Forks 'n' flicks

Movies, microbrews, and meals to go with them.

AURORA CINEMA GRILL

13000 Linden N. 364-8880 (movie times) 364-5637 (restaurant information) open every day AE, MC, V / beer and wine AT THE AURORA Cinema Grill, where you get to eat dinner while you watch a movie, you'll want to see something big and goopy like Pearl Harbor—it particularly complements the food. Lines like "Just a few American pilots are all that stand between Britain and victory in Europe!" and "Danny, get me into a damn plane!" somehow seem right with the Philly cheese steaks, jalape�oppers, and Ultimate Nachos you're confronting (the fries alone, huge and mushy, seem to exist as a kind of edible homage to the film). Since the picture itself provides all the commentary one might need on the food at the Aurora Cinema Grill, I'll let it tell the story. But first a word must be said about the setup, which may be the coolest innovation in moviegoing since Technicolor. After buying a $6 ticket at the box office (for a first-run film!), patrons proceed to the lobby, where they can order wine or beer, including a half-dozen or so microbrews. It's kind of a clandestine thrill—grabbing a cold one where you'd normally get some Junior Mints—and you can sip your drink at a table in the lobby until the host leads you into the theater about 15 minutes before show time. Inside it's just like a regular theater, with seats on four or five tiered levels. More unusual, however, are the bar seats at the front of each tier and four-person tables behind them. The swivel chairs are comfy, and the sight lines good. Waiters veer around taking orders before the film, when possible, but distractions during the film are inevitable. My advice would be to go elsewhere if such interruptions will bother you, or if the film on view is so finely crafted that a second missed might cause confusion. Memento was playing here a few weeks back; I can't imagine how viewers—juggling hoagies, chardonnays, and Visa cards—made any sense of it. This is where my particular movie selection skills came in: Pearl Harbor, being the sort of movie you can miss for hours at a time with no discernable effect on story comprehension, presented no such problem. "If I die tomorrow, I want to know we lived all we could tonight!" said one doomed chump in the film; I admit that some of the food we sampled had me thinking in a similar vein. Oh, that's not fair. Nothing we tried was outright awful, except for the Buffalo wings; it was just unconscionable. An Italian hoagie ($6.95) with mozzarella, provolone, salami, pepperoni, and ham tasted like a soggy pepperoni pizza with ketchup and an overabundance of bread. The cheese steak ($7.75) was a salty mush fest, with the "shaved steak," mushrooms, and onions all achieving the same general texture as the melted cheese. Though I had high hopes for the pizza—which is offered in a dozen different combinations, some quite sophisticated—our ham-pineapple specimen ($11.75 small, $15.25 large) was the soul of nondescription on a cardboard crust. "Danny, let's play some chicken with these Jap suckers!" I thought, sort of— and we ordered the chicken quesadilla ($7.50). Alas, cheddar, onions, and chicken have never met such a tragic end; this tasted like something I'd concoct some weary work night out of what was in the back of the fridge. Boring salsa, too. Another fowl dish, the chicken parmigiana sandwich ($7.25), was another bread party, this time filled with mushrooms, cheese, tomato sauce, and chicken. This one had flavor to recommend it, the better part of which, alas, was conveyed by the fried crust of the chicken. ON AND ON (and on) went the war, from jalape�oppers ($6.75), gooey as a Costco aisle on a Saturday afternoon, to a shrimp artichoke salad ($7.75) that was missing the artichokes. "Ma'am, please don't take my wings!" begged Ben Affleck, but we would happily have given him ours. I don't often order Buffalo wings ($7.95), but I'm guessing they're not supposed to taste like vinegar. A few dishes somewhat redeemed the experience. An Athenian salad ($7.50) was hearty with onions, green peppers, olives, tomatoes, pepperoncini, and a ton of feta in a fiercely tangy dressing. A burger ($6.50) was a hefty 8-ouncer, with all the trimmings. So the meat tasted bread-enhanced; like meatloaf—the beef equivalent of particleboard— it was nonetheless satisfying. And the desserts! "Loving you kept me alive!" A warm apple dumpling ($5.95) featured a cinnamony apple cozily encased in fried pastry and topped with ice cream; the mile-high fudge brownie ($6.50) was delectable goo. The servers who brought these delights were ever friendly, but it must be remarked that, in all the time it took the hero to die, get betrayed by his best friend, come back to life, and play chicken with those Jap suckers, we sat without a wine refill. However—considering the fact that we were sitting comfortably for the first time ever in a movie theater, eating something higher on the food chain than popcorn and Goobers, slipping into the happy inebriation that can make movies like Pearl Harbor entertaining—ineffective service and bad food felt like picky complaints. We found that if we didn't reflect upon art-house cafe/theaters, such as those that have long thrived in Portland, we enjoyed ourselves just fine. Look at it this way: Plenty of places in town serve ordinary food—but how many will give you a terrible movie to go with it? krobinson@seattleweekly.com

 
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