View Full Version : Review: Smokey Ray's on Independence airport

03-09-2009, 06:54 PM
Roy and Sandy’s Fly-To Dining Adventures
Sandra Bes
(Appeared in the March 2009 EAA-105 NL)

In late summer in the Willamette Valley, the evening sun stays high in the sky till well past dinnertime. As the sun sinks behind the coast range, long red waves bounce off the afternoon thermals or dust sitting in the sky, kicked up from tractors busy at work in the valley floor. From a vantage point of 3500 ft, it looks as if the gates of Heaven open in a golden, orange glow, somewhere out to sea past Newport. Layers of violet and twilight blue as the sun fades are the angels’ visible applause for the spectacle.

It was on such a late summer evening that we were sitting on the porch swing in Hillsboro evaluating our options for fly-to dinner destinations. We had tarried about, working in the yard, but still hoped we could get up in the sky in time to enjoy mother natures show and find some good eats. Roy reminded me of the flyer advertising Smokey Rays BBQ we had seen on the table at the Starduster Café during a recent breakfast trek to the airport at Independence. We found the flyer in our loosely organized dining table filing system. The hours of operation were 5pm to 8pm and we noted by the time we got to the airport and wheels up, our flight time to Independence would put us there about closing time. A quick phone call to see how late they would seat us, and a pleasant voice at the other end assured us that if we didn’t dilly-dally they would wait for us to arrive.

A little more than an hour later, we were walking across the tarmac in Independence. Sure enough, Susan, whose voice we had heard on the phone, greeted us at the door and gestured for us to take a seat. There was another couple still seated, so we didn’t feel like we were keeping them too long past closing.

The menu at Smokey Rays is short, sweet and to the point. Old fashioned smoker BBQ, with your choice of beef brisket, pork or beef ribs, chicken or sausage. For side dishes you have your choice of potato salad, green salad, ham and beans, or coleslaw and either cornbread or sourdough rolls. The BBQ is terrific, and the sourdough rolls themselves make it entirely worth the trip to this flight-line diner. On a recent trip to Smokey Rays we were delighted to discover the menu has been expanded to include steamed muscles and clams, and fish & chips. Nightly specials are offered as well. On the night we were there, we filled up on “all you can eat pork riblets”. Susan said this was one of her families’ own favorites.

Jerry and Susan started Smokey Rays. We visited with Susan while she served our dinner and she explained that she and Jerry were bored in retirement. A little brainstorming with their son David and his wife Amy, who operate the Starduster in its popular Breakfast and Lunch persona, and they decided to add Smokey Rays as a dinner service. Jerry learned how to grill and smoke meats from his Grandmother. Jerry uses his Grandmothers recipes for seasoning in addition to hickory, apple and cherry wood in a high quality smoker they purchased for the restaurant. Add in Susan’s 12 years experience baking 1500 rolls a day for the children of the Independence school district, and you have a recipe for success.

The BBQ Ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender, and you can leave your fork on the table for these – just have some napkins handy. You may want to get a bib. Its worth it to note here that the BBQ at Rays is made Southern Style, heavy with hickory smoke and vinegar and not suffocated with slathers of sauce. Sauces are available on the side, in varying degrees of fieriness.

Fast forward to the early days of November. The autumn leaves were morning the loss of the summer sun, as were we. Mulling over our dinner destinations, we thought of Smokey Rays and wondered if they stayed open during the fall and winter. Another short call to the Starduster and that same pleasant voice assured us they’d stay open as long as folks kept coming. Presidents day weekend, and to our delight, folks were still coming. Susan’s warm greeting, the rich smell of hickory from the smoker and fresh rolls from the oven were like basking in the glow of a summer sunset. Sunset flights may still be a ways away, but if you have a hankering for some sunshine you’ll get a taste of it at Smokey Rays, so get yourself and your favorite sunset watching partner in the plane and head down to Independence. Tell them Roy and Sandy sent you!

Basic information: Dinner served Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun. Open from 5pm until 8pm. Entrees range from $7 to $16. Beer and wine is available. Seating is first come, first served. We’ve never waited for a table, but that might change come summer. Outdoor seating is available.
The airport: Independence airport is publicly owned with a single 3142’ north/south runway. It is 42nm South, South-West of HIO. See http://www.airnav.com/airport/7S5 for details. It is also a fairly large airpark community. In addition to the Starduster Café, there are two self serve fuel suppliers and EAA chapter 292 is based at the airport (http://www.eaa292.org/).