“It’s one thing to make barbecue good, it’s another thing to make it good all day so that people can enjoy it,” said Meaty Johnson’s namesake, Zac Johnson, who also works as a real estate agent and music promoter. Johnson began barbecuing as a hobby, and it quickly became a hit with his friends and family. He then began catering for huge house parties of friends and the reception continued to be overwhelming.
Meaty Johnson’s got its entendre-ful start at Cowgirls, Inc., the notorious country bar concept with a 1st Ave Seattle location.
Johnson was approached by Dave Tran, a co-owner of Cowgirls and a business associate of Johnson’s through his time in the music industry. Cooking for the Cowgirl cowpokes helped Johnson hone his craft but he learned that trying to keep up with the big concept bar was far from ideal. A chance for a more stable — and more daytime –business one of the primary reasons Meaty Johnson’s BBQ moved to Capitol Hill.
Meaty Johnson’s won’t be Capitol Hill’s first Cowgirls, Inc. connection, by the way. Ownership was once involved with a project called Chao Bistro at 12th and Pike.
Before Meaty Johnson’s took over at Pine and Minor, Meltdown Pizza was housed there by Still Liquor, who Johnson had organized parties with. Still Liquor shut down Meltdown Pizza and turned to Johnson to move into the corner location. When the opportunity was plopped into his lap, he couldn’t pass it up. Johnson put together a business plan, and Still Liquor officially came on board.
Currently, Meaty Johnson’s is in its soft-opening phase as its food is available only from 11 AM to 3 PM Tuesday through Saturday. Johnson wants to ensure that the joint can provide consistent and quality food to its customers before a grand opening.
That also means the early days of Meaty Johnson’s at its Capitol Hill location are about as nondescript as it gets. The only thing signaling that it’s a restaurant is a menu taped up outside. Despite the short hours and minimal signage, it still sells out about 80% of the time, Johnson says. On one occasion, they ran out of meat just 90 minutes after opening.
Once Johnson feels confident enough, he plans to be open six days a week from 11 AM to 8 PM.
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Johnson thinks this success on Capitol Hill stems from his complex rubs and unique taste. One question he receives constantly — “What style of barbecue do you make?” He responds by saying, “Seattle barbecue; from Seattle, for Seattle.”
That being said, Johnson will be the first to note that Seattle is not exactly known for its unique barbecue. However, this comfort good is definitely growing in popularity throughout the area. And, on Capitol Hill, he’s currently the only dedicated BBQ game around.
“With television and barbecue shows and all that stuff, people are becoming more hip to it,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot better barbecue than we did 15 years ago, that’s for sure.”
Meaty Johnson’s is located at 1201 Pine. You can learn more at meatyjohnsons.com.