JOEY’S PANCAKE HOUSE:
IT’S WHERE GOLFERS BREAK THEIR FAST

Story by: Mike May

Very few restaurants in very small communities that specialize in one meal a day are as successful and well known as Joey’s Pancake House (4309 Soco Road, Maggie Valley, NC; 828-926-0212;  www.joeyspancake.com) in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, which is 45 minutes west of Asheville in western North Carolina.  One of the reasons for this restaurant’s success over the years is the number of golfers who eat breakfast there before tackling some of the local golf courses such as the Maggie Valley Club & Resort, Lake Junaluska Golf Course, or the Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa. 

Since 1966, locals, visiting tourists, and many hungry golfers have been going to Joey’s for breakfast in this small southern pocket of the Smoky Mountains. 

“We do get a number of golfers every day for breakfast, before they go play golf,” notes Brenda O’Keefe, the owner of Joey’s Pancake House.  “Golfers love our pancakes.  It gives them the energy to play 18 holes and, at times, 36 holes.”

Founded in 1966 by Joseph ‘Joey’ and Brenda O’Keefe.  They were vacationing in Maggie Valley and noticed a local restaurant was available on a lease.

The connection between the restaurant’s name and pancakes is so strong that a small stack of five pancakes smothered in butter and maple syrup appears within the O of the word Joey’s on the sign in front of the restaurant.

This restaurant was founded in 1966 by Joseph ‘Joey’ O’Keefe and the love of his life, Brenda.  Back in the mid-1960s, they were vacationing in Maggie Valley and noticed a local restaurant was available on a lease.  Both Joey and Brenda quit their jobs at the famous Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami, Florida and moved to Maggie Valley to go into the restaurant business.  Joey and Brenda eventually ‘tied the knot’ at one of the churches in Maggie Valley.  They were committed to making this business a success in their new Tar Heel state home -- Maggie Valley.  As you can tell, the restaurant was named after Joey who died in 2001.  But the ownership and control of the restaurant remains in the hands of Brenda. 

The regulars say that they can sense the presence of Joey in the restaurant every day.

“This place is all about the people who eat here and work here,” notes Brenda.  “We have 47 employees ranging in age from 15 to 87.  Every day, we feed our employees breakfast before we open.  Our focus is on service and good food.  Every day, we cook about 2,000 eggs and serve nearly 700 pancakes, many of which are eaten by golfers.”

It’s also worth noting that Joey’s Pancake House celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016.  The restaurant even created a special logo to recognize its first 50 years.  So, if you have never been to Joey’s Pancake House and you are going to be in that neck of the woods, then now is the time to go to Joey’s which is open every day of the year, with the exception of Thursdays. 

“Our restaurant is a hole in one experience,” adds Brenda O’Keefe.  “After eating here once, you’ll never forget us and you’ll want to come back again.”

The restaurant is also closed for the month of March.  (I guess that everybody deserves a spring break!)  The policy of not being open on Thursday’s begs the following question:  Why Thursdays?  According to Brenda, that was a date night for her and her husband (Joey) when they first opened the restaurant.  It remains closed on Thursdays to this day, but that doesn’t mean everybody has the day off from work.

“I’m usually here doing paperwork and accepting deliveries,” adds Brenda.

Simply put, Joey’s Pancake House is busy every day and the restaurant doesn’t take reservations.  You just show up, park your vehicle, and walk inside.  Parking is free and there is no valet.  The first customers, many of whom are golfers, are seated at 7:00 am and the kitchen stops serving at noon.  There are no slow days at Joey’s Pancake House.  And, on many days, it doesn’t take long for a line to extend out the door.  But, regular customers say it’s worth the wait.

“Nothing is better than to roll out of bed on a crisp Smoky Mountain morning with a smile on my face knowing that I will soon be savoring a large stack of pancakes dripping with butter and warm maple syrup at Joey’s,” notes golfer Len Ross of Ormond Beach, Florida, a frequent annual visitor to Maggie Valley.  “And, to then go play 18 holes.”

The busiest times of the year are in July, which is the peak of the summer tourist and golf season, and in October, when people flock to that part of the Smoky Mountains to see the leaves change.  Golfers are also in town in October because they want the autumn mountain golf experience.

As the name of the restaurant suggests, Joey’s Pancake House serves great pancakes.  In fact, it serves a dozen versions of specialty pancakes that range from traditional golden pancakes to mountain blueberry pancakes to banana nut pancakes to sweet potato pancakes.  If you are not in the mood for pancakes, Joey’s is still a great place to enjoy breakfast.  If you are interested in an omelet, hash brown casserole, country ham, oatmeal, toast, fresh fruit, fruit juices, grits, creamed chip beef, a cup of hot coffee or some bacon & eggs, Joey’s has it ready for you.

Even though Joey’s Pancake House is situated in one of the western sections of North Carolina, it’s fair to say that there’s a European flair to its menu since English muffins, Belgian waffles, French toast, and Tuscan omelets with Italian sausage are served.  Yes, at Joey’s you can dine as if you are in Europe.  It’s like enjoying the food without the airfare!

I look forward to seeing fellow golfers on my next visit Joey’s Pancake House – but not on Thursdays.

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The author of this story is golf writer Mike May, who’s based in Wellington, Florida.  He has been to Maggie Valley on many occasions, which has included a few meals at Joey’s Pancake House.  Mike can be reached on email at mmaymarketing@gmail.com