Arts & Culture

Chen's Chinese Village

By David Meinert February 2, 2010

If you've ever driven on Elliot heading in or out of Belltown from or to Ballard, you pass by Chen's Chinese Village. You've seen it a million times, but like most people, have probably not stopped in. Time to change that.

On the outside, Chen's is the rough-but-awesome -ooking 1950's styled building you notice just past The Shanty and Goodyear—and just before Baskin & Robbins (if you're heading North). Inside it gets better. I drove by this place for decades before I went inside, where I found what is now one of my favorite bars in Seattle, not to mention favorite Chinese restaurants.

The bar is small, with room for just one bartender, about 8 stools at the bar, and another dozen or so seats on the floor. Complete with a jukebox (with CD's, which is always a bonus for me—internet Jukeboxes get a big F in my book), and one relatively newish flatscreen. And one pool table, free. Despite some updates (the flatscreen), the decor is still straight from the late 1950's-early 60's.

My bartender Tara was super nice, hot, and worked the regulars sitting around the bar just like regulars deserve. The drinks are stiff and cheap, like a real drinking bar should be. And those regulars have been coming for decades. They're friendly, boisterous, and have great stories. (And reading recommendations. I was told to read Havana Nocturne.)

The "Mayor of Chen's" is Roy, who first came here in 1971, when Chen's was Hope's Hut. He's hanging at the far end of the bar, leaning against the wall; a cheerful, and full of Chen's knowledge. According to Roy, during the World's Fair in '62, Chen's was The Tiki Hut, same clock on the wall.

Chen's happy hour: Monday through Friday, 3-7pm. $2.75 well drinks, $2 domestic beers, and 50 percent off apps, like the platter—a stack of deep fried shrimp, fat potstickers, marinated beef skewers, bbq pork, veggie deep friend spring rolls, and five different sauces, piled around a fiery cauldron.

Aside from the great bar and happy hour, check out Chen's for a big, inexpensive lunch, and they also do delivery (though not the booze unfortunately).

Chen's Chinese Village 544 Elliott Ave W.
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