By way of introduction, Chuck’s Hop Shop offers an assessment of the most unusual order: Its critique of its own food is harsher than any Yelp review.
At the bar, some beer snacks posted on the wall are described as “crappy.” And over the phone, owner Chuck Shin told me not to expect much if I wanted to eat well.
“I wanted to be honest that we don’t have restaurant-quality food,” he explained. “But we need to serve something for people to munch on. When you have low expectations, it’s easy to please people.”
Managing expectations aside, you need to build up a lot of goodwill or a loyal following to pull that stunt and still expect folks to come.
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And boy, do they come. Since opening in mid January at the corner of 20th Avenue and East Union Street, Chuck’s Hop Shop has become the most popular hang out in the Central District, with hipsters and hop heads yapping nonstop about Chuck’s and its 50 taps of beer.
Shin has built a cult following since he opened the first Chuck’s in Greenwood four years ago. It’s a convenience store with IPAs on tap. His patrons would drag mismatched chairs together to chat or to plop down after walking their dogs. They would scour aisle two for a bag of pistachios or Tim’s chips near the counter.
The unpretentious, neighborly vibe connected with the community, and it became a popular watering hole in North Seattle. It didn’t matter that Chuck’s didn’t have a kitchen to make fries or any interesting pub grub. That only added to the charm of the place.
In the last two years, Shin has been looking to add another location. There’s been giddy anticipation with adults acting like school kids, raising their hands online, “Ooh, pick me, pick my neighborhood!”
If you didn’t know that back story and wandered in, you might be disappointed. Chuck’s Hop Shop in the Central District looks like a mess hall with a day-care center. A section is designated as a kid’s play area with walls of chalkboards and ice cream for sale. Adults gather around the rows of communal tables, lined up like a school cafeteria, and come to think of it, there have been a few PTA-like meet ups and teachers’ meetings held here. (A 60-seat patio will be ready by late spring.)
The Central District Chuck’s is technically a beer store, with a thousand different bottles and cans in coolers lined up along the walls.
The beer geeks sit near or at the bar and eye the big electronic board as if it were the stock exchange. This is serious stuff. Boneyard’s Hop Venom, Crux Fermentation Project and local favorites such as Standard Brewing’s Imperial IPA have sold out within hours.
It’s pointless to focus on any one beer since Chuck’s goes through so many kegs every week. But the lineup features lots of big, bitter beers — 10 to 15 IPAs, along with ciders and local brews.
A rotating roster of 10 food trucks park out front. If you get the munchies when a truck isn’t around, there’s always that “crappy” menu of chips and salsa, pretzels with cheese dip and other snacks you would find in your son’s dorm room. For something substantial, someone behind the bar can throw a bratwurst on the panini press. My advice: Wait for the food truck.
Chuck’s Central District Hop Shop, 2001 E. Union St., opens noon-midnight Monday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday through Sunday. Check Web for food-truck schedule (206-538-0743 or
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle