Smokey Joe's Grill at the Rod 'N' Reel in Chesapeake Beach
has the three Bs: Beach, Barbecue, and Bingo! 

By Jane Meneely, July 2010

The first time Paul and I ate at Smokey Joe's we were dressed as pirates and just coming off a Halloween gig on the North Beach boardwalk. The waitress was unmoved. "We get a lot of pirates," she said. I'm not sure what she meant by that, but she seated us in a booth not far from the bar, regaled us with the list of specials and told us what beer was on tap. Paul flirted outrageously with her and she dished it all right back. We had a fun evening. When we did the same gig again the following year, we went back to Smokey Joe's, too. We had a different waitress, but the overall experience was the same. It was fun. The food was filling. The server was pleasant. We go back a lot, even when we aren't dressed like pirates, and we always get great service. 

People go to Smokey Joe's for the burgers and barbecue. There's not much seafood on the menu: tuna steak, fried shrimp, baked halibut and crabcakes. But you can get a cold beer, a heart-stopping blooming onion or a plate of potato skins, a finger-licking batch of home-style fried chicken or a pulled pork sandwich drenched in either Smokey Joe's trademark barbecue sauce or a spicy Carolina vinegar sauce. That's the stuff Paul orders, anyway. Me? I get the ribs. I'd sit up, lie down and roll over for a plate of ribs, and these are worth a close reach in bad weather. The sauce is tangy and sweet, and the racks are moist and meaty. I always order a whole rack figuring to take some home . . . and I inevitably pig out and eat it all in one sitting. That leaves little room for dessert, but frankly, the desserts aren't the prizewinners here. I tried the apple cobbler. It didn't send me over the moon; I like a chunky sweet cobbler, and this was not that. But the salads are fresh, the coleslaw is average, the baked potatoes are hot, the ribs are fantastic. (Paul goes on about the pulled pork; ignore him.)

Smokey Joe's is part of the Rod 'N' Reel complex on the waterfront at Chesapeake Beach. The original buildings (as well as the marina docks) have been substantially rebuilt and include a well stocked gift and tackle shop, the swanky Rod 'N' Reel Restaurant, and the Boardwalk Cafe--a casual outdoor dining spot that links the Rod 'N' Reel to the posh Chesapeake Beach Resort & Spa. And of course there are plenty of video pull-tab gaming machines for those willing to risk a few bucks for a big win. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday are Bingo nights. 

One Thursday evening we stumbled into Smokey Joe's after a day on the water and discovered Comedy Night. Local stand-up comics did their shtick for a live (and lively) audience, and then a "pro" from Baltimore came on the little makeshift stage. I can't repeat any of the jokes, but the entertainers were rewarded with plenty of laughs--especially from the Ladies Night Out table. ("I want to sit with them," Paul said. "Do you think they've tried the pulled pork?")

When we overnight at the marina, we wander into Smokey Joe's for breakfast: eggs, omelettes, pancakes, and combinations of the same. This isn't an eggs Benedict type of place, but the food sticks to your ribs, which is just what you need before heading out for a day on the Bay. 

Smokey Joe's Grill is open daily (except Christmas) for breakfast, lunch and dinner (box lunches are available for fishermen). Breakfast $3-$10; lunch $7-$11 (crabcakes market price); dinner appetizers $5-$19, entrees $10-$30. The marina has plenty of transient slips and offers free dockage while dining (call 800-233-2080 for your slip assignment). 301-855-3089, 410-257-2427;