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This A&W Root Beer in Smithfield, R.I. Stand Has Some Pop

A&W Root Beer Stand in Smithfield, R.I.
A&W Root Beer Stand in Smithfield, R.I.

Article, photos by Eric Hurwitz created for
on 5/3/2021 @newenglandinfo

The A&W Root Beer stand in Smithfield, R.I. evokes a feeling of nostalgia as a classic American drive-in specializing in, of course, made fresh root beer, as well as burgers, hot dogs, fries and ice cream. The carhop concept is as wonderfully simple as the root beer itself: Turn your automobile lights on, have a waitress take your order at the car window and wait for the meal(s) to be delivered.

The root beer tastes as good as back in the day while the fast food holds its own again the very best chains. Fortunately,
A&W dropped the high fructose corn syrup nonsense a few years ago and returned its signature drink to a more natural form.

It is more than just the delicious root beer in different forms (plain, floats, freezes, etc.), however, that makes this A&W Root Beer stand so special. Tradition goes a long way, also, in adding to the overall experience. First, the Smithfield location stands as the oldest carhop-type restaurant in Rhode Island. What's more, the A&W restaurant chain just reached its 100-year anniversary. In addition, many of the A&W restaurants do not offer carhop service instead opting for order-at-the-building-window establishments. Add this all up and the Smithfield A&W remains a unique local treasure. It especially looks like a thing of beauty today as this part of Route 44 comprises many chains and big box stores, thus making A&W look like a true survivor. The stand might look tiny and dated but its back-in-the-day personality shines stronger than others within this 21st-century stretch of retail and food stop familiarity.

At the A&W Root Beer Stand in Smithfield, R.I.
Enjoying a root beer in the car.

The food and drink specials also bring back a sense of nostalgia. Here are the offerings, at this writing...

Monday: 99 cent hamburger with root beer purchase

Wednesday: 99 cent small root beer float
Thursday: 2 cheeseburgers for $4
Saturday & Sunday: Three wieners for $4.75 with purchase of medium root beer

Thank goodness this local root beer destination has remained popular in Rhode Island as the A&W chain peaked at around 2,000 outlets in the 1960s and fizzled to, today, around 600 nationwide as time revealed ownership changes and stiff fast food competition. Only three A&W Root Beer restaurants remain in New England: the Smithfield location, Harwich Port (Cape Cod), Mass. and Middlebury, Vt.

Enjoy the A&W in Smithfield while it lasts -- hopefully, forever!

A&W is located at 460 Putnam Pike (Route 44), Smithfield, RI.  For more information, click here.

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