Add another tenant to Chophouse Row. And it’s a biggie: a second restaurant from Volunteer Park Cafe owner Ericka Burke. It’s called Chop Shop, the anchor of what’s shaping up to be one of the coolest collection of food destinations since Melrose Market. Service begins today at 1424 11th Ave between Pike and Union.
When Burke first considered making a foray into Pike/Pine, her priority was transplanting VPC's signature intimate neighborhood feel into perhaps the city's most trend-buffeted dining zone. But where VPC is cozy, Chop Shop soars, with 22-foot ceilings and mezzanine seating above. Many of the 67 seats are gathered around one of two communal tables. That's not by accident. "That's kind of my thing," says Burke of communal dining. "Eat and share food and talk to one another."
The space itself is a combination of the original Chophouse Studios, a historic former rehearsal space for musicians, in front and newer construction in back. It's gorgeous but came with a few logistical challenges, like the walk-in cooler forming a bulky island in the middle of the room. How to camouflage such a thing? Just add the former entryway from a century-old apartment building in Belltown and, voila--it's the bar. And a massive focal point, one of multiple feminine touches in a fairly industrial room. The wallpaper is festooned with birds and walls are hung with vintage cheese graters and other touches reminiscent of Burke's other spot.
Similarly, the name sounds like a brawny steakhouse, though it's really a nod to the building's musical past. There will always be a chop of some sort on the menu; while Burke predicts the current double pork chop will be a star player, her chef Joseph Bollag has readied equal measures of meaty entrees (grilled octopus, bavette steak) and vegetable creations (purple kohlrabi with chiles, basil, and peanuts, hen of the woods mushrooms with fava beans, pancetta, and an egg).
Because it’s Ericka Burke, pastries are a big deal too. Emily Crain, who’s been running the program at VPC since 2011 is now installed here, making morning fare like scones, stratas, bundt cakes, and her morning buns, plus desserts for the restaurant.
Reclaimed architectural elements are great, but the best part of Chop Shop's bar is the person behind it: Anna Wallace, maker of her own line of excellent celery soda and orange pop, as well as absolutely lovely cocktails. Wallace has known Burke since their days at Oddfellows Cafe; her drinks here all have musical names in honor of Chophouse's history. Maybe Chop Shop and Tom Douglas's new musically inclined Carlile Room can have some sort of musical drink off?
Around back, behind the bar, Chop Shop also has a sidekick juice, coffee, pastry, and takeaway counter, next to the future home of Bar Ferd'nand's second outpost. Though it's not visible from the street, neighbors can easily get to the counter (official name: Chop Shop Juice and Provisions) via the building's main entrance. It will open soon, along with a little mercantile in the back corner of the restaurant that sounds a lot like Burke's new Canal Market in Portage Bay. The restaurant even has some outdoor seating along its north wall in the mews, aka the world's most picturesque, light-strung alley.
Right now it's dinner only, but Chop Shop will eventually add breakfast (a help-yourself spread in the style of Europe) and lunch, so you can theoretically hang out all day. The restaurant joins Kurt Timmermeister's great little ice creamery, Kurt Farm Shop, but by the end of the year, Matt Dillon and Marc Papineau's Bar Ferd'nand and Sara Naftaly's cafe Amandine will join them.