Going to the Cedar Glen Malt Shop, near Lake Arrowhead, is like taking a nostalgic walk down the culinary memory lane for me. My Dad has been taking my brother and me there since each of us was about five years old. When we were kids, we used to camp in the San Bernardino Mountains, near Lake Arrowhead, every summer and part of camping always meant a trip to the malt shop. I hadn’t been there in years, but since my nephew is about to turn five, my brother thought it was high time that we go back. He especially wanted my Dad, who is 80 years older than his grandson, to go with us.
So we loaded up the ol’ SUV and headed for the hills. We arrived at the campground late in the afternoon, so we decided to have lunch at the malt shop the next day. We meandered our way around Lake Arrowhead via highways 189 and 173, and then it appeared, sitting amongst the pines and cedars, looking exactly as I had remembered.
The restaurant is situated in a cute little log-cabinesque structure with knotty-pine plank siding and wood shingles. The roofline is trimmed with carved pink fascia—very much like a place that would attract Hansel and Gretel. I was hoping to sit at the only remaining original table from the days when the malt shop opened in 1946. When I was a kid, all of the tables were beautiful, carved trough-style tables, made from local lumber, with metal legs riveted onto them. The shop has been bought and sold and remodeled several times over the years, but they have been able to retain the look and feel of the original interior. Sadly, all of the tables, save for one, were replaced. And, regrettably, THAT table was taken. If it’s possible to have table envy, I had it bad. Later on, when the patrons had vacated the old familiar table, I ran over and photographed it, for posterity.
My nephew wasn’t interested in the table. He preferred to sit at the counter so he could twist and turn on the pink swivel seats in front of the mirrored soda fountain. I remember doing just that when I was his age. We already knew what we were going to order before we even arrived. The Cedar Glen Malt Shop is known for having an extensive list of different shake and malt flavors such as black cherry, peanut butter, root beer, pineapple, banana and orange in addition to the classic chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. But imprinted childhood memories die hard, so we all ordered the exact same thing that we’ve ordered time after time, except for the nephew, who was imprinting his own childhood memory. He ordered green ice cream with no nuts, commonly known as mint chip. His scoop came served in one of those old- fashioned stainless steel footed bowls, just as it should be, with just the right amount of sprinkles. My Dad and brother ordered their usual, a classic cheeseburger called the “Stingray” on the menu. All of the burgers are named after classic cars. Thankfully for me, the malt shop has a really good veggie burger called the “Nash Metro” and you can also get a turkey patty. My Dad declared the Cedar Glen Malt shop burgers as amongst the best, and he’s consumed many burgers over his eighty some years. He said the malt shop burgers are more like the big juicy, flavorful grilled burgers he remembers eating as a young man, which he noted are nothing like the skimpy, tasteless burgers one finds at fast food joints.
All of the burgers and sandwiches are served with old-fashioned style fresh-cut French fries, with the skins on, which are some the best I’ve ever had. You can also substitute onion rings for $1.50, but you really need someone to share them with because they’re big, as well as being really tasty. I’m always happy to find onion rings on a menu. Not enough restaurants serve them, and the ones they pass off at modern fast food places are simply unacceptable with regard to both flavor and quality.
I really can’t make any judgments about the rest of the menu simply because I have never strayed from my long standing order. But I can tell you that I’ve seen other things come out of the kitchen that looked awfully tasty. They have chili, hot dogs, turkey sandwiches, tuna melts, hot pastrami, a sourdough patty melt and fish and chips, plus a delicious assortment of ice cream treats and fountain drinks. They also have a sweet little kids menu with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a grilled cheese sandwich, chicken nuggets, mini corn dogs and macaroni and cheese. What little kid wouldn’t love those choices?
But the most important thing of all is the malts. And even though they give you the option of choosing all sorts interesting flavors, which I would definitely try if I could go there every day, my Dad and brother and I always, always, always order the classic chocolate malt. It is the ideal of what a malt should be. It’s served in a tall, footed glass with fluted sides, along side of the bigger stainless steel mixing cup that holds the rest of your malt, with a straw and a long handled spoon. They make each malt individually, to order, on a single-shaft Hamilton Beach malt mixer. It doesn’t get much better than sipping a chocolate malt in a log cabin in the woods and hopefully my nephew will have a culinary memory that will last a lifetime.