FENWICK ISLAND — This month marks a quarter century of Smitty McGee’s Raw Bar and Restaurant bringing a little slice of Ireland to West Fenwick Island, Del., and it’s planning to celebrate the 25th Anniversary all year and will truly kick it off with a weekend-long party next week.
Set to start on Thursday, June 26, the anniversary party will run through Sunday, June 29 and feature drink specials and a lot of entertainment, including some retro stuff not seen for years. The party should be a barn burner, according to Smitty’s owner Dawn McGee, but is really just the starting point for what she hopes will be a banner year.
Smitty’s has seen some massive changes since it first opened 25 years ago.
“We started in 1989 with a one-page menu, just the front, specializing in wings. And it’s grown from there,” said McGee.
Now the menu looks more like a small book and includes some of Smitty’s signature dishes, including premium wings, rock fish sliders and an extensive raw bar. The wings come in more than a dozen flavors. A lot of the menu is traditional pub food but distinguishes itself through its quality, according to McGee.
“Our crab dip is the best in the area, no lie,” she said. “We will put it against everybody. And it has become so popular that we put it on everything. We put it on burgers, we put it on pretzels and on French fries.”
It’s a flexible menu and one that takes customer input into account. Customization is popular and McGee said that patrons “end up making a lot of our menu for us.”
Atmosphere can be as big a factor as food in determining the success of a restaurant, and Smitty McGee’s is a sports bar through and through. There’s always some kind of game on one of the restaurant’s dozens of flat screen televisions. All sports are welcome and you might find tennis and baseball sharing a bar with a soccer game.
As important as sports are to the personality of the bar, McGee likes to provide different options for different customers, and there is a unique activity or special going on every day of the week. From the Bloody Mess Bloody Mary bar on Saturdays and Sundays to happy hour specials seven days a week to weekly trivia, the idea is to have a little something for everyone.
One event that has recently been added and is proving wildly popular is Paint Nite. The event has sold out every time that it’s been held and is especially well-liked by couples.
“Everybody eats and drinks and then you paint the same picture. So at the end you have 40 variations of the same picture. It’s pretty cool,” said McGee.
Both the food and fun are inspired by the pub’s Irish roots and there’s a countdown on the bar’s website leading up to the next St. Patrick’s Day, which is 269 days away from Friday for those wondering.
It’s been a lot of effort establishing the menu and the atmosphere over 25 years but McGee said it has never felt like work. She loves the Fenwick area. The pace is a little slower than nearby Ocean City but that’s not a bad thing. While Route 54, where Smitty McGee’s is located, has sprouted many new restaurants in the last two and a half decades, McGee doesn’t mind a little competition and feels like her spot benefits from being a little off the beaten path.
“It’s kind of a little secret place. There’s not a lot of signage and especially at night it’s not very visible so you kind of have to know that we’re here,” she said.
The business has created a lot of lifelong customers over the course of 25 years and McGee feels that regular patrons and staff have started to feel closer to family. She’s been able to watch people grow up around Smitty McGee’s.
“Some of my customers from 25 years ago, their children work here now,” McGee said.
This month’s weekend-long party should be one for the books, and McGee is looking forward to carrying that momentum throughout the year and beyond even her days.
“I think the restaurant will always be here. I think one of my family members will probably take it over. Hopefully, it will be here forever,” she said.
For more information call 302-436-4716 or visit www.smittymcgees.com or like it on Facebook.