Movie theater food getting a makeover

March 26, 2010 7:52:50 PM PDT
Movie theater food is getting a makeover. And if you've been trying to catch up on some of the Academy Award-winning films lately, ABC7 Chicago's Hungry Hound says there are some delicious new options going well beyond popcorn and nachos.From Barrington to Rosemont, and even Lombard, movie theaters are getting an upgrade. Large, cushy seats, reserved seating, and naturally, better food. Food reporter Steve Dolinsky checked out new theaters in both the city and suburbs to see what all the fuss is about.

While one guy makes margherita pizzas with fresh mozzarella and basil, someone else is assembling tiny beef tenderloin sliders topped with escargot butter. Is this a major restaurant opening? No, just a couple of highlights from the menu at the ICON Theaters in the South Loop.

"Simple things, best ingredients, imported, you know, meat and cheeses and all of that stuff. Little pizza things, panini things that you could pick on," said Jerry Kleiner, the consultant for the ICON project.

Kleiner has been consulting on this project, as well as one in Minneapolis. There's a separate cafe outside the theater, for a little pre-show or post-show nibble. Think meat and cheese platters or chocolate chip cookies with ice cream. Or you can bring the food into the theater with you, since they've got cup holders and small tables between most of the seats.

"I just felt basically, personally going into a theater, I thought it was important to have things at a really high quality that I wanted to nibble on," Kleiner said.

Out in Bolingbrook, the West Coast-based Gold Class Cinemas has come to the Promenade. If the ICON Theaters are business class, these are certainly first class. Storage compartments in the seat, a personal button to call your server, then ordering from a menu designed by Levy Restaurants.

"A lot of it is just tailoring it to be eaten with your fingers. How can we take the knife and fork out of it? How can we take familiar food and make it fit in a movie theater," said chef Christopher Alban from Levy Restaurants.

One example is the chinois chicken salad is served in a roll, rather than in a bowl.

"We've taken it, and we've wrapped it in a little bit of rice paper; give it a different spin. So, it kind of pulls the salad together and makes it that finger food for you," said Alban.

Steak sandwiches and lobster egg rolls are also easy to eat while sitting. Combine that with a full bar and some chocolate-covered popcorn, and a night at the movies becomes an indulgent outing.

"Really the experience can be whatever you want it to be. You can come in and have some soda and popcorn, have a cocktail at the bar. Or if you want to have a three-course meal, you can definitely have an appetizer, an entree and a dessert," Alban said.

Gold Class Cinema
619 E. Boughton Rd., Bolingbrook

100 W. Higgins Rd., Barrington

Muvico Theaters
Rosemont 18
9701 Bryn Mawr Ave.

Showplace ICON at Roosevelt Collection
1011 S. Delano Court E.

Yorktown Premium Cinema
97 Yorktown Shopping Ctr. Lombard