Date Night: El Rancho and Retro Drive-In

Mack and I love taking in a dinner and a movie as much as the next couple, but there are so many other interesting things to do in Edmonton. “Date Night” will be a semi-regular series highlighting some of these ideas.

Funny enough, the first of this series features the aforementioned dinner and a movie format, but with a bit of a twist. Last Friday, we headed toward the Alberta Avenue neighbourhood for dinner. Though our original intention was to dine at Cafe Amore, the restaurant was closed for a private function, so we ended up at El Rancho (11810 87 Street).

It has been some time since I’ve been to the El Salvadorian establishment, and this was Mack’s first visit. Clearly, it hasn’t lost its popularity, as all the tables had been claimed by the time we finished our supper.

We shared the Antojitos Platter for two amigos ($16.95), and ordered two mixed pupusas ($2.75) on top of that. It was a great way to reacquaint myself with their dishes. Though the flautas (fried, rolled tortillas) and tacos were good, Mack and I both agreed that our favourite was the crispy enchiladas, topped with shredded chicken, a pickled slaw and a touch of tart salsa was a lovely combination of flavours.

El Rancho

Antojitos Platter

The pupusas were also a nice treat, if not only because it meant we could help ourselves to a bit more of the pickled cabbage to accent the savoury combination of mozzarella, fried beans and pork.

El Rancho


We had just enough room for dessert, and split a slice of tres leches cake ($5.95). Mack doesn’t usually like desserts, but loved this cake, bursting with milky goodness and not all that sweet. The whipped cream was an indulgent finish.

El Rancho

Tres Leches

Service was friendly, and fast (the kitchen had been slow in my previous experiences). Even better, our entire meal came in at around $30 – a fantastic value for the variety and exceptional food quality.

After dinner, we headed over to the Alberta Avenue Community Hall, who was hosting a retro drive-in that night. Though Mack and I are far from being car people, there’s something about  a drive-in that appeals to me. I think it might have to do with the fact that my family lived pretty close to the Stardust Twin Drive-In (50th Street and Whitemud Drive), but I didn’t get to go before it was shut and torn down in the late 1990s.

Alberta Avenue Drive-In

Drive in on the Ave!

This article from Lawrence Herzog states that Edmonton’s first drive-in theatre opened in 1949. The Starlight Drive-in had room for 600 cars, and was so successful on its opening night it had to turn folks away! These outdoor theatres peaked in 1977, when Edmonton had ten drive-ins. But just two decades later, suburban growth and at-home entertainment led to the demise of drive-in theatres, the last screens at the Millwoods and Twin Drive-In shuttering in 1996.

So we jumped at the chance to relive a bit of nostalgia – for free! This community league-sponsored event was promoting safe, family fun, and was also a way for the neighbourhood to bring people out to Alberta Avenue after dark. They had set up a basic screen on the side of a neighbouring building, and had volunteers on hand to direct cars to make sure space in the lot was used efficiently. We bought some hot drinks from The Carrot and some candy from the concession stand and settled in for the movie.

Alberta Avenue Drive-In

The volunteers were too cute in their costumes

I was a little too giddy about the streaming of the film’s soundtrack on a radio station (I had no idea it was so cheap and easy to do this), while Mack enjoyed the retro pre-show advertisements screened before the feature presentation. Not only was there a rocket that flew over candy-dotted planets, but also a PSA warning audience members not to get frisky.

Alberta Avenue Drive-In

Warning all you young lovers out there

It almost didn’t matter at this point what the movie was, but Grease was an inspired choice, upbeat and easy to watch. To say the least, there was a lot of appreciative honking at the end of the night.

Alberta Avenue Drive-In

You’re the one that I want

Thanks again to the Community League for a successful screening! They indicated that this was their first annual drive-in, so you can look forward to checking it out next year!

El Rancho
11810 87 Street
(780) 471-4930

Alberta Avenue Community Hall (keep your eyes peeled on their website for next year’s flick!)
9210 118 Avenue