Smokey Jake’s BBQ brings customers from Aitkin and beyond

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of barbecue season. Americans across the country started firing up the smokers and grills this weekend. If you are not a grill master yourself, a barbecue restaurant is the best alternative. For this week’s In Business, reporter Sammy Holladay stopped by “Smokey Jake’s BBQ” in Aitkin.

Established in 2018. In Southern California, Smokey Jake’s barbecue has become a favorite among visitors and locals alike in Aitkin. Jake Schanz spent 20 years in the Marine Corps and regularly hosted backyard barbecues with his fellow veterans. He was convinced to bring his barbecue to the office and people couldn’t get enough of it.

Once a month I would take care of the catering at the office. Then it escalated to once a week, and then the orders went from ten to about thirty people. The orders kept growing and growing. And I thought, you know what? We have something here.

Office catering turned into running a tent company and breweries and other events. That has become a food truck. During COVID, Schanz and his family decided to move back to Central Minnesota and took the food truck with them. They found a home in Aitkin, continued the food truck success and decided in the summer of 2022 that a restaurant was the next step. The restaurant was open and in Schanz’s eyes its rapid growth is due to one simple reason.

By providing high-quality food, we put our heart and soul into every sandwich. We smoked fresh daily and put out food that we would like to receive. Everyone was just amazed at the size of the portions. And we go for that wow factor every time.

In a barbecue restaurant there must be smoke. And when there’s smoke, there’s fire, and Smokey Jake’s is spreading like wildfire, with customers coming not only from the area, but from all over the United States.

We put this up last September. And to date, we have seven states yet to be written. So we had customers from all over the country. And then we even have a world map where we have a few different countries represented.

Running a restaurant is hard work, but when you have a loyal customer base that has shown so much support, that hard work is worth it.

It just hits us, you know what? You put your heart and soul into it. It lands on the person on the other side. It’s just a warm hug.

In a typical week, Smokey Jake’s goes through 500 pounds of meat and 50 ribs. Smokey Jake’s BBQ is open Wednesday through Saturday.

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