A taco joint with one of the humblest starts on Capitol Hill is ready for yet another Seattle expansion. The good news for fans of Tacos Chukis: This one is within walking distance.
“It’s a community we’d love to be part of,” Chukis owner Beto Salmeron tells CHS about the early plans for a late summer opening of a new Central District Tacos Chukis at 23rd and Union.
Tacos Chukis, born on Broadway in 2011 and known for its affordable and near perfect street-style tacos, will be taking on a relatively massive restaurant space in The Central, the first of a wave of development around 23rd and Union from Lake Union Partners. The apartment building is also home to e-bike dealership Electric Lady and coffee shop + hair salon Squirrel Chops. The project opened in 2016 but the quest to fill its large, anchor tenant-style restaurant space has been a long one with more than a few big players bowing out along the way.
Salmeron says the space is larger than he would have had normally taken on but the ongoing growth of Tacos Chukis means the small chain could use a better headquarter kitchen facility. At 23rd and Union, architects Graham Baba are designing an around 50-seat restaurant and a commissary kitchen to help the growing Tacos Chukis keep on top of its adobada and grilled pineapple-filled needs.
Working with the all-star Seattle food+drink space designers at Graham Baba is a big change from the early days of Tacos Chukis. In 2013, we wrote about its first expansion of its original home inside the Broadway Alley. By 2016, Salmeron joined the rush to feed Amazonians in South Lake Union — “The South Lake Union area is growing so much. I just wanted to have a voice in there,” Salmeron said. Today, Tacos Chukis’s latest expansion is to another Hill-adjacent neighborhood — though unlike the coming Central District shop, you can’t walk there. Tacos Chukis Beacon Hill opened in December and is only a few minutes away from the Broadway original via light rail. And, yes, you can still get a taco for $1.90.
The Beacon Hill opening and Central District plans continue a quest from Salmeron to be in neighborhoods he identifies with and feels connected to — “just be part of Seattle,” he says. It started, of course, on Capitol Hill. “Capitol Hill — My goal from the start was to be there,” Salmeron said, “where everything was happening.”
The competition and costs were daunting. “People were telling me to stay away,” he said.
There is, apparently, room on Capitol Hill for a taco joint on every corner. Take that, Donald Trump. A new one is set to open any day now on 19th Ave E with Rocket Taco ready to settle into its new home in the old Kingfish Cafe space.
Meanwhile, Chukis now employs around 40 people across three restaurants with a fourth on the way. Salmeron said owning a small restaurant chain in 2018 Seattle continues to be rewarding. He’s happy with the city’s direction on wages and labor rights. “I’m all for it. I got lucky,” he said. “I’m all for good pay.” Salmeron does worry about how the past decade of growth and increasing costs might make it more difficult for somebody like him to start from zero today. “I’m continually trying to grow and I’m worried for small mom and pops,” he said. “I can’t envision me trying to do what I did seven years ago now.”
Tacos Chukis Central District is planned to open after a summer of construction at 2203 E Union. You can check out facebook.com/TacosChukis for updates.
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