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A tale of the Smitty burger – and where to find it now that Jubilee is no more

Post by Sue Kidd / The News Tribune on April 4, 2014 at 12:00 am | No Comments »
March 28, 2014 4:06 pm

Jubilee sign picHere’s a fun story about a legendary burger, a tricky sign and a new cafe in one of my favorite dining areas, Tacoma’s Lincoln neighborhood.

The giant orange Jubilee Hamburger Restaurant sign remains a stunning marker in Lincoln despite the closure of that hamburger restaurant in 2012.

So, too, remains the legend of its Smitty burger.

The new cafe Amp opened in the longtime Lincoln burger joint in January. Since then, plenty of neighbors have stopped in to order a Smitty burger, the regionally famous burger known for its oblong shape.

The only problem is that the cafe doesn’t serve burgers, let along a Smitty. Amp serves a mean Philly cheese steak and BLT sandwich, though.

More on the Smitty in a moment – and more on the future of that striking Jubilee sign, too.

First – a look at the new all-purpose cafe Amp, which is worth your dining dollars. A quick bite at Amp found the hallmarks I look for when I have exactly 17 minutes for lunch – good sandwiches made well at a fair price.

A BLT sandwich is $4.95 at Amp in the Lincoln neighborhood.
A BLT sandwich is $4.95 at Amp in the Lincoln neighborhood.

Sturdy, toasted sourdough held triple layers each of solid bacon and snappy iceberg lettuce, with a healthy swipe of mayo and a chunky-cut tomato slice finishing off a stellar BLT at a stellar price – $4.95. A Philly sandwich ($8.95) was a hot tangle of grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms with thick-cut beef strips on a toasted hoagie. Melted provolone glued together the delicious mess. On the menu are nine grilled or deli sandwiches, $4.95-$8.95, with chips or a housemade eggy potato salad; frozen yogurt and espresso from Puyallup’s Martin Henry Coffee Roasters.

Amp is the project of Tina Maggard, who owns Freeze Frozen Yogurt in University Place with husband Jason Maggard, who runs Freeze while Tina manages Amp. The duo weren’t intending to open a second cafe, but hopped on board when family friends, who own the site, told them the prime Jubilee space was available.

They spent months making over the restaurant from a quirky dive of a drive-in to a yogurt and coffee cafe with lounge-style seating.

What remains of the old business is just the sign, which is in a state of flux as the Maggards discuss with locals how to remove and preserve that huge orange beacon that’s loomed over Lincoln for decades. Local historians and a family member of a former Jubilee owner have shown interest in removing the sign. For now, the sign’s future remains unclear as the Maggards grapple with making sure the sign is safely removed (that’s going to be a big job) and that it goes to a good home.

They won’t put up a new sign advertising their business Amp until the old sign issue is resolved – so for now just look for the orange Jubilee sign if you’re searching for Amp.

The Smitty burger at Don's Drive-In is like a burger hoagie.
The Smitty burger at Don’s Drive-In is like a burger hoagie.

So about the Smitty burger. While Amp might not serve them, I know two restaurants that still do.

Don’s Drive-In, the downtown Puyallup burger restaurant with a long list of homemade pie and soup, serves lots of Smitty burgers (925 S. Meridian; 253-845-1790). Get a single or double ($3.99-$4.99) with special sauce, onions, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes. Also, find the Smitty at Marcia’s Silver Spoon, a good-as-they-come diner in Tacoma (2601 South Tacoma Way; 253-472-0157) serving a Smitty that’s a half-pound, hand-pressed patty on a toasted oblong sourdough baguette with Thousand Island, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and pickle ($9.49).

A bit of Smitty lore from the News Tribune’s archives – there are at least two Smitty burgers around here. One is served every year at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup and is a round burger piled with griddled onions, created by Houston Odum Smith. The oblong Smitty served at Don’s and Marcia’s can be traced to a style of burger served at restaurants owned by Werner Schmid, who bought restaurants from H.O. Smith.

Now go get yourself a Smitty. Know of any other restaurant around the South Sound serving an oblong Smitty burger? Send me a note at

Amp Coffee House and Frozen Yogurt
858 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-275-8009. Serving coffee, sandwiches and frozen yogurt from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Sue Kidd dines anonymously and The News Tribune pays for all meals.

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