When coming to Lodi, visitors are usually attracted to the many wineries for tasting or tours of its quaint downtown area offering various restaurants with outdoor dining.
What many don’t know is there is another popular beverage the area is known for – A&W; Root Beer.
Lodi is the birthplace of the soft drink and the national chain. The A&W; in Lodi is also the world record setter for the largest root beer float set in 1999 and the chosen place that will celebrate the 100th birthday of A&W; Root Beer in 2019.
Legend has it that on a hot day in June of 1919, Lodi entrepreneur Roy Allen, a travelling businessman, mixed up a special batch of herbs, spices, barks and berries for a creamy root beer and sold the first frosty mug of this delightful beverage for a nickel downtown on Pine Street for the thousands of people attending a special homecoming parade for the city’s returning World War I veterans.
In 2001, the City of Lodi memorialized the spot with a marker at the original location at 13 W. Pine St.
Customers fancied the root beer, and Allen continued selling it in ice-cold mugs for five cents each. Because of its popularity, he opened more stands in nearby Stockton and Sacramento. Three years later, he added a partner, Frank Wright, and combined the initials of their last names for their popular beverage A&W; Root Beer.
Wright eventually sold back his portion of interest to his partner, the name was trademarked and Allen continued to grow earnings through many business dealings.
By 1925, Wright closed the Lodi stand, but swiftly grew the business nationwide. By 1954, A&W; returned to Lodi, when they opened a burger and root beer stand at 216 E. Lodi Ave., which is still there today.
Peter Knight and his wife Annette have owned the Lodi franchise since 1995.
“I knew when we were looking for a franchise to buy that Lodi was the perfect one since A&W; started here,” said Knight who’s worked for A&W; since 1973 while in high school and into his college years. “We wanted to make it a destination stop.”
The Lodi A&W; is definitely a throwback with its nostalgically decorated eating area including vintage A&W; memorabilia and still having an operational car hop for diners.
On Thursday nights from April to October, the diner sponsors classic cruise nights attracting many car clubs from throughout the Central Valley.
Knight said at the end of October, the Lodi A&W; hosts a car show that features over 300 classic and muscle cars on Pine Street.
In 2011, the restaurant was closed for six weeks for a remodel which now features the more traditional orange, brown and white paint to time-warp the restaurant back to the ‘60s when the colors that call out “A&W; Root Beer” first appeared. Knight felt the collectables and memorabilia that older generations remember with an upgraded look will appeal to a wider, and younger, range of guests. To make it more traditional and personal, they use customer names for orders rather than a number like other establishments.
Knight said business has gone very well over the years, recently taking area awards for the best burger, best area lunch, and best kids menu.
The business is slated for another modification, to install solar panels to the covered car hop area that will generate power to fill 40 percent of the restaurant’s electrical needs.
“This is a first for any A&W; franchise,” said Knight. “Here we are almost 100 years later being the first at something again.”IF YOU'RE GOING
A&W; All-American Food and Root BeerAddress:
216 E Lodi Ave.
Lodi, CA 95240
10 a.m. to 10 p.m.