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.

128 Responses to A&W Root Beer

  • Mark S. Avey says:

    Van Nuys California’s A&W had the movie Hollywood Knights filmed at it. It’s gone now but does anyone know where it was on Van Nuys Boulevard?


  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Alas Boomer, and with all due respect, please allow me to say “No one is from Baahstan!” (BTW, a great read is Massachusetts: a novel by Zaroulis-follows a Mayflower’s deckhand…first landing in Provincetown cuz they ran out of beeyaah…and his progeny up thru the 1930s, mainly in Baahstan.) When, in my dotage, it is my last thing I am permitted, I’d order some A&W from Amazon and then drive me caah ovaah to Essex to Woodman’s for a mega sized ordaah of Fried Clams (Strips, sans Bellies)!!! Actually, might pick me up a Coffee Frappe instead…LOL (An ex-Pat from LowellLand.)

  • Armando says:

    Does anybody remember the poor boy sandwich? I used to get one in San Bruno, California. What was in that sandwich? I can’t remember.

  • Cam says:

    Do any of you old timers from san Fernando valley remember a restaurant
    on Winnetka in Canoga park called Gilbert’s grill in late 50s early 60s

  • richard laird says:

    Fond memories for this Boomer (63) having ice cream and gulping down A & W Root Beer with my Pee Wee league teammates after a victory–and, sometimes after a loss–during the 1960s at Denlinger’s, long gone, A & W drive-in on El Camino Real in Atascadero, CA. Someday, before Ol’ Father Time punches my ticket, I’ll trek on down from Boston to the Cape Cod (Harwich) A & W to grade it.

    Richard Laird

  • Kimchi says:

    There was a stand in Downey. Not sure if it’s still there though. I used to go to St. John Bosco and we’d sneak out to go to A&W.

  • C. Hartman says:

    I was one of the first customers at the A&W on Sepulveda and Venice Blvd. We new the grand opening was at a certain time and my brother, who drove, and I went to see it. We got the time wrong I guess and we were near the front of the line. Soon the place was mobbed with hundreds of people. It was like a riot.
    I liked the root beer, it was creamy. But over time, the popularity faded.

  • Peter Mellini says:

    1968 living in downtown Los Angeles, shopping at the Grand Central Market with Mom for weekly groceries and produce. Bored and hungry, when I see the A&W stall. Give my mom that sad puppy dog eyes, she gives me a quarter. I sit at one of the stools and order up: baby burger, fries and a root-beer. I’m in heaven. Man I loved that frosty mug with that foamy dark liquid. I’m smiling right now just from the memories.

  • Ken Harrison says:

    The last original A&W stand in Southern California is in Mentone, CA on Hwy 38.

  • The Management says:

    Soupy Sales was on Channel 7 (KABC) in Los Angeles. He was never on Channel 5.

  • Howard Perry says:

    The biggest cultural event when I was about 14 was watching the Soupy Sales Show on channel 5 in L.A. One day, Soupy showed up at the A & W on Sepulveda Blvd in Culver City. The turn-out was huge and the crowd kept pushing forward until Soupy pleaded with everyone to lighten it up – some girl was getting squashed. Terrific drive-in. A root beer freeze there was only second to Tito’s burritos in terms of excellence.

  • Judi Stutz says:

    A & W Drive-In on Sierra Avenue in Fontana, CA in 1970, my dad took me out to dinner and I lost my first tooth! They gave me a glass mug to take home after having a rootbeer float.

  • Gordy says:

    Papa burger and a Root Beer Float in Santa Monica was heaven!

  • George says:

    I worked as a burger flipper during the summer of 72 at the A&W in Santa Monica, CA. Very interesting experience. On summer weekends, the place was out of control busy! We had seriously pretty carhops (before everyone in America got fat) and the people returning from a day at the beach were hungry. It wasn’t uncommon for every seat inside and every car stall to be full. I’d have every inch of cooking surface full of sizzling burger patties and several other cooked patties resting on the side – ready-to-bun and run. As soon as I head an order leave the lips of a customer, I’d throw more patties on the heat. You wouldn’t believe the oil that flowed off the grill and into the the grease catch. The heat and the smoke was often unbearable. I think I only lasted about 4 weeks. I was stuck behind a hot smokey grill on beautiful, sunny summer days and all I could do is wish I was at the beach.

  • howard foss says:

    circa 1960-1962 A and W root beer at 139th on hawthorne blvd. to the witch stand on slausen ave and overhill. from the witch stand,
    down overhill turn right to la brea, left on la brea and merge onto hawthorne blvd. let the drag racing begin.
    Inglewood p. d. could never catch me.
    washington high school class of 1962.
    still racing after all these years.

