A lot of things make me realize I’m getting older. I don’t wear sweats as acceptable everyday attire. There’s no longer a graduation tassel hanging from my rear-view mirror. I find myself saying, “I remember when the Microsoft campus was just a field, the stoplight by my house was a stop sign, and parking meters only took change.” Yeah, I remember when (even if sometimes this makes me cringe).
However, I’m okay with “remembering when” after Happy Hour at John Howie Steak with Janelle (who is recently engaged! Congratulations Janelle and Tristan!). I’m okay because I remember when the skyscrapers of The Bravern in Bellevue were a run down Dairy Queen. I used to sit in the plastic seats and eat Peanut Buster Parfaits (hold the peanuts, add cookie dough).
However, I will forgo the Parfaits for a live piano bar, plush seating, and real food. Yes, John Howie Steak is up there with eating at Ruth Chris, Daniels Broiler, and Canlis. No, this is not a place which fits my budget. But that’s the point – enjoying what you want on the budget that you have.
John Howie Steak’s bar is filled with an array of different sized tables. Bar stool seating cozies up to a long wooden bar. Dark wood and soft lighting make it a relaxing place to unwind after a long day. A sturdy plastic tabletop hovers over the grand piano. Patrons surround the pianist, perched on tall stools, and eating off the piano. As fun as sitting at the piano looks, I give a word of caution: While the pianist is playing it’s hard to talk.
As for the Happy Hour menu, we split the American Wagyu Sirloin Steak Sliders. The sweet red onions were matched with a garlic-peppercorn aioli. What impressed me though, was the small slice of sirloin. It had a nice sear on the outside and a touch of redness in the middle for a juicy bite.
We also split the Crispy Fried Ricotta Gnocchi. The outsides were crispy and the insides were a light, puffy cheese. It was like eating an elegant cheese puff topped with salt. I was expecting more of a flavor punch from the gnocchi themselves. But as for a salty, drinking snack these were on point. I suggest ordering these to share. A few of them is more than enough.
Our splurge of the evening was the Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache Tarte. The shortbread crust held a dense caramel. It was topped with a thick slathering of chocolate and sprinkling of salt. Cutting the richness of the tart was a vanilla-salted caramel ice cream. Sure this was the most expensive thing we ordered, but if you’re going to fork over extra dough, why not make it for something which makes you both stop talking, lean back, and smirk at each other?
There are also deals on the Happy Hour drinks. Nothing to write home about, but the house Amber Ale was a nice variation to your typical amber. Janelle tried the happy hour Cabernet and seemed to enjoy it as well.
American Wagyu Sirloin Steak Sliders: $8
Crispy Fried Ricotta Gnocchi: $5
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganache Tarte: $9
John Howie Steak Amber Ale: $3