Review: New! Bacon Ranch Crunch Burger from A&W

A&W is by far one of the best root beers on the market. Crisp, refreshing, and they don’t hold back on the vanilla. I’m pretty sure though that most people have not been to one of their restaurants, or don’t even know they exist to begin with. Along with their delicious root beer, they make some killer food as well. When it comes to drive-thru burgers on the east coast, I can’t think of a better place to grab some grub. When talking to Ryan about my first post, he mentioned their new burger and it seemed like a perfect fit for my first review for the site. Along with a review I figure I should get everyone up to speed on the history of A&W restaurants as well. This isn’t just some “fly by night” burger joint.

A&W was one of the original drive-in restaurants in the US. Most assume they started as a soft drink manufacturer and made a name for themselves and then hopped into the restaurant industry. Actually, the opposite is true. In 1919, they opened their first drive-in. They helped pave they way for what we all know now as iconic American car hop delivered fast food.

What set them apart from the competition was their delicious root beer, and root beer floats. By 1960, they had over 200 franchised stores. They continued to flourish into the 70’s but their business model had one fatal flaw. Restaurant owners were free to do whatever with the menu they saw fit. Everything from the cooking to even what kind of food was different from location to location. With no standards on preparation or even the menu, this confused the public and led to a massive amount of store closings. A large dose of irony was added to the mix as this was also the time when A&W root beer was hitting store shelves and becoming a huge hit. By the 80’s very few restaurants were left and the soft drink was flying out of grocery stores.

I was born in 82, and grew up with the root beer, but had no clue of the restaurant heritage. In the mid 90’s, while hanging out at Potomac Mills in Northern VA, I stumbled across a random A&W mall burger joint. Being a person who loves to “roll the dice”, I decided to give it a try. The burger was fantastic, the root beer was on tap (like draft beer) and it was amazing. I tried to spread the word, but no one I knew really seemed to care. Lucky for all of those people, A&W was scooped up by Yum Brands and along with quality standards, a significant amount of locations have been added all over the country. The food is standard fare but for some reason it just tastes great. There just seems to be a little more love put into their burgers. A lot of the newer locations are also partnered with Long John Silver’s. This is the case with the A&W I go to. Fortunately for me, they have added a new burger to the menu.

The Bacon Ranch Crunch Burger is exactly what it sounds like. The website didn’t have a description, but this is how it comes- Their standard burger with cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato, plus ranch and… crunchy fried strip things? I have no clue what you call them. They tasted like the fried batter LJS tosses in the bottom of their fish baskets.

I got the double burger combo with a chilled glass mug and an order of fried cheese curds. I hate to say it, but the burger was the worst I have ever had at A&W. The beef was cooked great. The cheese was melted perfectly. The bacon and produce were great, but the ranch and crunchy umm… stuff, was pretty bad. While I like ranch dressing, it isn’t that great as a burger topping. It also didn’t help that there was barely any on my sandwich. Maybe the staff was trying to help me out by not over doing it. The crunchy batter things were pointless. Other than the ones that fell out of the side, they instantly became soggy and I could’t even tell they were there. Why restaurants keep trying to make burgers crunchy blows my mind. When I go to Five Guys or other great burger places, I never ask myself where the “crunch” is. Playing around with ingredients is fine, but when you needlessly mess with perfection, you’re asking for trouble. I like beer. I like cake, but I don’t need a cake that makes me drunk. Don’t get me wrong though, the burger wasn’t terrible, but a Papa Burger (a single or double with lettuce, tomato, cheese and papa sauce aka thousand island) would have been way better. This burger just didn’t need to exist.

Overall the meal was the same awesomeness that I have come to expect from A&W. The fries have a slightly fishy taste from being cooked in the same oil as the LJS fish, which is an unexpected but great contrast to the burger. The fried cheese curds were tasty, and you can’t beat on tap root beer in a frosted mug. If you get a chance, be sure to check out A&W.  Just don’t order any of their wacky new burgers.

Pros: Might be the best fast food bacon out there. High quality fast food burger. Getting to dip my fries in cocktail or tartar sauce without looking like that weird guy who brings his own condiments. Coming to the realization that YUM! Brands might not be as evil and souless as I previously thought.

Cons: Not quite as great as Five Guys or In N' Out. Fast food companies trying to make everything have a "crunch". The chilled mug only stays cold for about five minutes. Ranch dressing on a burger makes no sense to me.

Taste: 6.00/10
Value: 7.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 5.00/10
Price: $4.49

Overall GrubGrade: 6.50/10

More Info: AWRestaurants.com
Nutrition Facts:
not available

19 comments on “Review: New! Bacon Ranch Crunch Burger from A&W

  1. Adam says:

    Dan! Welcome to the crew 🙂

    There was an A&W in Logan when I was at Utah State. The place was the oldest fast food joint in town, and I only walked in once. I’ve always meant to try a burger there, but something about the less than thrilling prices – and labled trans fat in just about all their menu items – seemed to always lead my to the nearby Carl’s Jr. instead. I think I’ll try them out sometime now that I’m back East and closer to some of their newer, refurbished stores.

