Capitol Hill food+drink | Volunteer Park Cafe’s Burke at center of Liz Dunn’s next Pike/Pine marketplace

The future Chophouse Row

The future Chophouse Row

The communal table at Volunteer Park Cafe (Image: VPC)

The communal table at Volunteer Park Cafe (Image: VPC)

A project that will create a new “daytime Melrose Market” in the heart of Pike/Pine will open this fall with a familiar face in Capitol Hill food and drink at its core.

“Years ago, Liz asked if I was interested in Melrose,” Volunteer Park Cafe’s Ericka Burke tells CHS. “Life is just about timing.”

The future plans for developer Liz Dunn’s under-construction Chophouse Row restaurant, retail and office space project have come sharply into focus. Last week, CHS told you about the biggest name of the bunch signing on for one of the project’s tiniest spaces as farm-to-table legend Kurt Timmermeister will open his Kurt Farm Shop along the project’s retail plaza and pedestrian alley — described as “an open market configuration along the street, alley and courtyard.”

Volunteer Park Cafe’s Burke will be front and center in the Chophouse plan. Her Chop Shop Cafe and Bar will front the project’s street level entrance on 11th Ave and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in the midst of the bustling development.

Screen-shot-2013-03-17-at-8.09.30-PMShe says she hopes to bring the community and energy of VPC into the preservation-friendly development.

“That’s what I’m hoping to bring to that part of Capitol Hill — that third place,” Burke said. “There’s going to be a real vibrant daytime presence.”

There will also be DIY toast.

Burke said Chop Shop’s vibe and style of food will be very much related to what she has created at VPC in terms of simplicity. The dinner menu is still being worked out but expect a signature chop in honor of the building — a double cut pork chop for two, served family style. Unlike Volunteer Park Cafe, Chop Shop will also have a full bar with cocktails that Burke said will also be kept simple and with emphasis on fresh ingredients. Your day might start at the giant butcher at a breakfast buffet, with toast-your-own toast, butter and preserves, rotating fruit, and fresh-squeezed juice. Salads and sandwiches will be your lunch.

Burke will also play a role in the community of merchants taking up residence with Timmermeister inside the Chophouse Row. There she will tap into her own New York City-era of food and drink development to create a counter juice bar perfect for the office workers above to drop by before mornings of meetings and conference calls.

Inside Melrose Market -- the project is an example of some of the best "preservation of authenticity" on Capitol Hill

Inside Melrose Market — the project is an example of some of the best “preservation of authenticity” on Capitol Hill

“The juice component — I started my career in the 90s in Manhattan with a juice place called Sweet Potato — I just started thinking about doing it again,” Burke says. “I’m excited to do it in a way that’s more accessible and delicious and happens to be healthy.” The cafe will have rotating fresh juices and “grab-and-go” items. Expect to see some of that fresh juice to make into Chop Shop cocktails, too.

Typical of Dunn’s work, the Chophouse project will be dominated by reclaimed materials including wood, concrete and steel in the portion of the development made up by the old Chophouse rehearsal building that dates back to Pike/Pines auto row past. A 75-foot-tall office building with a couple penthouse living spaces on top will rise above. Burke said she wants her Graham Baba-designed space to bring some feminine character to all that reclaimed “masculinity.” Look for tiles behind an open kitchen, counter seating and, yes, a enormous communal table, all under a 22-foot ceiling. We predict exposed beams.

Burke’s investment on 11th Ave comes after successfully weathering a storm of challenges with neighbors at Volunteer Park Cafe’s location in the middle of single family homes in the north of Capitol Hill. Heather Earnhardt, who helped found Volunteer Park Cafe, also left to open 15th Ave E’s Wandering Goose. We talked to Burke last year as she settled into a VPC that was finally free to relax a little and take care of some long-needed upgrades. Meanwhile, Melrose Market opened in 2010 — ultimately without Burke who said she would have been stretched much too thin to join the project — and has grown into a nationally recognized example of preservation-friendly, locally focused development.

Chophouse Row now stands poised to be yet another example — this time, in Pike/Pine. Its Chop Shop won’t be the first time Burke was on hand to shape an ambitious daytime cafe experience in this part of Capitol Hill. Burke was an original partner in Linda Derschang’s Oddfellows Cafe and integral to its creation before her split with the project shortly after it opened in 2009.

