A Diet Coke so bubbly it burns a little on the way down, a shareable-size bag of peanut M&Ms, and a handful of buttery popcorn stolen from my plus-one -- all add up to my ideal movie theater menu. In fact, it might even be my pick for my last meal on Earth.
It’s tough for me to get behind fancy food when the original movie snacks are good as they are, but when you add a luxurious menu with the latest souped-up fancy plush reclining chairs and even seat-side service so you don’t miss a second of the film, I have to reconsider. These theaters across the country are perfect because, while they do offer fare that could be plated up at a restaurant, many also serve upscale takes on my favorite movie snacks and the kind of cocktail bar-worthy drinks we can all get behind.
Brooklyn, New York More and more theaters are offering options to have dinner served right to your seat, but none do it quite like Nitehawk. The two locations in Brooklyn offer a long menu with upscale snacks like charcuterie and whipped ricotta crostini and a cocktail, beer, and wine menu that rivals nearby bars with signature cocktails inspired by some of the films currently on view. If you decide to order after your film starts rolling, use their ballot menu setup to avoid disturbing fellow moviegoers. Tack on the dine and dash service when you buy your ticket online, and you’ll feel like you got away with something because you’ll be automatically charged and won’t have to worry about checking out before the final credits.
Twelve states including California, Mississippi, New York, and Texas Perhaps the best-known dinner movie theater chain in the country, Alamo Drafthouse has more than 40 locations across 12 states. Theaters combine plush leather seats with either small, school desk-style tables or longer tables that span the entire row for enjoying a menu that includes popcorn with truffle Parmesan butter, fried pickles, and a variety of flatbreads. Some locations also offer a brunch menu so you can have your weekend bottomless mimosas with a flick during earlier movie showings.
Nine states including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington The menu for this lavish theater matches the decor. Yes, it has the requisite couch-like seating, but the menu is where this theater really ups the ante. Every menu buzzword of our age, like farm-to-table, plant-based, and even keto, can be found on this theater’s menu. And while you can order classic junk food, you’re not confined to it. Spicy tuna with crispy rice, green goddess turkey burger sliders, and a lobster roll all grace the menu alongside craft cocktails made from the bevy of spirits kept behind the bar.
New York, New York This theater is classic all the way. From retro red velvet seats in the two theaters to the art deco details and tile-lettered marquee, everything about this place harkens back to Hollywood’s golden age. Metrograph is a film nerd’s oasis, showing a mix of blockbuster, indie, and classic films in both digital and traditional 35mm. But it’s fit for the foodie crowd, too. The concession stand stocks classics like Milk Duds and Raisinets alongside options like Pocky Sticks and craft popcorn (think cacio e pepe or tumeric) all artfully arranged on stark white shelves. For something a little heartier, the full restaurant and bar, Metrograph Commissary, was inspired by eateries found on movie sets. It features a “writer’s menu” of foods that founder Alexander Olch says are designed to be eaten with one hand while you write what could be the next big Oscar winner with the other.
Portland, Oregon and Boca Raton, Florida With just two locations and prices cheaper than most other big-box theaters across the country, you’ll feel at home at Living Room Theaters. The theaters play select mainstream films, especially around awards season, but they also roll out the red carpet for first-run indie films and even invite locals to submit their films for consideration to be played on the big screen. If you can forgive the verging-on-cheesy menu item names like Inglorious Bratwurst and Dial M for Mushroom Melt, you can order charcuterie boards, lamb meatballs, and other fare that is dialed up a notch to eat before, during, or after your movie with cocktails, local beer and wine, or even non-alcoholic cocktails (one of the few theaters to house these on their menu).
Portsmouth, Virginia This restored theater dates back to 1945, and although it’s been updated with the latest screening and sound technology, the theater has kept elements like a traditional marquee out front and an old-school red velvet curtain swathing the screen. The seating is cabaret-style, which means chairs with small, round tables facing the stage. Each table has its own cute art deco-style lamp so you can read the menu even when the large chandeliers around the theater go out. You may be ordering modern junk food like chicken tenders, pizza, and burgers, but when you pick up the phone -- yes phone, like with a cord and everything -- to call the kitchen and place your order, you’ll feel like you’re back in 1945.
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Liz Provencher will steal your popcorn at the movies. You've been warned. You can talk to her at email@example.com, follow her on Twitter, or see what she eats on Instagram.