KingMidget's Ramblings

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A Trip Down Memory Lane


Back when I was a kid, eating out was a treat.  I remember going to Straw Hat Pizza for “report card treats” — what we got for good report cards.  I remember Senor Pepe’s — a Mexican restaurant in the same little strip mall as one of the Straw Hats we frequented.  And I remember the occasional trip to McDonald’s when my parents could feed our family of six for $5.  I don’t remember a lot of other dining opportunities although I’m sure there were others.  There were two reasons for this.  First, we were a family of six living, as many families back then did, on one income.  As a result, eating out wasn’t something the budget allowed all that often.

Second, and more relevant here, is that I grew up when there was one fast food restaurant every five miles instead of five restaurants on every corner.  Don’t believe me?  Within a mile and a half of the ol’ homestead, there are:

McDonalds, Carl’s Jr., five pizza places, two doughnut shops, Subway, Togo’s, (the Quizno’s closed a couple of years ago), three Chinese restaurants, a BBQ hole in the wall, two Mexican restaurants that are almost right next to each other, a Taco Bell, a yogurt shop, and I think a Japanese restaurant.  Go another couple of miles and you have the same thing.  In any direction.

Oh, and I forgot … the place that is a combination Kentucky Fried Chicken and A & W.

Back in the day, fast food was this beautiful thing that was a rare treat.  There was a McDonald’s about five miles away at Manlove and Folsom.  At some point a Burger King and Taco Bell showed up next to the McDonald’s.  The Taco Bell where I discovered the beauty of combination burritos with green sauce — still the Taco Bell go to for me.  In the other direction, there wasn’t much until you got to the place we went for frosties (aka soft serve cones) every now and then.

And, then, over there, over at La Riviera Drive and College Town, by the college, there was an A & W.  (By the way, here’s where I wanted to insert an image of an old-fashioned A & W restaurant/drive-thru.  So, I googled “old fashioned a & w restaurant” … and everything that came up was related to Wendy’s, a completely different fast food hamburger restaurant.  Try it.)

At least this is my memory … in a strip mall at that intersection, there was an A & W, an old-fashioned drive-thru.  There also, at some point back then, was Foxy Loxy — a bagel shop before anybody in California knew what a bagel was.  But I remember going to the A & W every now and then.  They had burgers named after family members.  The Papa Burger.  The Mama Burger.  The Teen Burger.  (And, here’s where I googled “traditional a & w menu” and got … absolutely nothing related to A & W.  Go ahead.  Try it.  You’ll be stunned by the results.)  And I remember the root beer.  That was what A & W’s thing was … good ol’ fashioned root beer.

Somewhere along the way, that A & W went the way of the dinosaur and A & W pretty much dropped off the face of the local restaurant scene.

Until that combination KFC/A & W showed up down the street.  And I didn’t get a burger there … until a month or two ago.  For some reason, I just didn’t think they would be that good.  Maybe I had one when they first opened and it didn’t seem quite right.  Anyway, thanks to John Callaghan, a blogger from Canada who made a comment about how much he enjoyed the Papa Burger at his local A & W ….

Wait … there are A & W’s in Canada, too?  And they still have the Papa Burger?  Well, now I’m gonna have to try it.  It took me a couple of months and when I did … hey, wait a sec, I like this.  A double cheeseburger with the usual condiments.  Unlike a McDonald’s burger and many of the other fast food burgers these days that seem to be overly processed and somehow just not real (I mean, the next time you have a burger from McDonald’s or Carl’s Jr or Jack in the Box, or Burger King, look at the meat and ask yourself, does this actually look like real ground beef), the A & W burger seems to be actual beef.  I had another one a couple of days ago and found myself my new favorite burger.  It’s not high class.  Not gourmet.  But it’s a decent burger with that little connection to a memory from way back then.

And, it’s just down the street.

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18 responses to “A Trip Down Memory Lane

  1. John Callaghan February 20, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    I hope I’m not contributing to some future heart problems. In Canada A+W is now advertising that their beef contains no steroids or hormones. I’m not sure if this makes the beef healthier or not but that’s the big campaign they are on now. They are one of the bigger fast food places in westetn Canada. Something they used to do in the stand alone restaurants was serve the pop in these frozen glass mugs. It was pretty good. I don’t think they do that any more.

    • kingmidget February 21, 2015 at 7:44 am

      A & W almost completely disappeared from my area and it is still pretty rare to see one. I don’t think any of them are stand-alone restaurants either. They are all joined with KFCs. The three times I’ve been in the place since I “re-discovered” A & W, I’ve been the only person ordering from the A & W side of the menu. I, too, remember the root beer in the frozen glass mugs. As for the meat without steroids or hormones, I’m all for more of that happening. The less artificial stuff fed into our food products the better as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think you’re contributing to heart problems. I’ve always enjoyed me a burger, so this is just A & W replacing the other nearby options — none of which were that good.

  2. Amy Reese February 20, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    You’re so right about there being so many more eateries. Sometimes it’s easier to just eat out. My family ate at either McDonald’s orPizza Hut, and not much else. Six kids in my family so, like you, we mostly ate at home.

    • kingmidget February 21, 2015 at 7:46 am

      We had an Australian high school student spend a couple of weeks with us a few years ago. At first, he was amazed at all of the stores and restaurants at every corner. Like a kid in a candy store. But by the time he left, he was disgusted by just how much there is and how much bigger the portions are here than in Australia. Like a kid in a candy store who ate too much and got a stomach ache. Did you know that they don’t have unlimited refills of sodas in Australia?

      • Amy Reese February 21, 2015 at 12:06 pm

        No, I did not know that about Australia. They must think we’re really greedy. I certainly take it for granted. What’s funny is that we still have sizes – for dining in, wouldn’t you always order a small?

  3. Carrie Rubin February 20, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    I haven’t thought of A&W in years. I remember their rootbeer. So good.

    We didn’t eat out much either when I was a kid, but occasionally my mom would bring home KFC after work. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. Now I wouldn’t eat there unless coerced. Weird how that changes.

  4. sknicholls February 21, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Try Googling A&W Drive-In
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_drive-in_restaurants
    There was one in every GA town I grew up in and there is still one in Cedartown GA. Sonic is big, too. WE used to drag Mian from the A&W on one end to the Petro’s Pizza on the other end. It was the thing to do to show off your wheels.

  5. Kevin Brennan February 21, 2015 at 11:14 am

    What is this “actual beef” you speak of? 🐄 ≠ 🍔

  6. Kathy February 22, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    There was an A&W across from my high school. They had a Titan Burger because my high school were The Titans. It was fun that they made a burger that felt like it was just for you. We go to A&W now and again after church and we’ve always like their burgers. And, of course, the root beer.

  7. butimbeautiful February 25, 2015 at 12:33 am

    The book sounds worth a read! As to unlimited sodas in Oz, no they don’t have them! Apparently Sizzler set up here where I live and folded within about a year, cause of lack of interest in unlimited buffets. But – we’re still fatter than you, I think.

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