  • Al Donnelly says:

    Having also grown up in LA with A&W, thought I’d point this out. If you’re traveling north on I-5 just past Roseburg Oregon at the Sutherlin exit is a group of yuk food joints. Look off to the right on the north side at a high flat area used for vehicle/equipment storage. That was where A&W once sat as the iconic King of the Road for all travelers.
    If you can hold out to the Springfield exit, turn east on Main St. and head out to Fins Drive-In. Not a modern fake. Set up just like an old and aging A&W (maybe it was one once). The two A&W’s in Eugene are long gone. Last one I can recall may have been Klamath Falls.

  • greg Kelly says:

    Its getting late, still looking for that photo of the A&W on Bristol adjacent to Mater Dei High. I’m doing a model of it for my brothers 50th reunion this year. Thank you, kellyshobbyshop@att.net

  • Garrett Grabow says:

    From June 1976 – June 1980, I lived on the Marine Corps at 29 Palms, CA. Sometime during 1979 – the year I turned 7 years old, my dad and I ate at the A&W root beer stand – the food was outstanding!!!! Looking on the internet, I see there is no longer an A&W in 29 Palms. When I go on vacation to 29 Palms – next year – I will need to find other restaurants. Unfortunately, there are no A&W restaurants in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Yo Joe…for shame you weren’t faithful to Howard Johnson’s!!! As a Lowellian in the ’50s, am just commenting “to yank your chain” seeing you are from Lawrence…which, I presume, will be playing Lowell High on Thanksgiving Day. In any event, hope you at least visited/toured the Lowell Mills https://www.nps.gov/lowe/index.htm in your time and maybe read Call the Darkness Light by N. Zaroulis where the Pemberton Mill Collapse of 1860 in Lawrence was recounted.
    Blessed Thanksgiving!

  • Joseph P. Arsenault says:

    When I was a child in the late sixties, early seventies,we had a A&W Root Beer Drive-In, right over the border in Salem, New Hampshire,myself living in Lawrence, Massachusetts.My parents would bring us up there, and we would order root beer in the frosted glass mug,
    “mama”,”papa”,”baby Burgers” and french fries…They also had the “teen” burger…I remember the car hops would
    wear bright orange jackets and pants along with their change makers….good memories of the sixties and seventies…

  • Greg Kelly says:

    Almost a month and can’t find a photo of A&W at Bristol and Edinger adjacent to Mater Dei in the 50’s60’s early 70’s. Please help. Thank You.

  • Greg Kelly says:

    A&W Root beer stand at Bristol and Edinger in Santa Ana, Calif. I need photos, thank You.

  • Harvey says:

    I still have a big A&W root beer mug that we drove away with circa 1967-8!!!

  • Rick says:

    I live in Illinois and had an A&W franchise a couple miles from home when growing up. I loved their corn dogs….ohh soo good. They would have car hops deliver to your car window……we loved it.

    They also had the BEST ORANGE DRINK I have found ANY WHERE. I wish I could find it somewherel I really miss it….it was non carbonated and just had a terrific taste. I have never again found this drink at any restaurant yet today and prob never will. Any one can help me on this?

  • Doug says:

    A&W Root Beer…My parents used to take me to one in San Diego a couple of times when I was a kid. They bought a full set of their mugs, which ranged from Papa, Mama, and Baby mugs; I still have a Baby mug in my kitchen.

    The closest thing now that we have is Sonic, which is a far cry from A&W…I guess you just can’t go back.

  • Shirley says:

    Wow we used to go to the A&W in Okinawa way back in the sixties! So happy to hear they are still in business there❣

  • Hank Fink says:

    To the guys commenting on the A&W on Hawthorne Blvd. Yeah it was absolutely the BEST! And yeah I spent many hours in that line to get in! Back and forth from there to the Wichstand, that’s what living was all about! There were guys/girls cruising there all the way from San Bernardino. Innocent and nothing but fun, carefree days. And not a worry about bad things happening. Oh, it was in Hawthorne not Inglewood. I grew up in Hawthorne and the A&W aka (A&Dub) etched a place in my life that simply cannot ever be replaced as a childhood memory!

  • Alan Armstrong says:

    There was an A&W in the 60’s on Cypress Ave, near Azusa Ave., near Northview high school in Covina. Went there often. After DeMolay basketball games, we would stop and each have a quart of rootbeer.
    When we go to Big Bear through Redlands, my wife and I often eat at the A&W on highway 38 in Mentone

  • David Tolentino says:

    I have eaten A&W food all my life but somewhere around the late 70’s the food changed. The burgers didn’t taste the same and the sub sandwiches disappeared. The burgers can be replaced as our tastes evolve when we load them up but the combination sub sandwich that I remember from the mid 60’s to mid 70’s is long gone. I have been searching for a copycat recipe with no luck. I even asked a few people I know that worked there and they can’t remember

  • Joy Byerley says:

    I had my very first submarine sandwich at A&W probably 50 years ago it had a taste it was so delicious I wish I could find the menu or find someone who could tell me for certain what kind of meat and cheese and condiments was on that sub. I have never tasted that taste again since A & W has left or changed its food. Oh gosh just to have those subs again …. And I have tried subs all over but none have that taste whatever it was….