    • Chefprotoss or dan says:

      I figure a little trans fats here and there can’t be a bad thing. Then again I also have no problem shaving a couple years off my life by having fun and eating good food. You’ve got to pay the piper. =P

  2. Murray says:

    Welcome aboard. Good review.

    I’ve been a fan of A&W for a number of years. There used to be an A&W inside the local Kwik-E-Mart (or whatever it was called), but the gas station went under and the A&W had to go with them. Their fries are a little weak, but I really like their burgers, rings, curds and of course rootbeer.

  3. Manavee says:

    Agreed about Ranch and burgers in general (although I found the recent ranch slider at White Castle not that bad).

    Ranch, IMO, is better, as a complement to intense, often spicy, flavors (like buffalo sauce or something else spicy). If you don’t have that going on (like in a burger), it just makes it more bland.

  4. James says:

    I liked A&W better when they had their older menu, before Yum bought them, with things like the Mozza Burger and a nice variety of non-burger items. I liked the beef better than whatever it is they’re using now. They were a lot better on the root beer too; most franchisees these days way overcarbonate their root beer.

    Personally, I think fish-flavored french fries are disgusting.

    • Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

      I don’t know where you are located, but if you ever make it to Canada, they still have the pre-Yum menu. A&W Canada is privately owned and they have all the greats like the Mozza Burger.

  5. rob says:

    When I was a kid the local A&W would fill a gallon milk jug with root beer for a quarter.

  6. Eric says:

    Congratulations on your first post. Cool to see you actually started writing posts. I remember seeing not long ago when you were offered the challenge in response to one of your comments. Overall well written. I look forward to your future write ups (and the fact that we might get more posts in general on GrubGrade now!).

    Personally, I’m not a big A&W fan. To be fair, I’ve only eaten there a few times, and haven’t had a burger (buffalo chicken sandwich, chili dogs, etc.). Also doesn’t help that I don’t like root beer. I’ll have to go try a burger now.

  7. Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

    They no longer double-brand A&W restaurants with LJS. They went back to their origins and only build drive-ins now. They’re all over the place in Wisconsin now.

    Anywho… I guess I found what I’m getting for lunch today!

  8. Lizz says:

    Most of the A&Ws I’ve seen have actually been paired with KFC’s. Love the root beer on tap. Have never been crazy about their burgers, but I do love ordering cheese curds to go with my KFC. haha

  9. Jim says:

    We have an old style A&W Drive-in not far from us. It’s located in Madisonville, TN. It’s been opened since 1964.

  10. Jesse says:

    I grew up walking distance in the 80s-early 90s to an original non-franchise A&W, and it was incredible. I can still taste the Red Robinesque seasoning salt they used on their fries.

    Though apparently it was not incredible (or more accurately, profitable) enough to resist the dollars of a mega grocery store developer.

  11. Rhiannon says:

    A&Ws around here are always paired up with other restaurants. Such as KFC and Long John Silvers. Odd to me.

    • James says:

      KFC and LJS share the same ownership group A&W has.

    • Keith says:

      Yum! Brands (a subsidiary of Pepsi) consists of KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver’s and now A&W. Most new restaurants built by them are twofers. KFC/Taco Bells are popular around me…

      It makes sense, I’m sure it reduces costs and combining two very different restaurants will make a single location appeal to a much larger audience.

      Now I’m just trying to figure out if they’ll make me a popcorn chicken crunchwrap!

  12. Keith says:

    Welcome to GrubGrade – nice to see a new reviewer.

    I have to say I never enjoyed ranch dressing on sandwiches (don’t even get me started on the abominable practice of dipping pizza in it). Sweetened condiments like ranch dressing and even ketchup do not belong on burgers in my opinion. I preferred it when I was a kid, but once I decided it was time for my palate to grow up, mustard or mayo made far more sense to me since it holds up to the richness of a good burger.

    My family is from NYC, and growing up my dad let me put ketchup on hot dogs. Then, when I was about 12 or 13, he sat me down and – in a conversation that was as serious as a father son conversation can be – told me it was time to grow up, ditch the ketchup and starting eating my hot dogs with mustard. To do any less would be un-New York of us. The thought of eating ketchup with anything but french fries or as a base for homemade barbecue is no longer appealing to me.

    Anyway, thanks for the review – I really enjoy the fast food reviews here (except that time Adam put ketchup on his fillet-o-fish), and this is no exception.

  13. April says:

    The A&W in my hometown (1970s-80s) had a telephone at the table so you could call in your order to the kitchen. I never cared about the food – only the rootbeer floats.

  14. Melody says:

    Just to let you know the crunchy fried batter things are actually those fried onions like you would put on top of a green bean casserole.