Downtown Boone now has a BBQ restaurant as the Howard Station Bar and Barbecue opened its doors first with a soft opening on Saturday, Nov. 16, then to the public on Tuesday, Nov. 19.
“It is an amazing feeling,” said co-owner Cody Estes on Nov. 21. “All three of us (owners) have had a long journey; it’s all paid off as we have a fantastic crew.”
The venture, co-owned by Estes, Chelsea Jackson and Andy Phillips, has been in development for most of 2019 at 268 Howard St., with the 2,270-square-foot space being fitted for a restaurant that can seat approximately 75 people when all three levels are open.
Originally hoped to open last spring, construction of the restaurant went through the summer and fall months.
“Our motto since the beginning has been ‘days are long, years are short,’” Estes said. “We wanted to make sure we had the right team to be as efficient as possible to get it done.”
Howard Station will cater to the lunch and brunch crowds, then offer a late-night option from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant will be open until midnight on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and open until 10 p.m. on Sundays, according to its Instagram page.
“Howard Station offers a cozy and inviting atmosphere for people who just want to get a bite to eat or a drink at the bar or just want to hang out with their friends,” Estes said.
The Howard Station name pays tribute to the former rail line that ran from Johnson City, Tenn., to Cranberry. The line ran to the Linville River Railway Depot on Rivers Street in downtown Boone. The railway depot, which was demolished in 1976, serviced the railroad from 1918 until 1940, when it was destroyed by the August 1940 floods that devastated the area.
“Being a local from Boone, as well as Andy (Phillips), it’s really nice to be able to bring information the community might not have known before,” Estes said of the history of the spot. “For myself, I didn’t even know (the railroad) ran to Depot Street, so it’s cool to bring back some more history.”
The ground floor has general and VIP seating, as well as a bar downstairs, accessible from the Howard Street entrance, with additional seating and a spot for live music. The current “VIP area” in the back of the ground floor will eventually have board games for people to play, Estes said.
Estes said that art will be added to the downstairs seating area in the near future.
The rooftop seating area was not open yet, but was set to be open in the coming days as of Nov. 21. The plan is for solo acoustic music sets on the roof in the warm-weather months, Estes added.
“It’s cool to be able to bring in a new scene, something that hasn’t been around downtown Boone, except for the Horton (Hotel),” Estes added.
The interior is a “comfortable industrial” style, as Jackson, previously described by Jackson, with rustic elements and old-style brick walls. The interior brick facade comes from a warehouse in Michigan, Estes said.
Howard Station will be right in the middle of the planned Howard Street revitalization by the town of Boone, which is slated to begin in spring 2020.
“Downtown Boone is developing, progressing and making it a lot easier for other businesses to thrive,” Estes said. “By doing that revitalization on Howard Street, that will definitely be opening up other opportunities for businesses on Howard Street. It’s great that the town of Boone is doing this.”
Estes noted that just in the few days they’ve been open, neighboring businesses such as ECRS’s downtown Boone location, located a stone’s throw away, have had employees already come over and eat at the restaurant.
That menu will feature a modern take on traditional Southern barbecue and is developed by Phillips, who is also the head chef.
“It’s not necessarily eastern or western (BBQ),” Phillips said. “I’m trying to give everybody their choice of how they like to have it. I’ve got a vinegar base and I’ve got sweeter bases and stuff like that ... once it gets plated, you can make it how you like.”
“We’re going to keep on smoking the best BBQ possible,” Estes said.