Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Day Trip to A&W

Honestly, wouldn't you have a big dumb grin too,
 if you had a burger that big?

As a little kid, I would go with my grandma and grandpa in Grandpa's deep red 1977 Ford Ranchero to the local A&W Drive-in. I would get a pizza burger (of course!) and a root beer and sit and eat between my grandparents on the red leather bench seat, smelling fast food and Old Spice and a hint of the pine tree air freshener hanging under the dash.  It was good.

Now, of course, A&W is synonymous with "crappy mall food."

Except, it turns out, there are still a few proper, old-time A&W Drive-in restaurants out there. I've been to one on US 101 in Florence, Oregon. And in the distant past, I had been to one in Faribault, Minnesota (the city's name is pronounced fair-bo).

Get your own.

I remembered the one in Faribault had exceptional food. And I needed to go for a drive this Labor Day weekend, somewhere that the other traffic wasn't going to be headed. Cruising down to the A&W in Faribault with my brother Noodles and his lovely wife (who needs a better nickname than Noodlette...) seemed like an excellent plan. So, after a quick phone call to confirm the details and a glance at a map, the three of us were on our way.

You might be thinking, "the three of you? On the Triumph?" Well, no. The Triumph needs a new battery and was feeling a little too sleepy to ride, so we had to cage it. I will visit again on two wheels shortly...

This burger is a thing of beauty. I was almost hesitant to eat it.
But then I got over it.

The drive to Faribault is scenic but low on thrills, since it's mostly a straight shot through farm country. But it was a sunny day, and I had good company, so it was perfectly OK.

We got to the A&W at an off time, so it wasn't busy. Finding a table wasn't an issue.  On the other hand, the restaurant was busier than you might expect. It was too hot and humid out to sit in the car to eat, so we went inside. I should have taken some pictures of the restaurant's interior, but I didn't so I'm just going to have to describe it, sorry. It is old-school. Round booths. Orange and brown vinyl. The only thing missing was servers on roller skates.

They made up for the lack of wheeled waitresses, however, by regularly coming around with pitchers full of root beer to top up your frosty mug.

It's the American way!

Now, this is a proper A&W, which means they make proper food. The fried things are fried in peanut oil (best fries ever?  Maybe not, but getting there...). My bacon double cheese burger had a fried onion ring on it and the whole thing was pinned together with a wooden toothpick with an olive speared on top. And did I mention the frosty mugs of root beer?

Naturally, I had to get the chili cheese fries. They were everything you could want.

Eventually, we finished a lunch that was much, much bigger than we'd realized, and we had to make the hour long drive back to the Twin Cities very full of very heavy food. It took some loud, fast music to keep me awake for the drive home, even with the great company I had.

I can't wait to go back.


RichardM said...

The A&W here is several fast food places munged together. Does that make it "mall food"? I think they are all owned by the same parent. But, it does serve tasty burgers and chili cheese fries but also KFC and something else that I don't remember. But, I don't remember the pizza burger, just the papa, mama and baby burgers.

SonjaM said...

I have good memories going with A&W, and consider it the best fast food chain. We had our first encounter with A&W and their root beer back in 2004 in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Then again it saved us from starving in the middle of nowhere while crossing Newfoundland. As a converted vegan there is not much left for me to eat but I still would go for their fries, but my hubby still craves for their burgers.

mq01 said...

;) dang it!!!!! you'

bob skoot said...


A one hour drive isn't that bad. It takes me that long to get home after work and it's only 23 kms but lots of traffic and many stop lights.

I also like A&W for their breakfasts, they are like "home-made" except on styrofoam plates and plastic utensils.

I also like their root beer served in ice stored frosted mugs. When are you coming back to Astoria ?

Riding the Wet Coast

Lucky said...

RichardM - There seem to be "chain" A&Ws that are attached to a KFC (or in malls), and then there are originals like this one. I guess the ones attached to KFCs are decent, but the originals are... well, like the ones my grandparents took me to. ;)

Sonja - Yes, that experience would make me a devoted A&W fan too. Hmm, a roadtrip to Whitehorse must be in order...

mq01 - Well, come out to the middle coast already. We've got pizza and great burgers.

Bob - No, a one hour drive isn't bad at all. It's just enough for an easy day trip. I haven't had breakfast at A&W, but now I'm intrigued.

Not sure when I'll be back in Astoria, but it is on my list of things to do in the immediate future...

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

That's a good one Lucky. I've stopped many times, it's been a destination more than once even. I attended Trade School in Faribault for a year and it was popular with we students.

There are some very nice back roads between here and there......I-35 isn't necessary :)

Lucky said...

Coop - Yes, I took the back way down to Faribault. On drives for fun, I always try to avoid the interstates unless I really have to cover distance quickly.

And, as you know, 35 is a huge mess at the moment. :)

Trobairitz said...

Most places around here just have A&Ws in Chevron gas stations, go figure how they thought up that combo.

I think the one in Florence is still going strong. Hopefully it hasn't closed yet.

Sounds like a great day out with family and good food is always a good excuse for a drive.

Chris Cope said...

RE: your comment above, When is 35 not a mess? When my family moved to MN in 1988 there was work taking place on the 35 and I cannot remember a single point since when things have been different.

Anyhoo, when I was a boy in Texas it was all about the Sonic, yo. I don't think I've ever eaten at an A&W, in part because its name is close to that of A&M (it's a Texas thing).

Lucky said...

Trobairitz - The last time I was in Florence (which was, admittedly, a couple years ago now) the A&W was jumping. I'm sure they're fine. But just in case, you should probably go check.

Chris - Sonic is totally decent, and sometimes the servers are on skates, so I like them just fine.

As far as 35 is concerned: are any of the roads in this state ever not a mess? 35 is exceptionally bad at the moment though...

Well, again, that's always true. OK, how about this: the section of 35 that would have been convenient to drive was a total mess.