You’ve got to love more than the food when you’ve been managing a fuel stop/restaurant for more than 27 years. “No question our food is the best,” says Ted Connor, general manager of Smiley’s BBQ and travel plaza in Raphine, Virginia just off Interstates 81 and 64, “but I love working here because I feel like I’m a part of something so much bigger. I feel like I’m a part of the American family.”
Opened in the mid-1980s as a Smile Gas Station, Smiley’s became independent in 2004 and expanded to include a restaurant, now infamous for serving “every type of BBQ you can think of,” says Ted. “Texas, Carolina, brisket, ribs, chicken– you name it. We serve it.” The restaurant serves between 800-1,100 customers daily during the week, and 1,700 daily on weekends. “We get mostly truckers and tourists,” says Ted. “We especially love the truckers because they’re so friendly and laid back. Plus they’re so diverse! We’ve had truckers from Mexico, Canada, Russia and Yugoslavia. No matter where they’re from, they tell me that this is the best BBQ on the road.”
Truckers who purchase 100 gallons of fuel or more are awarded with a $5 meal ticket as well as a shower coupon.
Although Smiley’s is a not-to-miss stop for truckers, it’s also a family tradition for many customers. According to Ted, “A lot of customers grew up with Smiley’s, and now they bring in their kids and proudly tell them that this is where they used to eat as a kid.”
To accommodate more customers, Smiley’s is presently undergoing a “facelift” to add a 120-seat Sports Bar. “For decades, we’ve had a reputation for having the best BBQ despite being located in a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ building. Soon we’ll have an image as good as our food,” says Ted.
Smiley’s platter featuring both Texas and Carolina BBQ
The beef brisket sandwich is a Smiley’s top favorite.