The Skinny – Lu & Joe’s, Mt. Airy, Maryland
Where: Three miles south of I-70 on Ridge Road (Route 27).
Why: Good food and an old-fashioned biker bar reputation, with easy access from major and minor roads.
Best Kept Secret: The crab fluff, a tempura-style crab cake, is a must have.
Scenic Routes: Route 144 is a delightful road with a little of everything, and when the wind is right you know you’re in the country!
Avoid: The District of Columbia to the south and the Beltway (I-495).
Nestled between cow pastures and country homes stands a beacon to bikers from all over the mid-Atlantic region. It is a classic biker bar — easy to get in, easy to get out, and close to a major Interstate and a twisty rural country road. Welcome to Lu & Joe’s.
Like many old lounges, Lu & Joe’s has a split personality. One side is the “no smoking” family restaurant and the other is the bar. The restaurant is resplendent with booths rimming the edges and tables everywhere else. The bar is an oval affair with a half dozen tables scattered around the entrance.
Thursday nights are the traditional “Thirsty Thursday,” when the locals ride in to get a jump on the approaching weekend. During riding season, the front of the building is often barely visible thanks to the number of motorcycles parked from one end of the parking lot to the other. Other than Thursdays, the weekends are when most of the bikes appear.
The origin of Lu & Joe’s is mostly lost to the ages. Legend has it that it was opened before World War II. The earliest known history comes from a retired Korean War vet. The place was then called Ma Wickers, and it was just a small building surrounded by woods and pastures. The menu consisted of sardines and crackers.
Over the years, the name changed several more times and the building changed as well. At different times it was known as the Rusty Nail, Mountain View Inn, and finally Lu & Joe’s. Every change in name was accompanied by a renovation or an increase in size; over the years the restaurant and carryout store were added. The bar area was renovated a few years ago, and the gravel parking lot was paved.
At some point in time it became renowned for its rough and tumble biker bar image, but new owners were always trying to weed out the troublemakers. By the 1980s Lu & Joe’s had emerged from its storied past to become a family style restaurant with a motorcycle wild streak. The bad bikers left, and those who stayed keep things interesting.
Today, patrons of Lu & Joe’s typically consist of a good-natured cross section of rural Marylanders, with construction workers and office workers sitting at the bar chatting about the latest sporting event.
During riding season bikes come and go regularly. You may see an old Triumph or Norton twin, or even an old Harley Knucklehead. You never know what you’re going to find here, but everyone agrees on one thing: The food and the people always make it a great time.
While the current owners feature Thai and Chinese cuisine, this place has always been about seafood and all-you-can-eat Maryland crabs. They have a great seafood menu and everything is cooked to perfection. And since this is also cattle country, steaks are readily available. A joke often played on newbies is to ask them to look out the front window and pick out their steak from the cow grazing across the street!
After a perfect and relaxing meal, you can head north on MD27 a few miles and pick up I-70, which travels between Frederick and Baltimore, Md. And if the interstate isn’t your bag, you can head north, east or west on some nice country roads with a little bit of everything. If you head south you will soon find yourself in the suburban sprawl that the District of Columbia brings. There is still a farm or two to make the ride worthwhile, but the traffic increases steadily as you get closer to the city. If you don’t have a reason to head into the city, pick any other direction!
From the District of Columbia – 42 miles north
From Baltimore, Md. – 36 miles northwest