Two decades of ‘American beer and American comfort food’ at the Hopvine

Bob Brenlin and Michael Congdon in front of Hopvine's evergrowing photo wall (Images: CHS)

Bob Brenlin, left, and Michael Congdon in front of Hopvine’s evergrowing photo wall (Images: CHS)

WP_20150312_004Bob Brenlin loves to talk about beer. He has spent nearly three decades in the business of selling suds as a co-owner of three pubs in Seattle, including 15th Ave East’s Hopvine, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2015.

When he opened the Hopvine in September 1995, he had already been running the Latona Pub in Green Lake since 1987 (the third pub is the Fiddler’s Inn in Wedgwood), so he had time to get the business model down. When he opened, he said he hoped to accomplish two goals.

“We wanted to be part of a local community, a nice neighborhood, and introduce them to interesting craft beer,” he said.

Brenlin has no sense of how many different beers he’s been able to introduce to the neighborhood over the years, but with 12 ever-rotating taps multiplied by 20 years, the number is well into the thousands. In particular, all of his pubs feature what he called “creative, hop-forward” beers, particularly IPAs which he called the perennial best sellers from all of the craft breweries.

Brenlin always tried to focus on breweries from Washington and Oregon, he said, and it has been fun watching the number of small breweries grow. When the Hopvine opened, there were around 12 craft breweries in the state, now there’s more than 200 with more added regularly, he said. And when one of his bartenders pours one of those beers, Brenlin said they have one goal.

“Try and get the best pint as possible. Try to pour a beer as close to what the brewer intended as possible,” he said. Continue reading

Even the corner stores are getting into the Capitol Hill food+drink boom

It wouldn’t be the first time a scrappy Capitol Hill corner market has set its sights beyond snacks and soft drinks.

Benson’s Grocery, a corner store staple at Bellevue and E Pine Pike, is planning to shrink its market sometime this summer to make way for a new Japanese restaurant inside the shop. According to plans filed with the city, the $500,000 project will include adding a kitchen, dining area, and a restroom.

The move undoubtedly signifies that the Capitol Hill food and drink boom being watched ever so closely by pundits on all sides of the $15 wage debate is as strong as ever — or is about to pop. You choose!

Benson’s owner Hun Lee confirmed the plans with CHS, but declined to reveal specific details on the project. CHS did learn that sushi will be part of the restaurant offerings, but how the paired down market will function remains to be seen. Lee said work would start this summer.

Plans seen by CHS show a sushi bar-like setup added to the back of the current space with restaurant seating to take over the north portion of the store that neighbors the Seattle Eagle gay bar and the E Pike Victrola..

Over the years, Benson’s has been busy finding ways to generate more revenue out of the neighborhood bodega. At one point, a large advertising banner for Oregon’s George Fox University hung above the store. Benson’s again made sign news earlier this year when street artists put up a Starbucks apology banner on the side of the store.

Taking on the likes of La Marzocco, MAVAM Espresso crafting custom machines in Pike/Pine

As one longtime Pike/Pine coffee roaster plans an inter-neighborhood move, a business involved in another aspect of coffee manufacturing is making its debut just down the block.

“I wanted to build a machine that was designed by a technician, not an engineer”

Two well-established espresso experts quietly launched their custom commercial espresso machine business MAVAM Espresso last month underneath Vermillion on 11th Ave amid Pike/Pine’s fertile coffee roasting grounds.

MAVAM co-founder Michael Gregory Myers is no stranger to working under the hood of coffee shop espresso machines. He spends his days servicing coffee appliances as the second generation partner of Seattle’s Michaelo Espresso parts and service company.

For two years, Myers has spent his free time in the 11th Ave underground shop building a machine that comes as close as possible to maintaining perfect temperature stability. The key, he says, is ensuring that the machine’s boiler, piping, and head components all maintain an even temperature to ensure maximum consistency pour to pour.

As someone who spends his time servicing machines, Myers said designing an easily serviceable product was also a top priority.

“I wanted to build a machine that was designed by a technician, not an engineer,” he said. Continue reading

The Central District crowd rallies to help E Union pop-up Pocket Bakery build a permanent home

Grunig makes another sale (Image: CHS)

Grunig makes another sale (Image: CHS)

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 2.36.09 PMEvery Saturday for the past nine months you could find Josh Grunig selling a changing array of treats. He sets up shop from 10 AM to 1 PM in Magpie on E Union and 20th in the Central District and uses this very direct interaction with customers to hone his menu and get it “to a truly exemplary place.”

