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Ardy & Ed’s Drive In serving up food and fun since 1948

Oshkosh landmark has been serving customers for 76 years

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March 19, 2024

OSHKOSH — As times change, so do the ways people order and collect their food from restaurants.

But one restaurant in Oshkosh hasn’t changed the way it’s operated for the past 76 years — Ardy & Ed’s Drive In, located at 2413 S. Main St. on the city’s south side.

At this 1950s drive-in restaurant, folks are served food the way it used to be — via roller-skating carhops.

“I patronized the restaurant as a kid,” General Manager Mark Bidwell said. “I look forward to seeing the familiar faces of longtime customers but also have a goal of attracting a new generation of customers.”

Ardy & Ed’s serves a variety of burgers, sides and soda fountain favorites with a “blast from the past” flair, complete with a 1950s aesthetic.

Ardy & Ed’s Drive In has been a fixture in Oshkosh since 1948. Photo Courtesy of Ardy & Ed’s

The drive-in operates from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday from March to December.

After decades of closing for the season in October, in 2023, the restaurant remained open until December, something Bidwell said allowed them to reach a wider audience using social media.

“It’s not like the kids don’t like this kind of stuff,” Bidwell said of the drive-in retro vibe. “The pop culture is stuff like this, and they look for it, and if you’re not found or they don’t know what you are, they won’t do it.”

Bidwell said staying open later in the year also allowed the establishment to reach University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh students before they left town for the holiday break.

“Last year, we had a lot of people who came down from the campus to eat and said, ‘this is cool,’ which was neat to (hear),” he said.

How it all began
According to its website (, Ardy & Ed’s was founded in 1948, originally known as the Southside A&W.

Robert and Elizabeth Albrecht bought it in 1953 and then sold it to their son, Edward Timm and his wife, Ardythe.

The Timms operated as Southside A&W until 1972 when they decided to rebrand as an independent drive-in and renamed it Ardy & Ed’s Drive In.

Ardy continued to operate the business after Ed’s death in 1979 and then ran it with her partner and husband, Steve Davis, who originally began working at the restaurant in 1977.

TJ and Valeta Rodgers bought the business in 2020, and with Davis, who joined the team after the sale, the three were committed to maintaining what was established all those years ago.

TJ, who was born and raised in Oshkosh, owns several Oshkosh businesses, including the Oshkosh Country Club, TJ’s Highland Steakhouse, TJ’s Harbor Restaurant and Kalbus Campgrounds.

It takes skill
Bidwell said Ardy & Ed’s employs about 12 during the season.

“From cooks to carhops, many return season after season,” he said. “Carhops are required to wear the Ardy & Ed’s uniform which consists of a skirt over shorts (or black pants in cooler weather), a white button-down blouse and an apron, as well as the traditional white, four-wheeled outdoor-rated roller skates.”

Bidwell said, “anyone can serve, but not everyone can carhop — people don’t give the job enough credit.”

Ardy & Ed’s Drive In carhops, from left, Lindsey Dutscheck, Tenna Ruetten and Kim Falk. Photo Courtesy of Ardy & Ed’s

Tenna Ruetten, 16, began working at Ardy & Ed’s in March 2022.

“I had just turned 14 and wanted to get a job,” she said. “It was close to my house so I could walk or bike there — I always wanted to work there.I thought the roller skates were cool. I knew how to skate, but I earned a lot once I started working there.”

Old-time recipe
Ardy & Ed’s real draft root beer is made daily on-site, Bidwell said, with the same original formula established in 1948.

The business sells hundreds of thousands of gallons each season between the drive-in and take-home containers.

At the drive-in, though, the root beer is served in ice-cold frosty glass mugs filled to the rim, so maneuvering with loaded trays requires a steady hand.

“It was a little scary, especially bringing out the food,” Ruetten said of her early days on the job. “It took me a while before I could take out the mugs of root beer.”

Ruetten said she likes that she works at one of only two drive-ins in the city (Leon’s Frozen Custard is located at 121 W. Murdock) and the different opportunities she gets working there.

“It’s a cool historical place, and I get to meet all types of people, especially during EAA when people come from all over the world,” she said.

Other options
On Thursdays from May through August, Ardy & Ed’s partners with WVBO to host Summer Cruise Nights from 5 to 9 p.m.

Customers can drive their classic cars to the restaurant and participate in some light-hearted competition for T-shirts and gift cards.

Food can also be ordered online for carry-out and delivery via DoorDash.

In addition to its website, you can follow Ardy & Ed’s on Facebook and Instagram.

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