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.

108 Responses to A&W Root Beer

  • Bill Long says:

    The only one left in the area is in Carson. I’m living in Needles and the closest one to me is in Mentone, near Redlands. To put that into perspective, it’s almost the same distance for me to drive to Flagstaff, Arizona, in the opposite direction.

  • Yucca cul de sac in Scottsdale (NW) says:

    I liked the A & W Root Beer stand in Tempe, Arizona. I wish it were here now.

    “When do I get my driver’s license?”

    My parents drove a new blue Ford van conversion. And one time we walked.

    I had gotten a new kind of bed ( & it’s HOT in Arizona), a newly patented waterbed, & I thought “What do I want to REALLY drink?”

    Probably A & W.

  • DavidC says:

    Embarrassed to say I still have a root beer float mug that I stole from the A&W store in Palm Springs. They made them better than I can – even when I use their root beer.

  • Kelly Nicholson says:

    There was one in Los Angeles on Manchester between Normandie and Vermont in the 1960s…

  • Mark Mireaux says:

    I remember A&W Root Beer restaurants well. I believe there was one for a while in Solvang (just outside of Santa Barbara county!) that was even shaped like a “root beer barrel.” Ah yes-nostalgia!

  • Robert says:

    The Beach Boys’ first album, “Surfin’ Safari,” has a song, “Chug-a-Lug,” about a great the root beer stand: “I go down to the root beer stand / And drink up all that I can.” Anyone in L.A. in 1962 could tell you this song could only be about an A&W stand.

  • Tim says:

    There is a drive in style open in Hanford ca and also in Visalia. The same owners also have a regular sit down type restaurant in Visalia and Tulare Ca. All serving the same food.

  • Jon T. says:

    South Gate had an A&W Drive-in. It was at the northwest corner of Tweedy & Atlantic Bl. There was a miniature golf course directly to the west of it.

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