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

  • Craig says:

    The A&W I remember on Santa Monica Blvd. was in West LA near University High School, on the same block as (but separate from) a strip mall anchored by a Safeway. The whole block has been torn down as of when I looked for it in Google Street View a few years ago. When I was a kid in the ’70s, the A&W offered Orange Julius as well as the usual A&W hot dogs and root beer.

  • Glenora Helfrich says:

    It was a major treat for the family to go the one on Sepulveda after church. Best burgers ever and so juicy. We didn’t do it too often because of the cost. But ohhh what a treat. This was about 1957.

  • BOTVOLR says:

    Ayee-chihuahua Pablo! A Fried Burrito at an A&W! It just seems so outta context…LOL! Whoa, what year was that? In the ’00s? Actually, that should be called a Chimichanga and it was invented in Arizona. Here in New Mexico, it is often served with Red or Green Chile or Christmas style as seen here https://tinyurl.com/yas9xdwy along with shredded cheddar and always with a dollop of sour cream and guacamole! I prefer mine with the Red or Green Chile on the side so that the crispness of the fried tortilla is “preserved”. That crispness is not to be like that of a taco shell when ya order one as an Original Taco at a Taco Bell. Most often, you have the option of a ground beef or Carne Asada filling and when served with beans (fried or unfried) and rice, its about $14, not including a Margarita. Que Barbaro! its early am and my mouth is watering!

  • Paul says:

    There was one on Whittier blvd in ELA. It was a car hop style and we would go there when my older brother worked that day. Used to love the fried burritos.

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

    Yo Dale…
    Treat yourself and your Vieja/Squeeze by surprising her by getting a couple of A&W mugs https://tinyurl.com/s9k2bdb to put in your freezer to fill later with some ‘brew’ from cans of A&W you can get at https://tinyurl.com/tppz9lv
    Slainte! Na Zdrowie! Skol! yada yada!

  • Dale Miller says:

    In the mid 60s when my wife and I were dating we’d go to the one on Peck Road in El Monte. Loved that big frosty mug of root beer.

  • Sara says:

    Can anyone tell me when the A&W was in Taos, NM? I found a bottle from there, and I don’t know when it is from.

  • George Dunbar says:

    The first A&W stand was on Pine Street in Lodi, Ca. The cafe moved to 216 E Lodi Avenue Lodi, CA. They still have car hop service for cars parked under their solar powered canopy. Frosty root beer mugs are frothing away. https://www.awrestaurants.com/locations/california/lodi/216-e-lodi-avenue

  • Dunston Geshtenja says:

    According to the director Bill Sachs the “Pleasure” drive in as seen in the movie VAN NUYS BLVD. (1979) was the Downey A&W stand dressed up as a carhop drive in. Did the carhops back then actually go for it in guys’ vans back then?

  • Tim Wells says:

    I used to frequent the A&W on Hawthorne Blvd. in Hawthorne, CA in the 1960’s as did most other “cruisers” at that time. Along with the “Witch Stand” on Slauson and Overhill in Los Angeles and “Harvey’s Broiler” on Firestone Bl. in Downey, it was a place to “see and be seen” for teens and car enthusiasts. A kid got beat to death there in 1962 and many parents (mine included) would not allow their kids to go there but that didn’t stop anyone. It just made in more attractive because it was “forbidden”. The police presence was increased (2-4 officers depending on the night) making it actually one of the safest places in town.

  • Santa Barbara Woodie Club says:

    Evey year, we have a Woodie only car show in Visalia. I take my ’46 Ford Woodie and park in the car hop area along with another 15 woodies

  • Judy Weaver says:

    I was a Carhop 1972 and again in 1977 on Wilshire and 9th.

  • Mike says:

    I was a burger flipper at the A&W on Santa Monica, Blvd. for a few months in the early 70’s. During summer months, the place was packed with people coming and going to and from the beach – plus the regular local crowd. We had pretty car hops and the owner was almost always there, managing the place. It was very fast paced and I would just keep the grill loaded with burger patties as I saw cars continue to drive up. We also offered fried chicken which was sort of a PITA to deal with. After a few months, I lost interest in doing nothing but flipping burgers and cleaning. But the experience was solid and believe in or not, I still entertain the possibility of opening a small burger joint somewhere near a tourist area. Good times in Santa Monica, CA when the girls were slender and the music rocked!!!

  • Linda of L.A. says:

    To Gary – Dec 28, 2018 ref the Torrance A&W on PCH at Haw Blvd: I not only remember it, but ate there from time to time. I also had stops at A&W’s spread all over LA County and environs – out to the desert areas. I always liked their food & floats. It was a neat place to meet & hang out with friends.

  • Jennifer Darling says:

    I still have my glass mug from the A&W in Alhambra from the early 60’s late 50’s.

  • vicki says:

    I worked at the A&W on RT 66 in Azusa, CA in the ’60’s. Unable to find a picture of it.

  • gary says:

    i am trying to find someone else who remembers a a and w rootbeer stand on pacific coast highway and hawthorn blvd in walteria(torrance) around the mid to late 1960s, if so please let me know thanks

  • Mark Hoffman says:

    The one on Sepulveda was next to a car wash. On Saturday we would get the car washed and then eat there.

  • Dee says:

    After cheerleading practice we would walk to A&W. My favorite was the momma burger, I think it had bacon, avocado and cheese and the root beer freeze in the frosty mug.

  • Tim FX says:

    DAVID: You are not alone… no one can make them the way A&W did back them, because TODAY they use CHEMICALS (HCF-90, and High Fructose Corn Syrup) to sweeten the drink… just like when Coke went to “The New Coke” c.1984. These chemicals and 10x sweeter and 100x less expensive for them, so they say MASSIVE Profit potential, even though it ruined the flavor of the drinks!!

  • 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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