In the heart of Los Banos lies a hidden gem known as Smokey Joe’s, where all are welcome to have a drink, eat a good meal and play pool with some of the best oldies tunes running in the background. The establishment had its grand opening on Jan. 6, offering a unique and vibrant space for the local community.

Located at 830 I Street, in a building formerly known as Dutra’s, a long-standing restaurant in the area, the owner of Smokey Joe’s has transformed the space into an inviting restaurant and bar that pays homage to the nostalgia of the 50s and 60s. The bar’s owner, Miguel Alejandre, was inspired to create an atmosphere that reflected his love for the classic songs his mother raised him on.

Outside of Smokey Joe’s Miguel has two cornhole games set up for customers to play.

With a vision to breathe new life into the establishment, Alejandre seized the opportunity through serendipitous events. On an ordinary day in October of 2023, he set out to Dutra’s to fix the building’s air conditioning. Little did he know that this would lead to an important conversation with the business owner, who wanted to sell the establishment. Alejandre, who had always dreamed of opening a restaurant and bar, knew this was his chance to turn his aspiration into reality.

In addition to Smokey Joe’s, Alejandre also owns The Compound, a gym with two locations—one in Los Banos and the other in Firebaugh. While Smokey Joe’s isn’t Miguel’s first business, running a restaurant and bar presents a new set of challenges, from attracting customers on weekdays to having smooth inventory management. Yet, his approach to each obstacle is optimistic.

While the transition process had its share of challenges, the business wouldn’t be what it is today without the journey. Looking to the future, customers can anticipate exciting events to be hosted at Smokey Joe’s. Guests can expect to be greeted with quality hospitality while also enjoying the opportunity to belt out a song or two during karaoke nights.

Christina Rocha