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Smokin’ Jacks Bar & Grill. Reedsville, WV by Ken Robidoux – Founding Editor-in-Chief
When we came up with the idea for Connotation Press: An Online Artifact I knew making it come to fruition was going to be no easy task. To say I’m busy would be a serious understatement as anyone out there that’s ever created a start-up business will attest. But when we started I really had no idea just how busy I’d be. I’ve put in 18+ hour days every day for the past eight months, and there’s no sign of it letting up anytime soon. We’ve published nearly 300 artists in those eight months and as thrilling as it all is, and it really is, it’s also about as much work as you can imagine. In addition to handling all post and layout duties, I personally edit eight of the 17 columns on the site, take care of all managerial duties, help all the editors with whatever they might need, and stay focused on the continual development and future goals of the magazine. And that doesn’t even count the travel. I’ve been to the west coast seven times since September, spent a weekend in Sedona, Arizona at their Best of Fest Week, drove to New Jersey for a night reading and back in one day, spent a week at the Bahamas International Film Festival, and moved from Long Beach, CA to Morgantown, WV. Add to that my teaching duties at the wonderfully burgeoning Waynesburg University and yep, I’m buried!
Because I have so little of it, I take my free-time very seriously. What I like to do on my time off is drive. Strike that, I LOVE to drive, always have. My favorite activity is to jump in my truck and try to get lost. I wind my way through Appalachia intentionally trying to lose my way home and then stop in some small holler to investigate the goings on and meet new people. It is a glorious way to spend an afternoon and requires absolutely no editorial skills. It was on one of these “run-away-from-home” getaways that I found Smokin’ Jacks. It’s about a 25 minute drive east of Morgantown through Masontown and it’s worth every inch of the drive.
Smokin’ Jacks Bar & Grill is located in Reedsville, West Virginia, but don’t let the name fool you. It may be a bar but there’s nothing even remotely like “bar food” in this place. It’s owned and operated by Jack W. Hall Jr., a highly decorated soldier with one tour of duty in Desert Storm and one in Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Jack is a Mobilization Training Coordinator at Camp Dawson in Preson County, WV. A graduate of West Virginia University, on March 20th this year Jack celebrated 20 years of service to his country. He’s about as tough as a man gets and I can think of few I’d rather have get my back in a fight. Just being around the guy makes you realize how fortunate we all are to have the men and women of the armed forces by our side, and I’m not just pay lip service to the idea, either. I actually feel safer knowing guys like Jack are out there doing what they do.
A little less than five years ago Jack bought the bar & grill and a couple years later he made what I feel to be one of the best business decisions he could have made, he hired Antonio “Tony” Glass to be his Chef. Born in Carroll County, MD to Barbara and Earl T. Glass, Tony attended Francis Scott Key high school and started working at that time as a line cook for Baugher’s Country Style Restaurant. After school, he tried a few different professions, mostly construction, but always seemed to end up back in the kitchen. In 2002 Tony worked at Four Seasons restaurant in Mount Airy, MD for three years under Marcella and Joe Ipollitti, and in 2008 he was hired as head Chef of Smokin’ Jacks’. Tony is a self-taught culinary genius that can turn the term “comfort food” into a mantra. Using only the best locally grown organic beef, Tony makes a Smoked Prime Rib to die for. His Pasta Alfredo with Shrimp and his Smoke Baby Back Ribs will make you tear up and miss your Grandma, I kid you not. And I would drive across five states to get a plate of his Stuffed Bell Peppers.
Last month Tony invited me into his kitchen to show me how he makes his Pasta Alfredo with Shrimp, Smoked Prime Rib, and Smoked Baby Back Ribs (my personal favorite), and he generously provided recipes to go with the following video. Although I was extremely hesitant to share my secret hideaway with the world, (I mean, I sure don’t want to find a line when I get there!), a secret like Tony Glass’ cooking, the no apologies atmosphere of Smokin’ Jacks, and Jack Hall and the rest of the crew at my favorite restaurant in all of West Virginia was just too good to keep to myself. If I’m in Morgantown and have conned myself into taking a couple hours off work, you can find me there. But please, if you do just pull up a chair, grab a fork and a tall cold one, and do what you can to not talk shop. I’m pretty sure there aren’t a lot of folks at Smokin’ Jacks arguing the value of lit theory or complaining about hostile publishers and, to be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way.