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Today in
S.C.V. History
October 3
1918 - Box-office superstar William S. Hart promotes 4th series of Liberty Loan (World War I) bonds, which went on sale Sept. 28 [story]
William S. Hart

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Friday, May 9, 2014

Darryl ManzerYou may know I’m no fan of chain restaurants. I prefer places like Egg Plantation, Newhall Refinery and El Trocadero, to name a few. But today I must state for the record that there are two chain-type restaurants that are not in the SCV and should be here.

I just read a piece by John Boston about how our bodies have grown larger since the term, “super-size,” came into being. Since these two establishments don’t use that term, it is safe to say the extraordinary weight gain will not happen if you go there.

The first is a place where you pull up and into a parking place with the menu brightly lighted. You decide what you want and press the “order” button. Soon a voice comes through the speaker saying, “Welcome to Sonic. May I take your order?”

Hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and “tater tots.” Shakes, malts. Soft-serve ice cream dishes. Mix your own drink flavors. Then they bring it all to your car. Sometimes the servers are on roller skates.

Memories come rushing out of my head. Stopping at Bob’s Big Boy and the car hop came out and took your order. Maybe at the local A&W root beer place and Loren Elmore came out and took your order. (His dad owned the place, and he was able to work there.)

Get much the same feeling at a Sonic, even here in Kentucky right now.

Just to let you know, there is a Sonic in the Antelope Valley and one in Duarte. Go try it and you’ll be hooked.

I will not be responsible for the huge caloric increase you’re going to have, but remember: It isn’t “super-sized,” so it is safe.

The other place is sort of like walking into a general store as Walt Disney might have imagined one to be. In fact, he may have known a store like this.

It is a place where you can find old-style rock candy and copies of Elvis records, too. There is clothing and kitchen implements and even a few garden tools. If you’ve done your shopping and you’re still waiting to be called for a table, just step on outside and sit a spell in the rocking chairs. (Also for sale.) There will be a checker board set up to help you pass the time.

You hear your name and go inside to be seated. Going to your table, you see a large fireplace and an old rifle or shotgun replica hanging over the mantel.

Hanging on the walls are old pictures of people and family portraits. Old metal advertising signs for corn and liniment and motor oil, gasoline and Nehi orange soda.

Each table has a maddening little game made of a triangle of wood with rows of holes and golf tees in all but one hole. The object of the game is to jump those tees, removing each tee jumped until only one tee is left. Drives you crazy. You do this while waiting on your food. The game is also for sale.

If you’ve ever crossed the country on Interstate 40, you’ve seen a gazillion of these restaurants. I’m writing of the one … the only … Cracker Barrel Restaurant and Country Store.

Southern home cooking. Grits. Okra. Fired chicken. Country fried steak. Smashed taters. You can get hamburgers and stuff like that, too. A large and varied menu.

Now, the food at either place won’t compare with the small places I mentioned earlier, but at both places you can talk with the person you’re with and be heard. I’ve never been in a loud Cracker Barrel or Sonic. Well, Sonic only has outdoor seating – and only if you get out of your car.

Has this been a paid advertisement? No. I’ve not been paid for this. You can try a Cracker Barrel in Kingman, Ariz., just off of I-40.

Now I’ve said my peace. Made me a bit hungry. So for lunch, I’m staying at the same place and having a big salad. Sort of preparing for my next adventure at the local CB or Sonic. Banking the calories so I can indulge later.

So where should they be located? Well, the Cracker Barrel can be built at Magic Mountain and the I-5. I’m thinking Sonic should go in Saugus near the new car wash. What do all y’all think about that?

I’ve got only one question concerning my next visit to Cracker Barrel: Do I want the grits and the biscuits and gravy, or just … OK, Ill have both.


Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com and his commentaries are archived at DManzer.com. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].


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  1. I am from Texas and we had both. I would rather have a Cane’s or Mi Cocina

  2. Lorena Sands says:

    My family has been dying for a Sonic in Santa Clarita since our first family trip to Vegas. They are on almost every corner there. It has become our TREAT for when we visit… SCV, please bring us one…

  3. Katie Lee Katie Lee says:

    What about a wata burger’!! Those are amazing! Haven’t had one since I was in Texas last year!!

