Smitty burgers were easy to spot because of their oblong patty on a French roll. At one time, they were served all over the South Sound. If you’re a longtime Tacoman, you probably ate one at King’s Drive-In, the Jubilee, Bob’s Burger Barn or Zarelli’s.
The tale of the Smitty begins more than 50 years and can be traced to burger diners owned by Werner Schmid, who purchased his burger restaurants from Houston Odom Smith, another prolific Tacoma restaurant owner. The hallmarks of a Smitty included an oblong patty on a buttered, toasted French roll with a sharp special sauce, lettuce, onions, a tomato and American cheese. Grilled onions and pickles were favorite add-ons.
Over the years, the burger fell off menus as the older drive-ins, such as King’s and Jubilee, closed. Only a few places kept it going: Don’s Drive-In in downtown Puyallup; Marcia’s Silver Spoon on South Tacoma Way; the Goofy Goose on Sixth Avenue and Mountain Tavern on Pacific Avenue.
What’s been surprising to see lately is the resurgence of the Smitty burger. So far this year, three restaurants have added a Smitty: Lucky’s Drive-In, The Red Hot and Amp Coffee. Take a look:
Lucky’s Drive-In: The roadside burger stand debuted May 1 with two sizes of a Smitty on the menu (a quarter- or a half-pounder). It’s a fine rendition of the classic. The smaller version comes on a short French roll with a smoky burger sauce, shredded iceberg lettuce, onions, pickle chips and a thin tomato slice. Double round patties stand in for the traditional oblong.
Where: 13502 Pacific Ave. S., Tacoma; 253-536-6677 or facebook.com/luckysdrivein.
The Red Hot: Burger Mondays are a new thing at the Red Hot, a craft beer and hot dog tavern in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood. But instead of making a burger with beef, the Red Hot uses a sausage patty. The Monday sausage burger changes weekly. The sausage Smitty is a new addition to the burger rotation. The burger will be served all day Monday (May 11). Watch for other Monday sausage burger deals at the restaurant.
Red Hot co-owner Stu Miller described the Smitty as “… a buttered and grilled French roll, a 6-ounce house-made sausage patty, our own sweet-and-smoky-secret sauce, grilled onions, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles.”
Where: 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-779-0229 or redhottacoma.com.
Amp Coffee: In January, the coffee shop and frozen yogurt cafe in the former home of Jubilee Burgers started serving a Smitty again. Amp’s version comes on a French roll with leaf iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice and thick-cut onions. Pickles and grilled onions available upon request. Read more here.
Where: 858 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-275-8009, facebook.com/ampcoffee253.
Don’s Drive-In: The burger drive-in in downtown Puyallup serves a single or a double Smitty with special sauce, onions, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes. Don’t forget to order the chocolate pie. Don’s is home to some of the best pie in the area.
Where: 925 S. Meridian, Puyallup; 253-845-1790, on.fb.me/1E2pTiP.
Marcia’s Silver Spoon: A half-pounder Smitty at Marcia’s is my favorite of the local versions. The hand-pressed patty comes on a toasted sourdough baguette with Thousand Island, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. Each component is perfect.
Where: 2601 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma; 253-472-0157, tinyurl.com/MarciasSilverSpoon.
Goofy Goose: Find double slices of American cheese on the oblong patty built on a sturdy roll with iceberg, sliced onions, pickle chips, tomatoes and dual condiments of ketchup and special sauce.
Where: 3702 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-752-5722, tinyurl.com/GoofyGoose.
Mountain Tavern: This tip came from reader Bill Sorsdahl. Find a Smitty-inspired burger on the menu at this pub on Pacific Avenue. It’s been on the menu for at least 30 years and was added as an homage to the original.
Where: 5520 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-472-2993.