Movie food = popcorn. As someone who spent the bulk of her junior and senior years of high school popping bushels of the snack (and smelling like butter and oil three nights a week) at the east side Marcus Theatre in Green Bay, WI, I find it hard to believe that anyone could crave anything more than an overflowing bag of salty popcorn at the movies. Well, maybe some Sour Patch Kids or Junior Mints, too, but beyond popcorn, soda, and candy, what else do you need? Apparently, the folks over at the newish ShowPlace ICON Theatre in St. Louis Park’s West End development think we want more, like pizza, sandwiches, and meat and cheese platters. So for a $15 VIP ticket, you can buy access to its red, white, and black Lobby Lounge and order “real” food for movietime dining. (You can also visit the lounge if you don’t shell out for the pricey VIP seats, but you won’t be able to bring the food and alcoholic drinks into the theater during your show.) But as three Heavy Table staffers discovered during a recent movie, you may be better off grabbing a bite at one of the West End’s many new restaurants instead.
The two-page menu is split into two sections: drinks and food. The drinks side offers a short list of $12 martinis, wines by the glass ($6-12) and bottle ($21-60), beers ($4-15), coffee, and tea. There are no earth-shattering selections on the list, though the lounge may occasionally offer specialty drinks tied into a particular film — the “Sex and the City”-inspired cocktails early this summer were a fun touch to the menu. The food, however, aims for sophistication but often falls flat in execution, at least with the three dishes we sampled before ogling George Clooney one night last week.
The margherita pizza’s flatbread-like crust pleasantly surprised us with its flaky texture and fine crunch. However, the sweetness of the tomato sauce proved to be too much. Made with San Marzano tomatoes, the sauce didn’t need added sugar to sing, but unfortunately, it looks like someone in the kitchen didn’t feel the same way. We appreciated the slices of buffalo mozzarella, but we would have preferred to see more of it. Priced at $13, the pizza was a generous size, but you can get a better, cheaper pie at Sauce Pizza and Wine in the same complex or the Punch Pizza near Lake Calhoun.
A trio of mini beef tenderloin sliders ($13) evoked much promise, but only one preparation, a topping of arugula and balsamic dressing, won us over. Sadly, the other two did little to bring the warmed-over beef to life. Blue cheese, which normally pairs fantastically with beef, fell victim to a gloppy berry sauce that overpowered the spice and fragrance of the cheese. And the tiny stack of stir-fried matchstick vegetables on top the third slider elicited one phrase: meh.
There’s little reason to believe that a chicken caprese panino on foccacia ($10) could be anything less than delicious. After all, what’s not to like? Chicken, good. Mozzarella, good. Basil and tomatoes, good. A heavy hand with the lemon vinaigrette, not so good. The zing of the lemon was refreshing on the first bite, but upon further swallows, it seemed like the only flavor coming through was the lemon. But the housemade potato chips on the side were a treasure — hot, crisp, and only the least bit oily. We left most of the panino on the plate but brought the leftover chips into the theater with us for movietime crunching. (Hint: they’re also sold as a side dish with a caramelized onion dip for $5. That would have hit the spot much more than the sandwich.)
If you’re dying to have a beer with your shoot-’em-up thriller or want to substitute potato chips for popcorn as your salty snack of choice, the Lobby Lounge will satisfy both urges. But if you want to impress a date or just eat something other than candy, consider a meal at Crave, Ringo, Cooper, or one of the other nearby restaurants. Or have popcorn for dinner — it will fill you up just as well as any sandwich, and it counts as one of your daily whole-grain servings.
BEST BET: Housemade potato chips ($5 for a side) — we didn’t get the chance to try the caramelized onion dip, but they were good enough on their own to merit an order.
Park Pl Blvd & W 16th St
St. Louis Park, MN 55416