A&W Root Beer

A&W Root Beer still has a thriving presence in the fast food world but as with so many dining landmarks of the past, it ain’t the same. For one thing, they’re no longer drive-ins, at least in California. The last one in the state, which was located way out in Ontario, closed on April 30, 2006. No more car hops bringing you trays of burgers and A&W Root Beer.

When I was a kid, there were two kinds of A&W dining establishments in Los Angeles — the drive-in restaurants and the stands. The stands seemed to be located primarily in the rotten parts of town. As I was then prowling Los Angeles second-hand bookstores in search of old comic books, I often found myself near one. They were cramped little hot dog and burger stands, usually manned by one employee. For a nickel, you could get a frosty cold mug of root beer — and it was a real glass mug, not a paper cup. They also had a pretty good orange drink which cost a dime and which almost no one ordered. I never understood why the orange drink was twice the price of the root beer.

In classier neighborhoods, you had the drive-ins. I remember one out on Santa Monica Boulevard in Santa Monica and another on Sepulveda just south of Venice Boulevard. The standard meal was a burger, fries and root beer. They had Coke and 7-Up and milk shakes but if you asked for one of those, the order-takers acted like you were the first person ever to not want the root beer. The burgers ranged in girth from huge to a kid’s size called the Baby Burger. Some adults liked to order several Baby Burgers and wolf them down like White Castle slyders.

The main thing I recall about drive-in restaurants is how utterly awkward it was to eat a meal that way. The server would bring your order on a tray that hooked onto your car window. It was not easy to get your food on and off this tray and there was much spillage. A lot of people probably lament the passing of the drive-in but I’ll bet not many of them actually went to them. More than once, at least.

56 Responses to A&W Root Beer

  • Paula Doss says:

    I grew up near one in Arcadia, Ca. on First Ave. Just north of Duarte Rd. We used to get a Baby Burger with chili and root beer – my parents would get their appropriately sized – Mama or Papa Burger – whatever they wanted. That was in the 1960’s and I don’t recall when it went out of business or ??
    The last one I went to was a drive-in in Fillmore around 1983 or 1984 – it was a perfectly nostalgic experience that I shared with some friends that had forgotten about the chain. I can’t say I thought the food was as great as when I was a kid – but the root beer was great. Totally enjoyable memory!

  • Edward says:

    Still one that i know of, in Westminster,CA !
    Two still open overseas on this little Island, Okinawa….

    Probably a few more here and there……….

  • Linda Collard says:

    I think the one in Atascadero is still open. There used to be quite a few in Santa Monica, also one of their corporate offices was on Broadway and 9th. The one on Sepulveda was the big one where everyone hung out at on weekend nights!

  • Bill Long says:

    My family moved to Colton from Oceanside in 1966 when I was 8, going on 9. A&W had an honest to goodness restaurant at the southwest corner of Mission Avenue and Hill Street (now Coast Highway) which wasn’t there very long. It had no outside service at all. In Colton, we had an A&W a block east of Colton High School which was very popular because the school was open, the cafeteria was too small for the 2500 students there (I remember they said if we had 300 kids eating lunch there the fire department got a warning call), and we could legitimately eat anywhere we wanted. The A&W was too small for carhop service. It was run by a retired Air Force veteran named George and his Japanese war bride whom we call called Martha. Since we lived near the place, we ate there a lot, even before I went to high school. So sad it’s gone. (The building is still there… it’s now Leno’s Rico Tacos.)

  • Gary says:

    I remember an A&W Root Beer stand in Fillmore Ca. A group of my H.S. buddies and I came out of the adjacent mountains after a week long backpacking trip and we were near starving. We looked at the menu and ordered all sorts of delicious looking food but after a week of eating dried, just add water type food, and not having enough food to eat, I barely got through a burger and I was full. The root beer was great though. I wish I could remember the exact location in Fillmore that restaurant was located.

  • Gary says:

    I’m sorry, I forgot to mention the year above. That visit to the A&W Root Beer stand in Fillmore, Ca. was the spring of 1972 or 1973.

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