Boone’s newest barbecue joint is the best of both worlds: close enough to App State to see its campus from the rooftop patio, while still a part of Boone nightlife.
Howard Station Bar and Barbeque is the product of owners Cody Estes and Chelsea Jackson, who left their financial advising jobs behind in Raleigh and came to Boone to use their past restaurant industry experiences.
The kitchen mastermind and third owner is Andy Phillips, who went to high school with Estes and said he has poured his passion into smoking meat for his whole life.
The trio spent 2018 researching where to execute their restaurant idea, starting with market research.
“We knew that we wanted to be in a town that had tourists and a very close-knit community, but also a college town,” Jackson said. “We looked all across the state from Wilmington all the way here. When they brought me here, I just fell in love with it. How can you not love the mountains?”
Jackson said their own college nostalgia and catering a crowd that wants a fun time, safety and good late-night food inspired their college town criteria.
They searched for a location that would welcome the App State community and Boone nightlife at the same time.
Jackson and Estes purchased the Howard Street property in October 2018 and discovered the interior exhibits its own contemporary aesthetic, with exposed high-beam ceilings and modern brick walls.
“It’s gorgeous,” Jackson said. “It’s a little bit more of a modern or trendy take than your traditional smokehouses in that way.”
The owners plan to honor the 1919 Howard Station railroad, which helped Boone interact with surrounding towns until its fatal flooding in 1940, through decor.
Estes graduated from App State in 2015 and said he did not know Howard Street had a train station. He said he sees value in passing on the history to current college students.
They also plan to appeal to college students by using all of the three-story building.
“The basement will be open during the day for dining,” Estes said. “Toward the end of the night, we’ll be able to open it up a lot more and actually have a live venue for bands. You can take a trip up to the rooftop patio and look out on App State’s campus and have a few drinks.”
Jackson said the bar and kitchen are located on the main floor, and the rooftop patio will be a dining space and music venue.
The owners said they hope the food is what will keep people talking about Howard Station and coming back for more.
“It’s not necessarily your traditional smokehouse where you just get your barbecue plate,” Phillips said. “Of course we’re going to have barbecue plates and sandwiches, but we’re also going to have pulled chicken and barbecue waffles.”
Phillips said when he learned how to smoke meat, he approached it as a puzzle: he tried to find which wood chips or marinade would fit together to make the perfect flavor for the dish he was crafting.
“I started watching other competition barbecuers and spent some time learning from other perspectives, whether it was through videos or meeting with people,” Phillips said. “Doing that had an impact on my own thought process and broadened my own perspective.”
Phillips has a late-night menu geared toward college crowds and will serve it from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
“It’s a really good, easy way to transition over from single plates to something a little bit more for the college crowd: ready to eat,” Jackson said. “We’ve all been there, and it’s really frustrating when you go to a bar and there’s not a lot of food.”
Phillips said he will incorporate filling, yet cost-efficient options to the late-night menu and offer shareable food plates.
“I’m just trying to make it more personal to the community. We’re making everything in house, so everything is going to be tender and fresh,” Phillips said. “I’m really just trying to pour my heart out on the plate. I want to make sure everybody is really impressed and wants to come back for more.”
Howard Station Bar and Barbeque is planned to open in April.