These Saturday morning “pop-ups” have been an opportunity for Grunig not only to expand his menu while helping raise his newborn daughter but also to create relationships with the businesses and residents of the Central District. He wants to give back to the “extremely supportive” neighborhood by providing a delicious food made from sustainably-grown, nutritional, local ingredients.

IMG_8154-600x400But frequent customers want access to his vegan sourdough, croissant-donuts, pistachio shortbread and cinnamon rolls for more than three hours a week, so Grunig has started a fundraiser to put his bakery in a brick-and-mortar home in the Central District.

CHS talked with Grunig last fall as he started his pop-up service. At the time, he was hoping to find a location within a few blocks of Magpie — possibly in new construction coming to the area. “There’s a huge amount of opportunity around Union,” Grunig said. “It’s really an opportunity for me to be in a real neighborhood.”

There appears to be plenty of support for the campaign based on the Community Sourced Capital system of crowdfunding in which investors can provide a no-interest loan to small business owners and organizations $50 at a time. The Pocket fundraiser launched on May 15th, and has already raised more than $8,000 of its $10,000 minimum goal.

The ultimate goal, Grunig says, is to raise “$50k for bakery equipment, furniture and all the small things needed to get open. Every little investment is one step closer to our goal.”

For more information on how to help Grunig get his bakery up and running, visit the Pocket Bakery Community Sourced Capital page.

Capitol Hill food+drink | Soi — the other ambitious restaurant project coming to 10th and Union

OK. We know who the oxpecker is — that’s Soi. But the big water buffalo in the coming soon E Union restaurant’s logo? That could be many things.

When it opens this summer, the ambitious, regionally-focused Thai restaurant will be part of a massive development and preservation project on E Union in the rapidly changing blocks just south of E Pike. Soi will also, some will undoubtedly believe, ride in on the back of the beast of hype that is the unnamed, triple-concepted Renee Erickson project focused on the “flavors of the French Atlantic” it will neighbor.

But the bird and water buffalo for husband and wife restaurateurs Gabe Wiborg and Yuie Helseth are simple representations of the northeastern Thai region of Isan at the center of their plans for Soi’s flavors. And the ambitious space in a major project was what the couple needed to stage their vision of “an exploration through food.”

“We wanted to do a restaurant like Soi in the beginning but Kent wasn’t the right place,” Wiborg said. “We had ambitious visions, ideas, and goals.” Continue reading

Beery good news: Central District’s Standard Brewing announces plans to expand on Jackson

(Image: CHS)

The Standard Brewing crew (Image: CHS)

In March, we stopped by to celebrate two years of the tiny Central District nano brewery:

It’s been 24 months since quietly opening the door at 25th and Jackson St with 8 taps and about 80 square feet of service area. Since then, we’ve expanded to 13 taps, doubled the space for folks to sit and drink, won a few awards, brewed over 60 different recipes, and shared a lot of good times with the neighborhood.

This week, the brew crew at Standard Brewing announced plans for an expansion that will septuple their beer output and add a bar space for enjoying the creations along with food and cocktails. Co-owner Justin Gerardy said the most important aspect as they planned the expansion was remaining in the Central District. “In our case, space is the constraint, but so are our ideals,” the Standard announcement reads. “Not wanting to leave the neighborhood leaves our options slim, but the choice to keep the brewery relatively small also affords us diversity and an experimental attitude.”

Gerardy said the expansion will play out over the summer with a project to overhaul the brewing facility coming first followed by Standard’s expansion into the neighboring Halal Mart to create space for the bar and kitchen.

Meanwhile, another Central Seattle beer project is moving forward at a deliberate pace on E Union at Broadway. This for the work underway at the under construction Optimism Brewing might be our favorite DPD permit in months:


CHS last checked in here on the Optimism project and its food truck courtyard as we said hello to 12th Ave’s Outer Planet Brewing.

The full Standard Brewing announcement — along with some behind the scenes notes on other locations Standard considered for a move including the former home of Catfish Corner — is below. Continue reading

Dino’s Tomato Pie — a ‘walkable pizza bar’ — to join E Olive Way’s food+drink neighborhood

(Image: King County)

(Image: King County)

The southwest corner of E Olive Way at Denny will not be a vape shop.

Ballard food+drink maven Brandon Pettit will transform the former payday lender at the corner into Dino’s Tomato Pie, a new pizza par featuring thick “square pie” style slices and offering takeout and delivery to the tightly packed, teeming with Capitol Hill humanity blocks of Pine, Olive Way, Howell-Area Triangle POWHat.

