Column: More than a root beer standA & Dubs, the seasonal root beer stand near the ore docks in the West End, has been owned and run by the same family for a long time. When I was a teenager during the 1960s it was an established destination for dates, family treat occasions, and cruisers.
A & Dubs, the seasonal root beer stand near the ore docks in the West End, has been owned and run by the same family for a long time. When I was a teenager during the 1960s it was an established destination for dates, family treat occasions, and cruisers.
The West End neighborhood of Duluth is also known as Lincoln Park, named after the wilderness park where Lincoln Creek flows down the hill paralleling 26th Avenue West. The area begins near the foot of Piedmont and ends near the ore docks, just west of A & Dubs. It includes everything from the Skyline Parkway (which we have always called the Boulevard) to the harbor shoreline.
A & Dubs is one of the landmarks of the West End (Lincoln Park) and of the lives of many, many people like me.
I look forward to the opening of A & Dubs every spring, and enjoy going there today as much as I did when I was a high school student. This year it opened the day after Mother’s Day. The food is good, the carhops are friendly, and to me every visit, every burger, fry, and bite of coleslaw, is an enjoyable combination of sight, sound, taste, and nostalgia.
These days I like to order a Hunter Burger and coleslaw; in the sixties my dad loved the Char Cheese, my sisters the deep-fried chicken. When I was a working girl living at home my mother used to treat us on Saturday mornings to a deep-fried apple pie with soft-serve ice cream; these arrived in little cardboard trays, with a plastic fork, and our mom had hers with a cup of coffee.
A & Dubs looks much the same as it always has: You park your car under a roof (out of the sun or rain) on the east or west side, choose your order from the menu that is painted on white signboard, in the same graceful semi-script as Mrs. Kent’s handwriting from years ago. Carhops take your order and bring it out on a tray that hooks over the car window.
Over the years the building has had new siding and windows, and the vestibule across the front has been completely rebuilt in brick, with nice flooring, solid doors, and some new booths that can hold a few small groups of people who might like to eat inside. And I believe there is some air-conditioning, at least in the kitchen.
When I eat at A & Dubs, which is regularly during the season, I remember some of the cars I’ve sat in there over the years: Tim’s dad’s 1967 Ford; my dad’s pickup trucks; a pumpkin-colored Pinto; a Geo Metro with a hatchback that we kept open in order to give our kids some air one very hot summer evening.
And I think of the kids I knew who worked there: my sisters and their friends were carhops, whose hourly rate was less than the cooks’ but who got tips. One of my sisters became a cook, and my younger brother followed when he became old enough to work.
I remember clearly walking past the kitchen window on a summer night. Through the window screen I saw that my brother Jerry was cooking that night. It looked so hot in there; the fan was going, he was flushed with the heat and concentrating. He was working hard and fast, and really getting the food out. From outside I watched for a minute and didn’t interrupt. What a work ethic. He still has it.
These are just some of my memories about A & Dubs. The Kent family and the carhops and cooks who worked with them to keep the food moving over the years have theirs, too, as do the teens who cruised the streets of Duluth in the 1950s and ‘60s, the families who walked over for a treat at one of the picnic tables, and everyone else who has been lucky enough to have an A & Dubs experience. Try it sometime. I especially recommend the Hunter Burger basket. And a root beer.
Remember to leave a nice tip.
Monthly columnist Linda LeGarde Grover is a professor of American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, an award-winning writer and a member of the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. E-mail her at email@example.com.