Want a burger? What about a cold soda? It’s time to skip the fast-food chains and try something unique, so check out these best-kept “secrets” in the Edmonton area. But shh, don’t tell anyone; we want to keep these soda shops and diners our little secret!

Jack’s Drive-In: If you love 50s retro culture, you’ll feel like you went back in time the minute you set foot in Jack’s Drive-In. Operating from the same small building for 55 years, you’ll get a kick out of the old (and still used) drive-in stalls. There is seating inside too. Red booths and stools are the perfect match for hand-painted murals of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and other 50s pop culture icons. The biggest star of the show, however, is the food. Jack’s is famous for their soft serve ice-cream, burgers, dipped cones and creamy milkshakes. Located just west of the city in Spruce Grove, this gem is well worth the short drive. Learn more about the unique history of this diner at jacksdrivein.ca.

Nifty Soda Shops and Dnners - Milkshakes

A trio of Milkshakes Via Shutterstock

Hathaway’s Diner: Sitting quietly on 132nd Ave and 132nd Street is Hathaway’s Diner. From the entrance, you may be thinking this is just a quick place to grab a bite, but once inside your nostrils flood with the scent of “mom’s” cooking. With a coveted 4.5/5 rating and the #8 spot in Trip Advisor’s Edmonton restaurant reviews, it’s no wonder this diner earned a Certificate of Excellence. Breakfast is served until 3:30 pm, but if you missed out on the country skillet and homemade hash browns, you’ll have plenty of room for a hearty steak sandwich, soup with cheese toast or spicy chicken on a bun. Wrap up your meal with a slice of their famous pie.

Table Top Café: Turning the notion of a cool place to hang out and eat on its head, entrepreneur Brian Flowers said no to upscale small-space dining, and yes to board games. Table Top Café is truly unique. You pay $10 and that gets you a seat at one of the tables and all the board game time you can handle. (And for every item purchased from the kitchen or store your fee is reduced by $1.) The hundreds of games range from popular favourites like Monopoly and Risk, to obscure games you’ve never heard of. Using a tab-style system for food and drink, you can order a fresh panini or baked goods, heaping bowls of chips and dip, veggies with hummus, candy bowls, a variety of coffee and tea and even licensed beverages. It’s consistently packed with people of all ages enjoying this twist on café dining. If you like great casual eats with a side of board games, click on www.tabletopcafe.ca.

Soda Shops and Diners in Edmonto - Donut Burger from Soda Jerks Credit Soda Jerks

A totally decadent Donut Burger from Soda Jerks
Credit Soda Jerks

Soda Jerks: Soda Jerk is the place is for the big kid in all of us – you can get over 30 retro sodas served to you in a glass bottle. Who doesn’t remember their first Dad’s Root Beer or Pop Shop Lime Ricky? Relive the glory again, or try a chocolate maple bacon soda (yes, really!) or a gross-out favourite named kitty piddle. Want to upgrade your soda? Make it an ice-cream float. Want to adult-up your soda? Add a shot. You need a good meal to go with that drink so choose from among the many crazy burgers (PB & J with chocolate bacon included) or make good use of the burger worksheet to whip up your own creation. Bun choices range from the standard sesame seed to a glazed donut, and toppings include gin and bacon sauerkraut, Captain Crunch (again, yes – really!), carney dip and even gummy worms! Not in the mood for fries on the side? How about a bowl of cereal with milk? Soda Jerk’s crazy combinations are a ton of fun and they make it easy for you to get the sweet, salty or savoury meal you want. Set your inner kid free by viewing the full menu at www.sodajerks.net.

These are just some of the unique diners and soda shops in the Edmonton area. The next time your tummy grumbles and you want to try something new, or if you’re passing through the Edmonton region and want to visit some local dining favourites, check out these options, or the many other creative diners the city has to offer.

Post updated 1/15/21.