John Howie’s lack of buzz

A thought has been bouncing around my head since a book signing at John Howie’s Sport Restaurant in lower Queen Anne; why is it that this chef, who has four very high-profile restaurants in the Seattle area, have absolutely no buzz?

I will admit, it’s been years since I’ve been to any of John Howie‘s restaurants, so I can’t fairly comment on the food or experience. But something must be working. He has four restaurants; SeaStar in Bellevue, SeaStar Seattle, Sport Restaurant in lower Queen Anne, and the recently opened John Howie Steak at the Bravern in Bellevue. And these aren’t little neighborhood bistros. These are massive 20,000 square foot dining palaces, so he obviously has a formula that works. But with the opening of John Howie Steak, I wouldn’t have been tipped off to it, if it weren’t for the TV commercials. Commercials for local restaurants! Weird, but effective; it has me talking.

For me though, Chef Howie’s newly opened place still didn’t resonate with anticipation. Maybe it has something to do with a big part of fooders being in Seattle while he carved his niche in Bellevue, but from my perch, he doesn’t resonate to the local food community in the way that Tom Douglas, Ethan Stowell, Matt Dillon, or Tamara Murphy all have. When those folks open new places, the information is absorbed and shared ad nauseum. They become a part of conversation.

But this is not the case with any of Chef Howie’s spots. I think, if anything, it cuts to the differences between Seattle and Bellevue. The food culture (and culture in general) is different between Seattle and the Eastside. The divide that Lake Washington creates, drives a stake in similarities between the two areas. In fact, most Seattleites often think that the Eastside is a whole other state. Maybe this has something to do with why I know nothing about John Howie or any of his places. If I lived in Bellevue, would I follow his restaurants like I do Tom Douglas? I don’t know.

But lots of people have said really good things about his restaurants, that they are indeed some of the finest on the Eastside, that they’ve won handfuls of awards; so maybe I should visit them again, sometime soon. However, that would require me to cross that bridge. Which for most Seattleites is often a trek not taken.