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.

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7 thoughts on “John Howie’s lack of buzz

  1. I concur – We went in April I believe and had one of the most enjoyable and perfectly-orchestrated dining experiences we’ve had in Seattle – you should check it out!

  2. I like th new John Howie steak. Much more elegant (and quiet) than the steak houses in Seattle. Their lunch and bar menu has a steak frites that is worth the drive at ~$15. I took the hubs for his b-day dinner though and it was just so-so. I’ll stick to the bar next time. They also serve deviled eggs with truffles and bacon – which I’d probably drive across the state to eat, if I had to.

  3. I live on the Eastside and have always worked in Seattle. Until Seastar, I NEVER supported Eastside eateries. Ironically, my teenage son will choose John Howie’s Sport in Seattle, over any place on the Eastside.

    I think John Howie had little or no competition for so many years, he didn’t need to create a buzz. His food and venue spoke for themselves.

    Now that Bellevue is flooded with new places to eat, John Howie finally has competition. However, John Howie Steak is my new favorite. So…who knows.

  4. I would say John Howie Steak, Seastar Seafood Restaurant & Raw Bar, & Bis on Main have “buzz” on the Eastside, but not so much in Seattle.

  5. My friends and I are huge fans of Sport Restaurant & Bar in Queen Anne…you just can’t beat their happy hour! The atmosphere is laid-back, the staff is always happy to see us and they have great drink specials. You can feel John Howie’s presence in the menu as it isn’t like most sport bars…Sport stands high above the rest 🙂 We just recently checked out Seastar in Seattle and WOW…wonderfully amazing dishes and a beautiful restaurant…what more can I say!

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