Smitty's Better Burger
1313 North King Street, Hampton, VA 23669



It is still in operation. I will capture an image soon.

Friday, October 7, 2005,
9:16 PM

- Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 10/06/05
Thanks, Dave!
Image by Tom Norris (HHS - '73) of VA - 10/08/05
Thanks, Tom!
Monday, October 10, 2005 Monday, October 10, 2005,
11:23 AM
Monday, October 10, 2005,
11:23 AM

Images by Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 10/10/05
WOWZERS!  Thanks so much, Dave!

By the way, is Smitty’s Better Burger still in business?

- Chandler Nelms (Hampton HS - '63 - of MD) - 10/05/05
Why, yes, Chandler, I do believe it is!  Thanks!

 In response to Chandler Nelms' (Hampton HS - '63 - of MD) question
in the October 6th newsletter about "Smitty's Better Burger" - It is still up and running.
I was there about a month ago after leaving Buckroe Beach, but I must say, a little disappointed
in the food - NOT AS GOOD AS IT USE TO BE !!
- Donna Chadwell Nunemaker ('64) of VA and FL - 10/06/05
Thanks, Donna!

Now ..... about Smitty's: 
About our very own Brian Beachum ('72) of VA

It is still in operation. I will capture an image soon.

- Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 10/06/05
Thanks, Dave!

Smitty's is still in business on North King Street .... since '56! I'll get some pics with the Vette there soon!

- Tom Norris (Hampton HS - '73) of VA - 10/06/05
Thanks, Tom!

Oh, yes, Chandler Nelms (Hampton HS - '63 - of MD), Smitty's Better Burger is still on King Street.  It is a
MUST visit for me when I'm in Hampton.  The women don't wear roller skates, but the food is still good!

- Gloria Woolard Price (Hampton HS - '65) of FL - 10/06/05 
Thanks, Gloria!

Yes, Smitty's is still open. Before I changed my diet in April, I was eating there often. Now I take 2 slices
of my whole wheat bread there and they put their marvelous chicken salad on it. And I pay for it!
But I can't go too often. Mrs. Smith died about 2 years ago. The Smith's son Ron is an attorney in Hampton
 but he also owns 2 restaurants called County Grill and Smokehouse. He has smoked meats, 6 home made
BBQ sauces (ranging from a wonderful vinegary NC sauce to a tomato-based KC version with TN, Lexington, KY
and a couple of others in between) in a beer carton caddy on the table with southern style 'fixins'.
One is in York County and the other is located at the old Eli's on Mercury in Hampton.

- Kathy Pilgrim Clark ('63) of VA - 10/06/05
Thanks, Kathy!

Smitty's Better Burger was located between Langley Circle (when it existed) and the Main Gate
of Langley Air Force Base. It was on the left side of the road going towards the Base. I cannot recall the
name of the road leading to the base now, after all, it has been quite a few years. This topic came up a few
months ago, and I seem to recall seeing photos submitted by one of your faithful subscribers. In fact, I tried
to locate that page last week, when I wrote to Fred Hayman ('57) of VA reminding him of the "crush" he
had on one of the waitresses at Smitty's Better Burger. Believe it or not, Fred did not recall the crush, so
why should I recall this romantic fantasy, except that back then Fred did all the driving in his father's gray
Plymouth. It was one of our regular stops after Civil Air Patrol meetings that were held at Fort Monroe and
later in their own building across the road from the Catholic Retreat near Buckroe Beach. I thought a photo
of the drive-in would jar his memory, but I could not locate it...and thought I might be having a "Mature Moment"
when the page was not in Our Old Stomping Grounds.

- Joe Madagan ('57) of FL - 10/06/05
Thanks, Joe!

No secret to Smitty's drive-in success

The 50-year-old burger joint has continued to preserve its originality, survive transitions and attract loyal customers.

March 23, 2006

Want a better burger? At Smitty's on North King Street, they've been turning them out for 50 years.

The late Ethel D. Smith, who started the business with her husband, Paul, described the old-fashioned drive-in as "a kitchen and a curb." There is no dining area, just a few picnic tables. Customers are served in their cars, complete with a tray attached to their window, just as it was done in 1956.

