready until the fall.

Just beyond the restaurant (the actual address is 1424 11th Avenue) you’ll find Chop Shop Juice and Provisions, which will sell seasonal juices pressed fresh onsite, as well as readymade sandwiches or pints of, say, quinoa salad for takeaway. 

These two new projects establish Burke as an anchor tenant of what promises to be one of the year’s coolest projects. Influential Capitol Hill developer Dunn + Hobbes is giving the Chophouse Studios a most intriguing makeover. The building’s façade will be mostly preserved, though a grotty little alley on the building’s left side will be expanded into a sort of hidden open-air courtyard that includes a row of shops and restaurants. I lucked into a construction worker on a cigarette break who explained the whole layout to me. Capitol Hill Seattle blog has a good explanation. Burke says she ended up here in part because she's a huge fan of preservation-minded developer Liz Dunn, who also worked on Melrose Market.

It seems strange to think of Burke in a space other than Volunteer Park Cafe’s sunny corner, where kids and parents share French toast or roast chicken against a backdrop of stately old homes. Chop Shop's block occupies the thrumming, gritty opposite of the Capitol Hill spectrum. Burke says she wants to give residents of the area's quickly multiplying apartment complexes a community space that doesn't yet exist over here. "We'll take our philosophy at Volunteer Park Cafe and drop it into Pike/Pine."

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