If it's flip flops, blue skies, palm trees and the best Orange Crushes on the planet, then it must be summer and it can only be Coconut Joe's. Yes, the winter was especially cold and spring arrived late, but scarcely 15 minutes into my first Orange Crush of the season, the sun sparkling on the South River at the Annapolis Area's largest Tiki bar, and winter was so GONE.

Before I took my place at the bar and ordered a drink, I was struck by the beauty of the South River, the bridge looming high to the left, boats at the marina below, lush palm trees and tropical landscaping. A three-piece band on the upper deck added to the festive ambiance, while not preventing conversation. I also noticed a mixed-ages crowd having a great time. Coconut Joe’s truly is a fun summer setting for all ages.

The upper bar and tables were occupied by an array of boaters in from a day of fishing or sailing, twenty-and thirty-somethings at tables displaying abundant evidence of Orange Crush and beer consumption, middle aged couples, and a fair representation of first wave Baby Boomers still in search of “The Endless Summer”. These families, singles, and diverse groups relaxed and mingled in that Caribbean "Irie" manner not so evident in other area restaurants.Along with many palm trees leading to the deck, I couldn’t help but notice a huge playground to the left with its welcoming pirate above the entrance. In the early evening, young parents enjoyed a rare night out with friends while keeping an eye on the little ones running, climbing, laughing and getting worn out. This area offers a large wooden boat with ramp and slide and a large wooden truck to climb.

I was going to call it an evening after the Crush, but decided to stop upstairs at one of the inside bars to place an appetizer order. The menu at Coconut Joe's (or CCJ's as I use in texts) has a "Hawaiian Grille" theme. Although the menu contains fairly basic bar food, that’s okay with me. I am not seeking fine cuisine. I'm searching for atmosphere and great drinks and, in the summer, CCJ's knocks it out of the park. I walked to the lower bar, was offered a seat by a kind gentleman, and ordered my first Orange Crush of the season. It was just as I’d longed for during those long winter days. This is my personal, fresh, orange Nectar of the Gods! Tammy, a friendly and extremely busy bartender, was slicing and squeezing one orange after another, building up her right bicep as she lowered the arm of the juicer again and again between popping beer tops and mixing drinks. She never lost her stride, or her smile, despite a speed and attention to detail that would make me dizzy.

On this night, I stuck to the Fried Coconut Shrimp appetizer because I especially like the plum dipping sauce. During another visit on Cinco de Mayo, I opted for Pulled Pork Tacos. The pork was tender and moist and in generous portion in the two tacos. My order was served in a reasonable time by my attentive bartender, Jack. All tacos were specially and very reasonably priced in honor of the Mexican celebration.

For summer fun, a stellar view, great drinks, a friendly mixed crowd, attentive bartenders and those wonderful palm trees, Coconut Joe's a slice of vacation, minutes from Annapolis. I'll see you there.