Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Dogs & Suds

Over Memorial Day weekend, I satisfied (as best I could) a long-smoldering craving for chili dogs and root beer. The dogs were my own combination of chili, chopped onion and all-beef hot dogs on toasted whole-wheat rolls. The root beer came from a can, but at least I could come up with a frosted mug (Pour boiling water over the mug, then put it in the freezer compartment.)
Where I grew up, we had two A&W root beer stands, one on the north side of town, the other on the south side. Both made great Spanish hot dogs (chili dogs) and pumped that famous A&W root beer. I was happily surprised to find A&W root beer stands in Guam, Okinawa and the Philippines, too. Alas, the franchise has fallen on the same kind of hard times that wiped out other famous chains of the past (Howard Johnson's restaurants, once a Pennsylvania Turnpike treat, for example). Now, there is an A&W outlet beside a KFC (another once-good, now horrible food franchise) at one of the upper bench malls in Boise. But it's not the same.
I appreciate the background on the original A&W (see, and I do think the modern version of A&W root beer is not bad. But it just ain't the same. For one thing, the companies aren't even the same. The drive-in chain has become a "full-service" operation, absorbed by Yum! Brands (which also owns Long John Silver's pseudo-seafood outlets), and the classic root beer beverage is mixed in there with 7-Up and Dr. Pepper (two other beverages that lost their identity long ago too) under the cleverly named Dr. Pepper/7-Up Inc. corporate umbrella. I can come up with a pretty good chili dog on my own, (and I've written previously about how to make a version of Kentucky fried chicken that the Colonel might not think is nearly as bad as what comes out these days under the brand that sullies his name). But I am really not up to trying to make my own root beer. There are other brands (Dad's, Barq's, Nesbitt's and Nehi (both of which made all kinds of other flavored soda pops back in the day), Barrelhead, and Weinhard's (which I think is the best commercial root beer nowadays). But I sure do miss the kind that came out of those big ol' barrels at the A&W drive-inn. The car hops were cute too. But that's another story.