When it comes to fast food and burgers, most people immediately think of McDonalds, since it’s caught on all over the world. But there’s another fast-food chain popular in Canada and the States that, despite its lack of international fame and success, offers unusually high-quality fast food for excellent prices. A&W is a great option for those looking for a quick burger that’s just that little step above the rest.
About the restaurant: Originally a fast food chain founded in 1919 in California, A&W was one of the first “drive thru” restaurants. The Canadian branch of the company eventually broke from the American branch and became its own separate entity. Now there are over six hundred outlets all over Canada.
A&W embraces a sort of charming retro chic as part of its décor and atmosphere. Restaurants usually have old photographs and posters on the wall, and the simple tables and chairs have the look and color scheme of a 50s or 60s diner. The menu has a certain old-fashioned innocence to it, with the burgers named after family members (Papa Burger, Mama Burger, and so on). In all other respects, it’s similar to McDonalds or other fast food restaurants in terms of its service, cleanliness and so on.
Taken from the A&W website.
The food: The reason I’m making a point to recommend A&W to international visitors is because, in my opinion, it has always offered a much higher quality taste than other fast food burger joints. Part of this is due to the beef patties. While many other franchises tend to have rather rubbery burgers with questionable composition, A&W patties taste really meaty and juicy, with very little overprocessing. They also use remarkably fresh ingredients for their burgers, particularly their onions. Most of the “family” of burgers have a giant slice of fresh onion, and the sharp bite mixed with the ketchup and mustard gives a much bigger kick than McDonalds or Burger King. Each iteration of the burger “family” has a different number or size of patty; the Mama Burger has one, the Papa Burger has two, the Grandpa Burger has three, and the Uncle Burger has a single large sirloin patty. All of them are very filling and satisfying.
Their fries are also excellent; a bit thicker than McDonalds, but still crispy and well-salted. The Chubby Chicken dishes (breaded chicken, usually in chunks or in a burger) are also very popular, with a lighter dusting of batter than McDonalds. Breakfast muffins are also available, with variations like Ham’n’Egger a big hit with people on the go.
Then there’s A&W’s most famous offering; its root beer. While I don’t like the drink myself, it’s become synonymous with the franchise, and root beer fans drink it both in and out of the restaurant. Cans are available in many different stores all over the city. A&W Cream Soda is also quite popular, with a much sweeter, mellow taste.
My favourites: Papa Burger, Uncle Burger, fries, cream soda.
Cost: Extremely low, especially in regards to combos and deals. For example, you can get two Mama Burgers for $4. Combos usually go for $6, and the prices are on par with what you will find at McDonalds.
Location(s): All over Vancouver, with both sit in franchises and food court outlets. Link to Google Maps.
Website and menu: Here.
Summary: While it may seem odd to espouse the joys of a fast food burger joint, the entire point of this blog is to point out low budget places with good food, and A&W hits the mark. If you like fast food, you will enjoy A&W, and if you don’t like fast food… well, I think you still might be pleasantly surprised.