Zombieland’s four protagonistsThe Dinner: Fresh spring rolls, Thai iced tea, and a

Zombieland’s four protagonists

The Dinner: Fresh spring rolls, Thai iced tea, and a very spicy phad kee mao with tofu (Thai Bistro, 18336 Aurora Avenue North, Shoreline)

The Movie: Zombieland at Landmark Cinema Crest Theater (16505 5th Avenue Northeast, Shoreline)

The Screenplate: When there’s a movie hitting theaters that you really, really want to see on the big screen, common practice dictates that one should see the film as quickly as possible, lest you forget to see it before it leaves theaters.

Alas, procrastination is a common affliction, and by the time we got around to Zombieland, only two Seattle-area theaters still offered screenings. At first, having to haul ass all the way up to Shoreline (the Regal East Valley 13 theater in Renton was the only other option) seemed a significant setback, especially when it came to the challenging task of finding decent grub within shooting distance of the theater. While the Landmark Crest Cinema is located on a quiet street in a residential neighborhood, most (if not all) of the restaurants near it are located in strip malls. And those of us who’ve successfully managed to escape the suburban wasteland of our youths in favor of culturally and culinarily rich locales such as Seattle tend to fear and avoid such places the way Zombieland‘s protagonist, Columbus, fears bathrooms.

But since missing even one single second of Landmark Crest Cinema’s once-daily showing of Zombieland was not an option, we landed at Thai Bistro, a nearby joint tucked away in the very back of one of the many strip malls on Aurora. And but for the place’s sorta cheesy, blinding yellow-and-purple sign and unfortunate view of Bartell Drugs through the restaurant’s large picture window, the place didn’t fall much short of places like Ballard’s Thaiku in terms of ambiance once indoors. The food, too, was far superior to the level of quality you’d expect from strip mall Thai, or strip mall anything, for that matter.

Thai Bistro’s shining achievement was its Thai iced tea, a creamy treat tailored to quench the flames that lick at your throat after a spicy meal. Unfortunately, Thai iced tea is most often served with so much condensed milk and sugar that it becomes undrinkable. Thai Bistro, however, had the proportions down pat. The tea was creamy, not thick; sweet, but not saccharine. Which was good, because at Thai Bistro, ordering a four on a spice scale of one to four actually means your dish will come out spicy. Since relocating to Seattle, we’ve found it unbelievably difficult to find a Thai restaurant that consistently serves adequately spicy food. After growing accustomed to the inevitable disappointment of a dish adorned by nothing but a perfunctory amount of red pepper flakes, the pleasant burning sensation that accompanied every bite of Thai Bistro’s phad kee mao was a welcome surprise.

If you’re one of those whose knowledge of Thai noodle dishes is limited to phad Thai, give phad kee mao (often billed as “drunken noodles”) a try next time. Its mess of thick, wide rice noodles, broccoli, egg and tofu (or meat) — stir-fried and slathered in a reddish, sweet-yet-tangy sauce speckled with red pepper flakes — is easily the crown jewel of commonly available Thai noodle dishes. Order it once, and you may never order phad Thai again.

Best of all, our food came out fast – fast enough that we had fifteen minutes to kill at the theater before the movie began. This gave us ample time to avail ourselves of the Landmark Cinema Crest’s humble, but relatively inexpensive, concessions. At $8 per pound, you can pick up a melange of peanut butter cups, Mike ‘n Ikes, Jelly Bellies, sour gummies and other sundry treats at a small self-serv station; a half-pound bag is more than enough to get two people through the whole flick. And if you’re willing (or forced) to leave your seat for a minute or two, you can pick up a free refill of your soda, coffee and tea on the way back from the bathroom.

As for the film itself, well, if you’re a zombie fan who hasn’t seen Zombieland yet, do so, and do so soon. However, you shouldn’t expect a bloody, nightmare-inducing terror-fest like 28 Days Later or the Romero remakes. Zombieland takes a lighthearted approach to the zombie apocalypse concept, something that’s ultimately much more difficult to do than splattering the screen with 90 minutes of pure gore. The film opens with a scene of its neurotic, IBS-plagued protagonist, Columbus, attempting to find a safe place to take a dump. Forced to travel from bathroom to bathroom, he holds in his frequent, irritable bowel movements as long as possible because, as he learned early on in the apocalypse, bathrooms are unsafe. Columbus’ patience is ultimately rewarded when he narrowly escapes becoming zombie food at a gas station; later on, a jumpy trigger finger causes him to make a grievous mistake.

The whole experience caused me to revisit my notions about catching new films when they first come out; in most instances, waiting until the last minute isn’t a wise strategy, but this time, it paid off. Not only did we spend less than $15 for two peoples’ worth of treats and tickets, we found the first Thai restaurant in Seattle willing to serve truly spicy food. Not bad for a $25 evening out.