The A&W Barrel Café

By Cindy Jones

In the 1920s, as automobile ownership had become the norm across the United States, the nation’s first fast-food restaurants popped up in just about every state. At drive-ins, customers would park their cars and be waited on by carhops, who would take the order, report back to the kitchen, and bring burgers, fries, shakes, and sodas out to customers waiting in their automobiles. Quick and delicious greasy food on the go! It was all-American love at first sight.

The A&W Barrel Café was a fast-food icon right here in Clearfield, Utah. The unique restaurant offered a walk up counter for burgers, fries, and A&W root beer on tap, all housed inside a giant root beer barrel!

Ianthus H. Sr. and Alice Willey Barlow built the giant barrel on the site of the old Clark’s Blacksmith shop in 1927 in Clearfield, where Main and State Streets split: at approximately 50 South Main. Later, the Session family leased the restaurant, and the café became a favorite hangout for local teens. The Sessions operated the café from 1934 until 1941.

Burt and Donna Harmer and their business partner, Fay Atkinson, took the restaurant over in 1952 and owned the business for just over a year. The café closed its doors sometime in the late 1950s, but the Barrel Café was such a unique place to meet friends and grab a delicious treat, it was the talk of the town for years.

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