In an amazing milestone for a legendary local landmark, Burbank’s Smoke House celebrated its 75th anniversary on October 12 with a party attended by celebrities, civic leaders and faithful patrons, dozens of whom had been customers for 50 years or more.
“I’m honored to be anywhere that’s older than I am,” joked the event’s emcee, honorary Toluca Lake mayor Fritz Coleman, adding that the family-owned neighborhood restaurant is “part of the social fabric of the Valley” and all of SoCal. Dignitaries who marked the occasion included Senator Bob Hertzberg, Assemblymember Laura Friedman (who also presented a certificate on behalf of Mayor Eric Garcetti), a representative from Congressman Brad Sherman’s office, and Burbank Chamber of Commerce CEO Jamie Keyser Thomas. Actors Patrika Garbo and Ruda Lee shared memories of the Smoke House and testified to its history as a go-to spot for the entertainment industry; Swoosie Kurtz, Cindi Williams, Clint Howard and Henry Winkler were among the luminaries who sent messages of congratulations. Actor Bob Bergen, the voice of Looney Tunes’ Porky Pig and Tweety, entertained the crowd while co-hosting a raffle with Coleman as attendees enjoyed birthday cake and a champagne toast.
As an added gesture of appreciation, patrons paid only 75% of the cost of dinners from the regular menu, in addition to being able to order from a special $19.46 menu that continued through the remainder of the month. In a show of community solidarity, the restaurant also donated 10% of all the day’s sales to the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, which provides individuals and families, the working poor, crime victims, senior citizens and the homeless with the short-term emergency assistance they need to live with dignity.
That cause is important to Smoke House owner Marti Spencer, especially in light of the difficulties brought by the pandemic. She was moved to tears as she spoke of how heartbreaking it had been to furlough some of her staff during the shutdown and how grateful she was for the ongoing support of loyal customers as the business weathered change and uncertainty — challenges that make its continued survival and success all the more remarkable. As speaker after speaker made clear, the restaurant’s greatest legacy is its timelessness, from the enduring appeal of its famous garlic cheese bread to the feeling of warmth and belonging that has remained unchanged for three-quarters of a century.