“I never thought I’d leave Ballard,” Pettit tells CHS. “It was like Mr. Rogers neighborhood up there. It was just such a nice neighborhood vibe.” Continue reading

‘Well-worn but cozy’ on North Capitol Hill, Roanoke celebrates a 20th anniversary

Chris Price shared this, "the oldest photo I can put my hands on right now - most likely from the late 90's, possibly 2000, since it's pre-liquor. Note the cassette tape rack! And the tall blond guy in the middle is Greg, the regular most everyone would recognize. He died in 2013 and there is a little plaque marking his spot at the bar..." (Image: The Roanoke with permission to CHS)

Chris Price shared this, “the oldest photo I can put my hands on right now – most likely from the late 90’s, possibly 2000, since it’s pre-liquor. Note the cassette tape rack! And the tall blond guy in the middle is Greg, the regular most everyone would recognize. He died in 2013 and there is a little plaque marking his spot at the bar…” (Image: The Roanoke with permission to CHS)

"The original cooler we had until it died in 2015," Price says (Image: The Roanoke with permission to CHS)

“The original cooler we had until it died in 2015,” Price says (Image: The Roanoke with permission to CHS)

The Roanoke isn’t fancy, and it doesn’t try to be. The bar, celebrating 20 years under the ownership of Chris and Jeff Price with a big 10th Ave E party Saturday, goes for more of a comfortable, living room vibe.

“It’s well-worn but cozy, like your favorite pair of tennis shoes,” Chris Price tells CHS.

The Prices took over in May of 1995. Jeff had been working for his parents at the now closed Factoria Pub. That place had a change of ownership, and Jeff didn’t fit with the new owners, so he left to find new opportunities, as Chris Price tells it. They had some connections to the broker selling the Roanoke, and the couple looked at it and snapped it up.

Roanoke 20th Anniversary Party
Saturday, May 16th 5 PM
Roanoke celebrates its 20th year with raffles, grilling, and special deals on drinks!

Since then, Chris Price said, they’ve tried to keep it much like it was back then, outside of repainting the place 10 or 15 years ago. She said some actually criticize the place for being on the dingy side in some spots, but it doesn’t bother her.

“That’s probably true, but we like it that way,” Continue reading

Capitol Hill food+drink | Niche ‘100% dedicated’ gluten free cafe and bakery coming to 12th Ave

What happens when a pastry chef goes paleo? Food and drink entrepreneur Toby Matasar is opening Niche, a “gluten free cafe and bakery” on 12th Ave in a small space sandwiched between a Taco del Mar and a Starbucks across from Seattle University.

The pastry chef and owner of West Seattle’s Eats Market Cafe says she changed her own diet two years ago — “I literally felt like I was given a new body within a week of eating this way and I’ve never looked back, only forward” — and now has created Niche, a cafe and market “100% dedicated” to providing gluten free food and drink. Matasar says she hopes to have created “a haven not just for those looking to eat less gluten but for those who want to eat fantastic foods that happen to be gluten free.” The goal is to be open by the end of June.

Still known for her four years working as a pastry chef with Tom Douglas, Matasar tells CHS she lived on Capitol Hill “many moons ago” after college. Following an East Coast stint, she returned to Seattle but settled in West Seattle. “There’s always been a place in my heart for Capitol Hill since that’s where I first fell in love with living in Seattle which is what brought me back here.” Continue reading

Hello Robin, mother of the Mackles’more

By Dominique Etzel, University of Washington News Lab – Special to CHS

The doors are swung open in the morning and excited eyes ogle the cookies fresh out of the oven at Capitol Hill cookie bakery Hello Robin.

Habanero orange is a daring, fan-favorite flavor. The sweet smell of sugar cookies is wafted through the Tiffany-blue room and bakery owner Robin Wehl Martin smiles.

“It smells like my grandma,” she says.

The bakery is homey. The kitchen looks much like her own, she says, with a large communal table where customers can sit and talk with bellies full of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Next to the cookies sits a freezer full of Molly Moon’s homemade ice cream flavors. The two sweet treats combine to create a delectable ice cream cookie sandwich.

Good guidance from the beginning — leave room for a line, and find the perfect location — was part of the secret to Wehl Martin’s recipe. Along with a touch of luck and a lot of research. Now Wehl Martin has seen the success of owning a small business for a year and a half while creating a space for the neighborhood to gather. Continue reading