  • Bill B says:

    We used to eat at the big A & W in Bellflower. It was a huge cruising hang out. There is still an A&W in Mentone on Highway 38. A buddy of mine ate there the other day and loved the Root Beer float

  • Douglas Howard says:

    Come up to Canada where you’ll find A&W thriving. They were in decline here until they brought back the Burger Family. Better than The big 3 McDonalds Burger King and Wendy’s

  • John Hindsill says:

    It is good to see that some folks here are alums of SMCC. I attended off and on from summer night session 1957, through nights and summers 1959. I attended full time 1959/60 before transferring to university (with probably the lowest acceptable GPA ever, but that’s another story.) As I recall reg fees were $10!/semester for a full load of 12-16 units. My most expensive book was probably about $10+/-.
    I still have a fondness for the Corsairs.

  • William Peterson says:

    @Pat Wagner: I too frequented the A&W on Hawthorne (I also attended SMCC in the mid-’60s). I don’t recall the cross street (140th?) but I do remember the following:

    -Cruising “The Boulevard” (Hawthorne) from the A&W to the Wich Stand on Slauson and back again all night or until we either picked up girls or got into a race.

    -The Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun” (“driving through the hamburger stand now ….”), the hamburger stand being the A&W.

    -Papa burgers, Mama burgers and Baby burgers.

    -On Friday and Saturday “Date Nights,” lines of cars a half-mile long on Hawthorne waiting for a spot to open up in the A&W.

    -Memories play funny tricks as you get older, but to me, the A&W Papa burger remains one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.

  • Pat Wagner says:

    There was an A&W on Hawthorne Blvd in Inglewood, CA.
    Can anyone tell me the cross street? When I was in College (Santa Monica College, or Santa Monica City College as it was known then, SMCC in the early 60’s) we used to go there A LOT! I’d like to Google Earth it and see what the intersection looks like today.

  • Lenita says:

    They still have one in Lodi CA and I think even La Habra CA. Their Root Beer freezes were to die for! I loved their hamburgers too! Our hang out was on Pacific Coast Highway in Walteria Ca, which is reall just part of Torrance.

  • Fred Ruf says:

    Nothing like root beer out of a keg. Oh and the one in Santa Monica was on Wilshire and Lincoln, what do you think that property is worth today?

  • CPH says:

    Apparently the one in Upland (Foothill/Mountain) has shut down for good.

    That one wasn’t bad, but I remember going to one in Lancaster (CA) in the mid-1990s, sometime after the Northridge earthquake. I forget exactly where it was, but it was on the corner where the Antelope bus to Santa Clarita and the San Fernando Valley stopped.

    Not only did they serve root beer in real glass mugs, but each mug had been dipped in root beer and put in the freezer, so when you got your drink, it stayed really cold throughout your meal. I don’t remember much about the food–burgers and fries were pretty good, but not necessarily remarkable…

  • Jon Athens says:

    There was an A&W drive in Healdsburg Ca since I was a kid. It remained a Drive -in still about the time my Daughter was 10-11 years of age, which would have made it 1997-98 or so. It had the window trays at least until that time. I am not sure when they stopped but they still had the glass mugs and the family burgers. They are still there today but the building looks different some and it is a walk up and sit down now. Have lots of memories of that A&W. Great place and good burgers, at least then.

  • Brian Cozad says:

    My parents owned the A&W in 29 Palms from 1965-1980. I grew up there flipping burgers & cooking fries. We got a lot of business from traffic going to and from the Colorado River, as well as from the local Marine Corps Base. Sadly, the building is now a bar. As I remember, the corporate headquarters back then was in Santa Monica (it’s now in Lexington, KY). There’s still an A&W in Mentone (on Hwy. 38 east of Redlands, on the way to Big Bear).

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Oh well, with the A&W location in Morongo closed, I guess you will just have to hold your appetite until you get to the Ruth Chris Steak House and sit back with a JWB instead. Ask for it in a frosted mug ! tee hee.

  • chris pingel says:


    They closed the A&W near the Morongo Casino near Palm Springs just his last year. We used to stop there when we were going to and from Palm desert.
    Love their root beer in frosted mugs and the food as well.

  • James says:

    The last one I frequented was at the Santa Anita mall in Arcadia around early 2000s.

  • Thom says:

    Oh yeah, we would go visit my Grandparents in Sanger, CA. My parents would always stop and take us to the same A&W they went to in high school. WOW!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.)

  • 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!

  • 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……….

  • 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!

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