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Smokey Joe's has long been a Valley gathering place
Old-timers who frequent the tavern share stories
about Smokey Joe's less-than-modest past when it used to be part
of the Burton Hotel. They claim that the upstairs portion of the
hotel, which was destroyed in a fire on April 2, 1960, was a
brothel where men would go for entertainment after they had a
Although some things have changed since then, the
atmosphere of Smokey Joe's has stayed relatively the same.
"It's very casual and laid back," said Pamela Leland,
who owns the tavern with her husband Jim.
"People come here and relax, eat and drink," Jim added.
"We don't have a lot of wild and craziness going on. It's pretty
The Lelands bought the tavern last year and run it with
the help of Robin Robinson, Judy Ailes, Ida Brauhn, Julie
Kudo, Audrey Pearl, Dale Ness and Pat Brown. The couple also
owns vacation rentals in Maui and the Snoqualmie Falls Driving
Range in Fall City.
"The opportunity [to buy Smokey Joe's] came up
and friends told us about it and we said, `Why not,'" Pamela
said. "We thought it'd be fun to have a pub."
Since the Lelands took over the business a little over a
year ago, they've added an outdoor beer garden that will be
open year-round, and changed the menu to include fresh
sandwiches and other items. Some favorites for lunch and
dinner- goers include the 1/2-pound burger with a side order
of "Joe's" (potato wedges) or the
1/2-pound super dog.
But Smokey Joe's still serves up its specialty the
four-piece chicken dinner which was made famous by previous
owner Baldwin "Baldy" Galloway.
"People come from all around for the chicken,"
Pamela said. "We have a salesman who will stop by every time he's
in town to buy some roasted chicken."
Currently the tavern boasts 14 beers on tap - four
domestic and 10 micro brews - which could possibly be the
biggest beer selection in the Valley. They also have pull tabs, pool
tournaments, video games and a big screen television for sports fans.
"We have people in here of all ages. There's parents
who come with their kids [who are of age] and grandparents with
the whole family," Jim said. "It's for everybody."
And practically everyone in town used to hang out at
Smokey Joe's, according to Joanne Galloway, whose late husband
Baldy owned the tavern from the early 1970s until 1992.
"Being a small town neighborhood tavern, we were kind
of like `Cheers,' where everybody knew each other's name,"
But Smokey Joe's wasn't always called Smokey
Joe's. Joanne said when they bought the business, one of the
previous owners decided to name it Ye Olde Lumberjacks. That
name never caught on with the locals, however, so the
Galloways changed it back to Smokey Joe's when they bought it.
In the two decades that the Galloways owned Smokey
Joe's, Joanne said one of the things she remembers most was the
annual picnic at Rattlesnake Lake where all the patrons of the tavern
drank beer and ate fried chicken. But her fondest memories come
from the company train rides.
"We would rent the trains in the summer and ride to the
Falls and then to North Bend," she said. "One time we rented
the train the whole night and went back and forth and back
"They kept raising the price and raising the price every
year because we were so rowdy," Joanne added with a laugh.
Though the Lelands might not have heard about the
wild train rides or picnics in the park, every day they are learning
a little bit more about the history of Smokey Joe's and the
people who visit.
"Meeting the people is really fun and listening to their
stories," Pamela said. "With us not growing up in the Valley ourselves,
it's good hearing the people in the Valley tell all."
Smokey Joe's is located at 38600 S.E. King St. and
can be reached at (425) 831-6978. Smokey Joe's Happy Hour
is from 4 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.