Paul Smith, 76, now retired, said the secret ingredient to their longevity is no secret - just fresh meat and hot buns.

"Not many burger places warm their buns," he said.

Not many burger places have customers who've been loyal for decades, either.

Rosa Little has been coming to Smitty's Better Burger for more than 30 years. She and the owners talk like old friends.

"The hamburgers are so good," she said. "I also love the fried chicken; it takes a while, but it is good.

"I like the atmosphere, too," she said, looking around the parking lot.

The fried chicken is made fresh, so it takes about 20 minutes to prepare, Smith said.

Jimmy Ingram of Hampton has been eating at Smitty's for "20 years or maybe 30 years."

"It is good food at a good price," he said.

Royce Newton, known as "Sarge," is probably the most loyal of them all. He has come to Smitty's almost since it opened, when he was an Air Force sergeant at Langley Field.

He parks in the same spot and tells the servers to just surprise him with his meal, said Susan Roach, Paul's daughter and one of the current managers.

"He has never complained," she said.

Langley Air Force Base has helped keep the business going, especially at lunchtime during the work week. The base has produced some very loyal customers - so loyal, they have gone to great lengths to get burgers.

About 10 years ago, repairs were being performed on the King Street bridge, leading to a gate at Langley. This made for a difficult direct drive to Smitty's, Roach said.

"We had someone call and ask if we could bring some burgers to them by boat to the base. We looked into it," Roach said, but boat access to the base was too limited.

"Soon after that, someone called in an order for about 20 people," she said.

One former service member called from Pennsylvania, asking for Twirly Dogs to be sent on dry ice, but Roach said she didn't feel comfortable doing it because of potential spoilage en route.

It isn't unusual for couples who dated at Smitty's as teens to return, showing off children and grandchildren to the owners.

"We have people all the time who say they came here on their first dates and now they are celebrating their wedding anniversary with us," Paul said.

Friday and Saturday nights, especially when the weather is nice, are the busiest at the burger joint.

"We have cars circling, waiting for a parking spot to open. People will also park across the street and walk up to the kitchen to order," Roach said.

Some very important people have visited in the past half-century.

Last summer a terminally ill 12-year-old boy chose, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a limousine ride to Smitty's for a burger with 10 of his friends.

The crew of Air Force One flew in to Langley one day and lunched at Smitty's.

The restaurant was started and operated by the Smith brothers: Charles, now 82; John, 80; Paul, 76; and Thomas, who is deceased. The idea came from Charles, who ate at a similar place in San Angelo, Texas, when he was in the military as a young man. He also ran a What-A-Burger franchise for a time.

The Illinois native visited the Hampton location and talked with his brothers about opening a drive-in when they finished their military service. John served in the Navy, and Paul was in the Marine Corps.

The brothers also opened and ran two other Smitty's restaurants for a short time on the Peninsula. They closed them after five years, when their landlords raised the rent, Roach said.

Charles and John retired 20 years ago, and Paul bought them out. John still helps out during the lunch rush, for no pay.

"He works for food," Roach said.

For Paul, the business produced more than a living. He met his wife, Ethel, when she was a "curb girl." She passed away in 2002.

Family members say Ethel considered Smitty's one of her children. Following a lung transplant in 2000, she was unable to return to work full-time.

However, in a small office on the property, Paul said, "She worked from her recliner; not much got past her."

On T-shirts worn by employees, there is a picture of a car at the drive-in. The license plate reads "Ethel." The shirts are also available for purchase.

The restaurant continues its family tradition. In addition to Roach, it is managed by her brother-in-law, Steve Collins. Roach's son, Lee, also works there.

"Our goal is to keep it going for another 50 years, and to keep it in the family," Roach said.

Daily Press Article courtesy of Joe Drewry ('58) of VA - 03/24/06
WOWZERS!  Thanks, Joe!

(This page was created on 10/06/05 when the seemingly innocuous question
of Chandler Nelms (Hampton HS - '63 - of MD) produced a floodgate of responses. 
Thanks, Chandler!)

John Belushi's SNL "Cheeseburger" wav file courtesy of,
at the suggestion of Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 06/01/04
HA! HA!  Thanks, Dave!

Cheeseburger Image courtesy of - 01/19/04

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