  4. California politics have ruined any chance of a Cracker Barrel moving to California.

  5. California politics have ruined any chance of a Cracker Barrel moving to California.

  6. Sonic is coming to SCV in August 2015 according to the chain :-)

  7. Sonic is coming to SCV in August 2015 according to the chain :-)

  8. Loren Elmore Loren Elmore says:

    Hey Darryl, thanks for the including me in the history of SCV, I still wake up from time to time with a Car Hop yelling at me ” 2 burgers 3 cheeseburgers 2 fries and three jumbos. Spent a lot of my early years in front of that grill, or scrubbing out the fryers. As for the Sonic, not that crazy for the food but it does give the kids a place to drive through and look at each other, like they did at our A&Ws on Friday night, but I don’t know how important that is now days with I phones, Face Book and texting and all that, maybe it still works, I don’t know, I’ve seen a lot of Sonics out if business, cost of Car hops may be more than just a drive through window. I like the Cracker Barrel, their Pancakes are simply the best out there, and real maple syrup too! And real good patty sausage to go with it can’t get a better breakfast, don’t care as much for the supper menu though a little heavy on the gravy and things, I eat breakfast at the one in Waco Texas a lot, and the one in El Paso, and the one in Mesquite Texas, a lot, I don’t buy much in the store though, not too crazy about all that fake country nostalgia stuff. I’ve wondered why the Cracker Barrel stops at the Arizona California border and Brandon I don’t think it’s California politics, California politics are bad, but other states politics are just bad or worse, so I don’t know why, I would think Barstow would be a good location for the driving to Vegas crowd or Blythe for the driving to or from Phoenix crowd or Bakersfield for the driving north crowd or Carlsbad for the people going to San Diego so SCV would also be good so I don’t know why they stop at the border.

  9. Paul Mahone Paul Mahone says:

    SCV is foodie hell.

    • I really agree. Chain restaurants are a decline in real food. Hooray for chemicals and processed and preserved food. Just ain’t nothing quite so yummy as a canned sauce or gravy poured over low quality food. :/

  10. Nancy Almaraz says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I go to Cracker Barrell twice a year when I visit my daughter in Va. and my husband and I always say we want to go to Sonic every time their commercial comes on!!!! I think both restaurants would thrive in Santa Clarita!!!!

  11. I think both restaurants would do really well!!! Love Cracker Barrel and would love to try Sonic!!!! Think they would do in Canyon Country!!!!

  12. Kim Solomon Kim Solomon says:

    Love the article. I can think of one more that would be amazing… Cheesecake Factory. And for a deli… Brent’s Deli.

  13. MSC says:

    Sonic burgers are greasy and disgusting. Pretty much like what you get at Denny’s.

  14. Cheesecake Factory would be amazing, yes. Anything would be great at old Applebee’s location. Hard to believe that’s been vacant for so long. I miss Louise’s Trattoria and Maria’s Italian Kitchen

  15. Brandon W says:

    “The Hat” should be in Santa Clarita! I think it’s a chain, but still has many locations like simi and pasedena. Best pastrami sandwhich ever!!!!!

  16. YES! Cracker Barrel and Sonic would be awesome! Or maybe a Bob Evans.

  17. Cracker Barrel stops in Arizona because they only have them in a confederate states. Just like the waffle house.

  18. I like the mom & pop places best!!!!

  19. I vote Bob Evans too! Went to Florida one time and I am hooked. Very reasonable prices!

  20. I vote Bob Evans too! Went to Florida one time and I am hooked. Very reasonable prices!

  21. Yes it is California’s government. They have made so many businesses leave or not come because of extreme taxation, over bearing codes, environmental nutcase laws, etc. There will never be a new Carls Jr in CA either, and more businesses are following suit.

  22. Bring back Bobs Big Boy. !!!!

  23. SCV………. the home of chain restaurant heaven. Not a step up. Not even a step sideways. This is – Lose-Lose.

  24. Cheesecake Factory where Apple Bees used to be sounds perfect

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