The idea of dinner and a movie has taken on a whole new flavor in recent years with the rise of dine-in movie theaters. Instead of going to a restaurant first and catching a movie afterward, a growing number of people are finding it more convenient, cost-effective and time-saving to combine the two experiences.
To cater to this new type of moviegoer, dine-in theaters have moved beyond bar food and ventured more toward gourmet. None of them is five-star restaurant quality, but many are closer to that level than you think.
The following are the five best options for upscale dining while watching a movie in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Apologies to fans of Movie Tavern, which has locations throughout Tarrant County and in Denton, but the menu just doesn’t quite measure up to the others on this list.
The Austin transplant, which passed the one-year mark in Richardson in August 2014 and will soon open another location near downtown Dallas, does more than just offer fun and unique movie experiences. The food menu is extensive and flexible in a way that few others are.
Though the current menu features mainly sandwiches, burgers and pizzas, it’s the ingredients that set Alamo apart. The list of salads, all of which come with grilled chicken, steak or tofu, includes one called beets and oranges, with goat cheese and sherry vinaigrette. As a bonus, any salad is available as a lettuce wrap.
Pizzas, which can also be ordered as calzones, feature toppings like Brussels sprouts, prosciutto and basil pesto. Sandwich choices include sausage and pepper and chicken tinga torta, while burgers can come with Hatch green chiles, kalamata olive tapenade or a fried egg.
Add in adult milkshakes, a full bar with tons of local beer and wine, brunch options like a crème brûlée French toast, and unique menus for certain big movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, and you have a place where the food is just as interesting as the films it shows.
AMC Grapevine Mills 30 with Dine-In Theatres
One of two local AMC theaters to currently offer a dine-in theater option, AMC Grapevine Mills dedicates 13 of its 30 auditoriums to dining. Going one step further, it offers two levels of dine-in theater experience: Fork & Screen and Cinema Suites.
Fork & Screen, available to moviegoers 18 and older or adult-accompanied minors, has a similar set-up to most others on this list, while Cinema Suites, which are strictly for those 21 and older, feature luxury recliners. You can get the same wide-ranging food and drinks menu in both.
That menu, which seems to have equal measures of American, Mexican and Thai influences, currently has tempting items like crab rangoon dip, Thai coconut chicken tenders, prime rib on burgers and sandwiches, roast chicken chimichurri, and blackened salmon.
And that’s just a sampling; the menu has so many items that you may get to the end of the movie before you’re able to make a choice.
iPic Theaters Fairview
This theater is the farthest hike for most Dallas-area moviegoers, as it resides just north of Allen in The Village at Fairview. But with the different amenities it offers, it’s worth the drive.
Although all auditoriums are equipped for dining, iPic has two different levels when it comes to service. Premium seat ticketholders, if they so desire, can buy food prior to entering the theater at the Tanzy Express counter. An expanded menu is given to Premium-Plus ticketholders in the theater, where “ninja like” servers wait on them at the push of a button.
Items available to both tiers include ham and cheddar biscuits with maple butter, lobster roll, truffle fries, and a red velvet bread pudding. If you decide to pony up for Premium-Plus, you can also get things like Chinois chicken salad rolls, roasted portobello slider trio, grilled lemon chicken satay and more.
Another bonus of the Premium-Plus seating are 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.
Like Alamo, LOOK is a new kid on the block, having only been around since March 2013. And like AMC Grapevine Mills, it’s not fully dedicated to the dine-in theater experience, as only a handful of its auditoriums offer that possibility.
That said, anyone who sees a movie in those auditoriums has access to a menu unlike any other: one from the upscale Nick & Sam’s Grill, which has a location attached to the front of LOOK. Though unfortunately not the full Nick & Sam’s menu, the abridged list of options for theaters is still impressive.
Appetizers include hummus and calamari, sandwich options include one with pulled pork and a burger with garlic aioli. There are even five different sushi options.
Even if dining while watching a movie isn’t for you, having Nick & Sam’s and a location of Coal Vines Pizza and Wine Bar attached to the theater is almost as convenient as being able eat inside. The fact that those restaurants don’t skimp on quality is just one more notch in LOOK’s belt.
Studio Movie Grill
Despite the fact that Alamo Drafthouse predates Studio Movie Grill in Texas, SMG is the standard-bearer for dine-in theaters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with seven locations. Its flagship theater is now the one at Spring Valley, which just so happens to be a hop, skip and a jump down Central Expressway from Alamo.
Anybody who remembers the early days of Studio Movie Grill may not recognize it now, as the menu has changed for the better. It now features items like edamame, ceviche lettuce wraps, Asian chopped chicken salad, a bone-in pork chop and carne pomodoro pasta.
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 their 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.