Edit: This location is gone, but A & W still lives elsewhere.
I always have fond memories of trips to A & W from when I grew up. I always loved their root beer floats and their curly fries. So when I stumbled upon an A & W in Hawthorne, I knew I had to return to relive my glory days.
Unfortunately, as with so many other childhood favorites, my hopes were too high for A & W. This particular A & W was merged with Long John Silver’s, which made me sad to hearken back to the days when an A & W could have a restaurant all to itself, and not just any restaurant. These were the drive-thru sorts where you parked next to a menu and were waited on in your car. It seems those days are all but gone, and despite the generic and washed out design of this A & W/Long John Silver’s amalgamation, I hoped that the food would make up for it.
The first thing I noticed was the obvious absence of curly fries. This was disheartening, although I felt slightly better when I saw they had fried cheese curds. After looking at the menu, I decided on the Papa Burger. This was a double cheeseburger, with a special sauce called Papa sauce. I was told this was essentially thousand island dressing and then I made sure to order it without any vegetables. Since I was feeling pretty hungry, I got it as a combo, with a root beer float and cheese curds.
Then the waiting began. It turned out that the guy who took my order also happened to be the guy who prepared all the food. It also turned out that everyone sitting in the restaurant when I walked in also happened to be waiting for their food. Twenty minutes later, I finally got my order.
I tasted the burger and almost choked. The special sauce was more fluorescent than the American cheese, which isn’t an easy thing to do. And it really was special, because it didn’t taste anything like any thousand island I’ve ever had. In fact, it was as if someone had urinated in a bowl of thousand island (oh please tell me this isn’t what actually happened). The beef itself was also a huge letdown. The texture was comparable to an overworked and dried-out sponge. The fries were decent despite not being curly, as were the cheese curds (you really can’t go wrong with fried cheese), but the one truly redeeming part of this meal was the root beer float. I was so happy to find that they didn’t forget how to do these right. Even though the ice cream was soft-serve, they found a way to make it taste right.
I may end up at A & W again, but it certainly won’t be for the food.