The Jug, ‘landmark’ drive-in eatery, celebrates 80 years

Middletown mainstay opened on South Main then opened current location on Central.

Ask a customer about the Middletown mainstay, which marks 80 years in business this year, and they’ll mention its pleasant atmosphere, inexpensive prices and an extensive menu.

But ask them their absolute favorite part of The Jug experience and the answer almost always includes mention of tasty, hot-off-the-grill beef, be it a single or double hamburger or cheeseburger.

Conrad Carpenter, 75, who started coming to The Jug as a first-grader in 1945 when his family moved to the city. “It’s the taste of it,” he said, attempting to described its enduring appeal. “You can’t get a hamburger that tastes like this hamburger anyplace.”

Beverlyn Jones, 63, a customer for the past 40 years, said Jug burgers are the reason why she stops by each week.

“They taste just like more like I cook at home, from scratch,” Jones said.

The hamburger stand/drive-in got its start on South Main Street in 1932 thanks to former Middletown Journal publisher Bert Lawler, who opened the current location at 3610 Central Avenue in 1939.

Middletown has changed a great deal during that time, but the business remains essentially unchanged, producing not only good food, but fond memories, according to Gary Short, 53, another four-decade customer.

“It’s just real nostalgic,” Short said. “I remember coming here with my mom and dad years ago.”

Since buying The Jug early last year, owner Tom Temple has added several menu items, including boneless wings, a half-pound Jug burger, deep-fried hot dogs and a brownie bites sundae, but retained familiar favorites, including a frosted-mug root beer, root beer float, soft-serve ice cream and french fries.

“If it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it,” Temple said.

He’s also made the business more kid-friendly by adding kids combo offerings that reduces portion sizes for his youngest patrons and passes along the savings to their parents.

Guests who order a sit-down or drive-up meal get their order two to three minutes sooner than before thanks to a walkie- talkie system Temple instituted to speed up delivery time.

Once open from only May to September, The Jug is now a year-round business operating daily except for Sundays.

“My big thing is to be with family on Sunday, plus to worship,” he said. “I’ve never worked on Sunday, unless I had to. With my belief, I couldn’t have somebody open it either.”

J.T. Maher of Middletown, 64, a customer for 58 years, said when people come back to Middletown for a visit they always make a beeline to The Jug.

“It’s always been a Middletown landmark,” he said.

As part of its 80th birthday celebration, the restaurant is offering T-shirts for $16.95 and root beer mugs with The Jug logo for $7.95 by itself or $8.95 with root beer.

The Jug employs 15 people, including Kenny Steele, now in his 29th year as a carhop. Steele said the place is an enjoyable one in which to work, made even more so by its patrons.

“Customers are real polite,” he said. “They make our job a little bit easier.”

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