Annapolis Smokehouse owner Jennifer Krohn runs her life and her business in accordance with her passions. She grew up in Admiral Heights as a 4th-generation Annapolitan, but shortly after graduating from Annapolis High School, she headed west with the goal of exploring different places. She spent the next 17 years traveling from California, Florida, and Italy – always working in the restaurant business. But when it came to time to achieve her long-time dream of opening her own restaurant, she and husband knew there was only one place to do it: Annapolis.
“Everybody always comes home,” Jen says.
“We wanted to open a restaurant and we knew that if we wanted to open a place, it should be home, where our families and friends were.”
Jen and her husband joined forces with partners in conceiving Annapolis Smokehouse, which opened in 2012.
Vibe also mattered. “We envisioned a gathering spot, where people could be comfortable, get a good meal and a nice drink, and escape from everyday life for a bit.”
That’s exactly what they have in their friendly, 120-seat restaurant, tucked in an unassuming storefront in Bay Ridge Plaza. Walk inside and the first thing you’ll notice is the aroma; few things smell better than barbecue, especially when the ribs, chicken, and brisket are smoked onsite. Colorful art hangs on the walls, all done by local artists. Music plays on the in-house system, typically new-wave or indie bands. And if you go on a Friday evening, a band is inevitably setting up on the small stage in back, ready to play at 9 pm. That’s all intentional, and a reflection of Jen’s own passions.
“I was always going to have music and art involved in any restaurant I did because most of my friends are artists and musicians. When we first saw the space, with its giant walls, I knew this would be a perfect place to feature local artists.”
The walls have become a gallery space, with track lighting that shows off the mixture of oil painting, watercolors and anything else that catches her eye. She taps into her network of local artists for contributions but also welcomes new finds.
Music is the other key ingredient of Smokehouse. Every Friday night the Annapolis Smokehouse features live music, drawing from Annapolis, Baltimore, and DC, “people will often come to dinner, see the band setting up and then stay for the show, we love when people discover new music through us!” Jen says.
Of course, Smokehouse is a restaurant first and foremost, so great food is key. I personally love the pulled pork tacos, signature wings, and shrimp and grits. Jen is partial to their wide array of salads and to the salmon, which is cured in whiskey, garlic and brown sugar before hitting the smoker.
When she’s not managing the restaurant or serving drinks behind the bar, you’ll find Jen and husband Steve out on the town. “We like to spread the love and drink around town. We spend lots of time at Davis’ Pub, Stan and Joe’s, Lewnes’—all over the place, really.”
The future of Annapolis Smokehouse is yet to be written, as they consider opportunities to expand from their Bay Ridge footprint. Jen said it best, there’s just something about the intimacy of being in Annapolis — you just feel it. People who are Annapolitans, we know it.