Article By: M.T. Decker
Photos By: Josh Triggs
Located at 264 North Pennsylvania Avenue in Hancock Maryland, Krazy Rayz Smokehouse is a labor of love for the owners Linda and Don.
“You don’t go into the restaurant business to make a lot of money, you do it because you love what you’re doing,” Don commented.
For Don and Linda, the old adage: “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” is the story of Krazy Rayz Smokehouse.
It’s in the way they greet every customer and how they come out of the kitchen to check on regulars and first timers alike. It’s also about family and community.
It isn’t just something they say, it’s what they do. They donate to local events, including Hancock’s National Night Out celebration, where they served 500 sliders and over 200 lbs of smoked meats for free.
“We believe in rolling it forward,” Don said, remembering the event.
It all started when Don, who’d been working as a lineman, came home one day and said “Let’s open up a restaurant.
“He’d been traveling and eating out a lot, and had realized it was time for a change.
It took some discussion and was something they didn’t jump into blindly. They had one simple and basic plan—serve good food at affordable prices.
They then researched the area and found the location where they wanted to build their restaurant. It took over a year to set up the restaurant the way they wanted and both put in everything they had in order to make the restaurant what it is.
In order to make the restaurant work, both took on second jobs. Don and Linda continue to work hard to make Krazy Rayz a family oriented restaurant offering good food, good friends, and good times.
They knew they could get more customers if they offered beer and wine, but that wasn’t what they wanted. Don and Linda wanted to focus on family. Their ultimate goal is to have a restaurant in 3 different states.
“But not too far apart!” Don quips as they discussed their plans. He is quick to point out that while they are looking for other locations, they have no intention of leaving the location that started it all.
It turns out that the CEO of BWI was passing through and stopped at Krazy Rayz BBQ. He was looking for good food from a family run restaurant and when he tried their food, he wanted them to consider opening a restaurant at the airport, while tempting, it was a little too far from their base of operations.
226 North Virginia is home. It’s where they have their fully restored cast-iron topped grill, which Don attributes as the ‘secret ingredient’ to their cheese steaks.
Two to Three days a week they are running three smokers to cook the 700 lbs of meat they go through in a week.
While Don is in charge of the grilling and smoking, Linda is responsible for their 13 different BBQ sauces, soups, coleslaw, cornbread and baked goods.
Using some of her great, great, grandmother’s recipes, she adds a distinctly down home flavor to their dishes.
“People have asked me for the recipe,” Linda confides about her cornbread. They’ve asked, but she’s not telling anyone.
But I can tell you one secret: all their food is cooked as if they were cooking for family and they cook foods they enjoy.
Everything is homemade and hand done from their hand-cut french fries, to their smoked brisket. Additionally, they don’t trim their meats: if you order a full rack of baby back ribs, you get the full rack as it was purchased, not cut down to a specific weight.
When Don smokes the meat he uses a rub rather than sauce. This allows diners to sample their 13 BBQ sauces and find what they like best. Their rub is sweet and savory, with just a hint of heat, and was the perfect compliment to their baby back ribs.
If that’s not enough for you, be sure to try their sauces, which include:
- Honey BBQ
- Sweet and Sour
- Hot and spicy
- Horse radish
- Buffalo Wing
- Garlic Parmesan
- Hot Wing Sauce
- Honey Mustard Garlic
- Ghost Pepper
Each sauce is unique and are all delicious, even though I was afraid to try the ghost pepper! While I did try their sauces, the baby back ribs were so good I ended up eating them without anything additional. The combination of smoke, the rub, and the glaze were all they needed.
That’s part of what makes Krazy Rayz so special – it’s about what you want. If you don’t like a combination, or would rather have your sauce cooked into the meat, they’re willing to customize.
They serve more than just smoked meats and BBQ. Krazy Rayz also carries a full line of subs, including a Philly cheese steak that customers have said is better than the cheese steak they got in Philly. They also have chicken cheese steaks, BLTs, bacon cheese burgers and waffle fries. Side dishes include homemade coleslaw, cornbread, baked corn, smoked mac & cheese, deep fried pickles and mozzarella cheese sticks. Their fries are golden brown and cooked to perfection, and the cornbread is moist and delicious. As Don says, “If you leave hungry, it’s your own fault!”
While waiting for my cheese steak and ribs, I found out it’s not unusual for them to offer samples of new dishes they’re trying out. One of their customers actually complained that they weren’t charging enough for the food.
The pork rinds, by the way, were crisp and delicious and tossed in their rub.
The cheese steak was actually better than the last cheese steak I had in Philadelphia, something Don attributes to the cast iron grill. All I know is the sub was stuffed to overflowing and the combination of meat, peppers and onions was perfect.
The cornbread was incredible: moist, flavorful and sweet, not sugary. It’s not just the food, not just the people that makes Krazy Rayz special. Krazy Rayz is the kind of place a bus service will call and ask if they could open on their day off to feed a bus-load of hungry high school students. They have and they will. It’s the kind of place you call when you suddenly need to serve lunch to a lot of people. They will take care of everything, including delivery.
With their full menu and daily specials, there’s always something new to try. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can always order a Krazy Rayz specialty that’s not on the menu: the Famous Burger.
The Famous Burger is best described as “a walk around the kitchen.” It can be anything from three burgers, to a burger, brisket and pulled pork. It’s basically whatever is available in the kitchen that day. The Famous Burger is never the same, but it’s always delicious.