The Coney Dog makes a return?

4 07 2017

So, there is will no longer be a need to make a trip across the Causeway (or the Second Link) to satisfy one’s craving for root beer and Coney Dogs come 2018 if this report on Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore on the return of A&W is to be believed. The first fast food restaurant to set up shop here – a little more than a decade before McDonald’s took Singapore by storm, it made an exit after 35 years in 2003. Its first outlet, modelled after a Wild, Wild West style salon, opened at MSA (later SIA) Building in 1968. That was followed by its somewhat iconic drive-in over the canal and along what became known as the “Floral Mile” at Dunearn Road in 1970.

We miss A&W Root Beers served in chilled mugs here in Singapore.

It was through a visit to the drive-in in the early 1970s that I got my introduction to American style fast food, served in typical American drive-in style at the Dunearn Road outlet. That was a treat. A meal of burgers, fries and root beer was relatively expensive in days when one could get a hawker meal for a little more than a dollar. I wouldn’t become a regular visitor to A&W until I was in Secondary school. That was only because Tuesdays, days on which technical lessons at McNair Road in the mornings required me to have lunch out, were also Coney Days when Coney Dogs went for a steal. This made the visits a lot more affaordable.

The A&W Restaurant I frequented during my schooldays at Dhoby Ghaut (Alison Emery on Facebook).

A&W first appeared in the region way back in 1963 with an outlet at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur. That was followed by a drive-in – the first in the region at Taman Jaya in Petaling Jaya in 1967 (which is still in operation, albeit no longer as a drive-in). The drive-in in Singapore closed in 1986, when it made way for a canal widening exercise. The chain in Singapore, despite an expansion exercise in the 1980s, was not able to compete with the big names in fast-food and in 2001, closed seven of its twelve outlets when the last franchise holder in Singapore, KUB Holdings of Malaysia, took over. Huge losses, estimated at 1.5 million dollars, saw to the complete pullout of A&W in 2003. Its last outlet was the one at the airport. More on A&W and its first drive-in can be found at The first drive-in in Malaysia and Singapore.

The drive-in at Dunearn Road.

The first drive-in in the region at Taman Jaya in Petaling Jaya.

The  Taman Jaya outlet in more recent times.





2 responses

5 07 2017

The Taman Jaya outlet in PJ was where my late father bought jugs of root beer. And the Dunearn Road one was special to me because I spend my secondary school and JC days in the Bukit Timah area. Your research never ceases to amaze me. Thanks!

5 07 2017
N Narayanan

At first glance, I thought ‘Coney Dog’ would in the local context be somehow connected to the Ponggol ‘Coney Island’ amusement park set up by a G Mahmood in the early 1950s. The venture however failed to take off as a commercial proposition and he was eventually bankrupted after a few years, the subsequent court proceedings making for interesting reading in the press.

But what did catch my eye was the photograph of the ‘A&W Family Restaurant’ at the corner to the slope from Dhoby Ghaut to Kirk Terrace above (obviously so-named because of proximity to the Presbyterian Church) just after the Cathay Building. Surprising as it may seem, I have never entered an A&W outlet, and certainly never eaten its iconic ‘Coney Dog’ – or any other ‘dog’ for that matter – as they are severely off-limits to my strict eating requirements. Its Root Beer was however available at outlets, and was a change from the local F&N Sarsi which had been around from much earlier.

Decades before the A&W outlet came up there, as a small toddler, I had almost daily passed the same dwelling on my way to another further down where there was a kindergarten of sorts, whose location would have been close to the Red Sea Aquarium which was a prominent feature of that area in the 1960s. In my kiddie days – going back to the early 1930s, I was taught the elementary 3Rs by the daughter of an elderly Mr Naidu, whose ‘Ayurvedic Pharmacy’ was stacked with medicinal herbs. Occasionally I was fed a dose of the not-easily-palatable ‘tea’ concocted from them.

The two end-houses depicted at Kirk Terrace in the photo reminded me of even earlier history, as I had heard from a close friend of my father that they had both lodged in another of those terrace-houses at what was known among them as ‘Bachelors’ Quarters’, going back to 1920. A member of our small clan had from even earlier occupied No 8, as a friend now in his mid-80s has confirmed having stayed briefly at that house in the immediate post WW!! period. Another neighbour was a Tamil contractor, who had a ‘kudumi’ (Tamil equivalent for ‘pigtail’) whom I have heard being referred to as ‘that ‘thau-chang’ – I believe the corresponding dialect term. Incidentally, he also had a pied a terre – or ‘small house’ as colloquial Tamil would put it – at MacPherson Road. And at the end of Kirk Terrace before it rejoined Dhoby Ghaut to its junction with Selegie Road was a Sikh Gurudwara. Interestingly, it was one of four all within a relatively small area, the others being quite close by and situated at Wilkie Road, Queen Street and Niven Road respectively,

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