Crabcake Proprietor Branches Out To Country Smokehouse

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OCEAN CITY – Cowboyz Smokehouse and Saloon is now open and in full swing, taking up residence in the Gold Coast Mall and bringing a country feel to the resort town.

Local restaurateur Johnny Brooks, owner of the Crabcake Factory, opened the family restaurant and country-themed bar just a few weeks ago, bringing smokehouse recipes and country fun to the beach.

Brooks was in search of a location for a second Crabcake Factory when the idea for a country-themed smokehouse and saloon was born. When he heard about the vacancy at the Gold Coast Mall where Croc’s had operated, Brooks immediately became interested in the 9,000-square-foot space. However with the spot being too close to the original Crabcake Factory, Brooks began brainstorming other options, wondering, “what does this town really need?”

The answer came to Brooks while visiting Nashville with his wife last year for a Ravens vs. Titans football game. While touring the notably country town, Brooks instantly fell in love with Nashville and the wide assortment of nightlife. Brooks noted the numerous bars that featured live music starting at 11 a.m., with throngs of people out having a good time. One bar featured the popular, “holler n’ swoller,” which consisted of an hourly rounding up of employees and customers to take a group shot or swig of beer.

“So we thought that was a concept that might go well on the shore,” said Brooks.

It wasn’t long afterwards that Brooks and his staff were putting in 15-hour days for the eight weeks leading up to the opening of Cowboyz, completely renovating the space and turning it into a true smokehouse and saloon.

By day, Cowboyz caters to all ages. The family restaurant features affordable, down-home cooking, with everything from mashed potatoes to ribs, and, of course, Crabcake Factory crab cakes. The menu has a little something for everyone, said Brooks, from chicken tenders and burgers for the little ones to perfectly cooked steaks for the meat lovers. A steak chef will be on staff daily, explained Brooks.

“A family of five can dine for a good price and go home happy,” said Brooks.

After 10 p.m., the crowd switches to 21-and-older only. The Nashville “holler n’ swoller” is featured hourly, as well as a choreographed dance, performed by the staff on the bar, dance floor and stage.

Cowboyz consists of two bars, one inside and a Tiki Bar outside on the spacious deck. The outside deck also includes a smoking area, with tables available for smoking customers.

Televisions can be found throughout the restaurant and, according to Brooks, will play everything from Nascar to old-time westerns.

“We probably have the biggest HDTV in town,” said Brooks, who noted that while Cownboyz is not a sports bar, major sporting events would be played on the TV’s throughout the year.

The TV’s will also be featuring music videos and recordings of live country concerts, bringing a different medium of music into the mix.

“That’s a really neat thing. Customers can actually see the videos and really enjoy the music,” said Brooks.

Music will also be playing both inside and outside, with the help of DJ BK, who designed the impressive sound system, explained Brooks.

Entertainment will be in full swing in July, with live music, karaoke and live DJ’s, depending on the night of the week.

Live music will begin in mid-July, with everything from country to reggae being performed on the big stage.

Local Jimmy Crabby, who placed in the top 35 on the TV show Nashville Star, will be performing during Happy Hour every Tuesday for the Tuesday night deck party.

Although country music will be heard five nights a week, either live or via DJ, Thursday nights will be reserved for non-country tunes, with Skip Dixon heading up Thursday night entertainment.

Wednesday night is karaoke night, which has already brought in big crowds and fun, reported Brooks.

“I think its needed, it’s more of a destination,” said Brooks of the smokehouse and saloon.

With a little something for everyone, Cowboyz can provide a good meal for the family, a cool drink and good music at happy hour or a night of dancing on the dance floor, said Brooks, who is confident that either way, the customer would be leaving satisfied.

As for the music, Brooks maintained that the focus wouldn’t be on old country twang, but rather on new, toe-tapping country, adding, “this ain’t your father’s honky-tonk.”

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