Burke, second from right, and her Volunteer Park crew (Image: VPC)

Burke, second from right, and her Volunteer Park crew (Image: VPC)

As if nailing down two concepts inside the new development isn’t enough, Burke said she also was presented with the opportunity to take a little more space alongside the juice bar component for a small mercantile, “beyond provisions,” she said. The small shop will be “more kitchen mercantile,” Burke said, with useful kitchen tools, etc. For now, the other players in the new spaces haven’t been announced but we’ll keep our ears open for the three or four additional spaces. The retail plaza and pedestrian mews will also open up the back of adjoining businesses along E Pike to new exposure — you’ll get a new view of the Cupcake Royale bakery, for example.

With stability at Volunteer Park Cafe, Burke said she’s ready, again, for building something new in Pike/Pine.

“I’ve been here for seven years, I’ve got great managers in place, It almost runs itself,” she said of the 18th and Galer cafe.”It has given me wings to make this.”

Capitol Hill food+drink notes

  • When we reported that Tango and Rumba’s Travis Rosenthal was taking over Panevino, we speculated he might transition his back-burnered plans for cafe by day, bar by night Corretto to Broadway. Rosenthal tells us that he’s decided to make it so and is bringing in some talented folks to make it happen.  Chef Kelvin Morales from Tango/Rumba is working on the menu changes, Rosenthal says, and Gretchen Allen, formerly of La Spiga, has joined as manager. “She lives a few blocks from Corretto and is looking forward to meeting the neighbors,” Rosenthal writes. He says yet another familiar face in the neighborhood will be helping out as Patric Gabre-Kidan comes on to help re-work the back bar. CHS wrote about Rosenthal’s original plans for a lower Pike/Pine Corretto here. Rosenthal says the changes will happen over the next month as new signage goes up and the overhaul takes place night by night. Corretto will be open through it all so stop in if you want to see the change happening in person and, Rosenthal hopes, provide feedback.
  • Speaking of Gabre-Kidan, the busy man and his partners opened The Rhino Room quietly last week at 11th and Pine.
  • Mezcaleria Oaxaca Capitol Hill, freshly opened on E Pine, is already ramping up for brunch:

    A sampling of the brunch menu includes: Torta de Jamon, toasted bolillo bread with ham, lettuce, tomato and onion; Huevos Rancheros, eggs over easy with ranchero sauce, beans and rice; Memelitas, fresh tortillas with black bean sauce, pork gravy, Oaxaqueño cheese and salsa; and Enfrijoladas, tortillas covered in black bean sauce with marinated pork steak, onions and Oaxaqueño cheese. 

  • Three Oaxacan restaurants now operate on Capitol Hill. And yes, there are ties.
  • Still, Rancho Bravo burritos are worth a fight.
  • Capitol Hill is home to the 19th best bartender in America, says these guys. Guess who!

    As beverage director for both XXX and XXX, XXXX XXXXXXX doesn’t hide his bias to Italian wines, citing Fruili as his favorite white varietal and admitting there’s always a special place in his heart for Barbaresco. Besides the endless pasta he gets to eat, XXXXXX says what he loves most about his job are the staff karaoke nights. “It’s basically a requisite to work for XXXXX XXXXXXXX,” XXXXXX says. “I don’t know a better stress relief than beer, tequila, and singing ’90s R&B.”

  • An interview with a bartender at Q. An interview with a bartender at the DeLuxe.
  • Next Tuesday the 18th, go to Liberty, get a cocktail inspired by what you’re reading. Time for Book Lush.
  • The Comet should be re-opened by the end of March. The Stranger writers and some music folk reminisce about the good bad old days.

    The Comet -- reopening soon. More construction pics here

    The Comet — reopening soon. More construction pics here

  • The Seattle Street Food Festival will return to Capitol Hill for its second year on 11th Ave this summer. Plan is to make it bigger (two days) and better (shorter lines + tons of shopping thanks to Urban Craft Uprising).
  • Cafe Presse’s roasted whole chicken makes it into this 8 Biggest Hunks of Meat in Seattle listicle.
  • Stumptown 12th Ave: “Cycle accommodations: Ample quantity, direct visual observation”
  • Some new voices from Capitol Hill’s food and drink businesses spoke up at last week’s City Council hearing on raising the minimum wage:

    Tamara Murphy, owners of Terra Plata and Elliott Bay Cafe said layoffs would happen in restaurants across city if tip credits were not included in a new ordinance.

  • Speaking of tips, what’s it take to become a “career barista” on Capitol Hill? CHS reveals.

This week’s CHS food+drink advertiser directory

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