Movie theaters have come a long way from hot dogs on stale buns, fake-cheese nachos, and overpriced sodas. In fact, theater food and drink has gotten so good that you might go there just for a meal and a cocktail.
That real restaurant experience, plus technological improvements in the auditoriums, make going out for dinner and a movie more fun than ever before. And thanks to the proliferation of dine-in theaters in recent years, Dallas moviegoers have myriad options.
We’ve now been blessed with the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson for more than three years, and with the Cedars location opening earlier in 2016 (and more locations on the way), we are flush with the goodness that the Austin-based chain has to offer.
The Cedars location is now the crown jewel in Alamo’s growing local empire, featuring seven auditoriums with state-of-the-art technology and Alamo’s usual stellar programming. And that’s before you take a trip upstairs to the Vetted Well, a bar with killer views of downtown Dallas, private karaoke rooms, and a selection of beers that rivals any bar in town.
Alamo’s menu features mainly sandwiches, burgers, and pizzas, but the ingredients set them apart. The list of salads, all of which can come with grilled chicken, steak, or tofu, has enough variety to compete with salad specialty stores. Pizzas, which can also be ordered gluten-free, feature toppings like Brussels sprouts, smoked bacon, and basil pesto. Specialty choices include mini banh mi hot dogs and truffled Parmesan buttered popcorn, while burgers can come with Hatch green chilies, hummus, or a fried egg.
Alcohol is a given, but Alamo is better than most with adult milkshakes and a full bar with tons of local beer and wine. Add in brunch options like crème brûlée French toast and special items themed to go along with certain big movies, and you have a theater where the food is just as interesting as the films.
iPic Theaters Fairview
iPic Theaters, which currently only has one area location, just north of Allen in the Village at Fairview, positions itself as an upscale movie theater, and when you get a look at the menu, it’s not hard to see why. It’s chock-full of fancy-sounding items like Thai coconut shrimp, lobster roll, caprese panini, ratatouille pizza, filet slider trio, truffle fries, and red velvet bread pudding.
Although all auditoriums are equipped for dining, iPic has two different levels when it comes to service: Cinema and iPic Express seating. iPic Express ticketholders have to buy food prior to entering the theater. Their food choices are also relatively limited compared to those in Cinema auditoriums, but it still has many of the favorite items from the full menu.
In addition to the full menu, the Cinema seating offers plush leather recliners that come with individual blankets and pillows. With all that comfort and fantastic food, moviegoers should be careful not to take a snooze during the film.
When Look Cinemas opened in March 2013, it appeared to be sitting pretty, as it had the highly trafficked Addison area to itself. Then AMC Village on the Parkway opened up virtually across the street, providing more than a little competition.
What Look does have on its side are dine-in options. Although it’s not fully dedicated to the dine-in theater experience, as only a handful of its auditoriums offer that possibility, anyone who sees a movie in those auditoriums has access to an abridged menu from the great restaurant Ivy Kitchen, which is attached to the front of the theater.
Appetizers include red pepper hummus and two types of sushi. There are three salad options, and entrées include filet mignon, Maryland-style blue lump crab cakes, and more. Even if dining while watching a movie isn’t for you, having Ivy Kitchen and a location of Coal Vines Pizza and Wine Bar attached to the theater is almost as convenient as being able to eat inside.
Moviehouse & Eatery
The newest entry into this crowded field, Moviehouse & Eatery has three area locations, including one about to open in McKinney. The mini-chain, which started in Austin in 2012, is pulling out all the stops in hopes of challenging the big guns.
All of its auditoriums offer full food and beverage service from an extensive menu featuring a variety of enticing choices, with not-so-standard ingredients made from scratch. Among the ingredients that are prepared onsite: smoked bacon, pastries, tortillas, pizza sauce, and pizza dough.
Menu items include a Maters & Okra appetizer, with fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and fried artichoke hearts; several items with a pumpkin seed pesto sauce; the intimidating Big Jake Burger, with a steak patty, pepper Jack cheese, bacon, horseradish aioli, red pepper relish, and bourbon barbecue sauce; Porkin’ Pie-napple pizza, with coriander oil, pork carnitas, house-made bacon, white cheddar, queso fresco, fresh pineapple, and pickled shallots; and brunch offerings like an egg strata and breakfast Philly cheesesteak.
With a variety of classic movie series that seem designed to emulate the model of Alamo Drafthouse, Moviehouse & Eatery looks to be in the game for the long haul.
Studio Movie Grill
Despite the other competition on this list, Studio Movie Grill still leads the way when it comes to the number of theaters it has, with eight locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Its flagship theater is now the one at Spring Valley, which is just down the road from Alamo Drafthouse Richardson.
All of the area locations have either been renovated or had improvements in recent years, including the original location in Plano, which now boasts 12 auditoriums. And with the recent opening of a new location in The Colony and a second Arlington location in its near future, Studio Movie Grill shows no signs of slowing down.
Perhaps in response to the type of food being offered at the other theaters, Studio Movie Grill has upped its dining game in recent years as well. The menu now features items like edamame; ceviche lettuce wraps; a Maya salad with kale, spinach, and arugula; sriracha chicken sliders; roasted vegetable pizza; and Nutella beignets for dessert
For the oenophiles, Studio Movie Grill now offers its own brand of wine. SMG Cellars Cabernet and Chardonnay are available alongside a variety of other alcohol options, including an assortment of cocktails and Studio Movie Grill’s own unique adult milkshakes.
SMG is even conscious of budget-minded moviegoers, offering a two for $25 combo menu any day of the week, as well as varying daily specials on drinks and food. Great food and great prices keep Studio Movie Grill near the top in this increasingly competitive field.