The Alamo Drafthouse Takes Dinner and a Movie to a New Level

At Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the food plays a starring role.

The servers stop taking orders and bring you your check 30 minutes before the film ends, but if you're still hungry by then, you're doing it wrong. The menu features just about anything one might crave at a movie — save for truly ethnic items like curry, stir-fry, garlicky pasta, etc. Stylistically, it resembles the type of food one might find at Chili's, but flavor-wise, it's far better, from the salads to the freshly baked cookies that arrive at your table still too hot to eat.

The cookies (chocolate chip, double chocolate and peanut butter) are made in the kitchen at the theater. Dessert options are limited to cookies, ice cream, movie candy (still in those cardboard boxes and still overpriced) and milkshakes made even better by the addition of a little somethin' somethin'. The Mexican chocolate shake is the ideal end to a movie dinner, spiked with a bit of reposado tequila and laced with cinnamon for that slightly spicy abuelita chocolate taste.

If sitting for two hours and eating heavy food sounds like a recipe for a stomachache, don't let a movie theater salad scare you; Alamo Drafthouse's lighter options are the way to go. An $11 chopped salad made me fall in love with a simple vegetarian dish — devoid of truffle oil or pork belly or unnecessary fruit and nuts — all over again. Too frequently I'm put off by overly complicated mixtures, but the chopped salad here is an ideal blend of arugula, radicchio, and red and green leaf lettuce, with just a hint of basil pesto balsamic dressing. The roasted red peppers and Kalamata olives add vinegary acid to the mix, while marble-size balls of fresh mozzarella provide a cool surprise every few bites.

The mushroom and white Cheddar burger comes loaded with caramelized onions, Dijon mustard and all the fixings. Pair it with a cold beer and some American Hustle.
Troy Fields
The mushroom and white Cheddar burger comes loaded with caramelized onions, Dijon mustard and all the fixings. Pair it with a cold beer and some American Hustle.


Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to close; Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to close.
Alamo nachos: $10
Bottomless popcorn: $6
French fries with queso: $7
Chopped salad or wrap: $11
Basil pesto frittata: $8
Prosciutto and spinach pizza: $12
Mushroom and white Cheddar burger: $13
Cookie trio: $6
Mexican chocolate shake: $6 Cocktails: $7-$10

Get a behind the scenes look at what goes on at the kitchen of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in our slideshow "A Closer Look at The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema."

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

114 Vintage Park Blvd., Building H, Suite J, 832-559-5959.

Veggie burger patties, available in place of any regular burger on the menu, are juicy and flavorful enough that most wouldn't miss the beef, and a basil pesto frittata off the brunch menu (which is offered "all day, every day") is perfect for an afternoon screening.

I did take issue with the nachos, though, which had too much chip for the amount of beans and cheese melted on top. In the center of each fried tortilla strip was a small dollop of spiced black beans with a few shreds of melted cheddar. That's it. The plate comes with sour cream on the side, as well as a tomato cut into fourths and half an avocado, not sliced, just plopped on the plate. It's dark in there, Alamo Drafthouse. Don't make us cut anything. It could end poorly.

The Hatch green chile queso blanco also has the potential to end poorly if you don't gobble it up immediately. It's available as a bowl of queso or on top of fries or a burger, but in each instance it congeals too quickly, somehow making everything in its presence simultaneously hard and soggy.

The Drafthouse redeemed itself in my eyes pretty soon after the dangerous nachos and questionable queso, however, with its burgers. During my time in Houston, I've become something of a burger snob, desiring freshly ground chuck and homemade toasted buns gently cradling a perfectly seared patty. I wasn't expecting much from the Drafthouse burgers, but the toppings sounded good.

And then I bit into the mushroom and white Cheddar burger, and my mind rushed back to all the fast-food burgers of my youth. There was the thin patty, maybe a little too charred on the outside but not quite overcooked, and the basic bun, buttery but clearly not from an artisan baker as so many are these days. And yet, there was a dimensionality to this burger not found in even my guiltiest fast-food pleasures. The melted white Cheddar was tart and smooth, the sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions simultaneously sweet and earthy. And right when I was about to do that thing that all food critics do — look for something, anything, wrong with the burger — I found the spicy spread of Dijon mustard hidden in the center of the patty, just what the burger had been missing, and I chided myself for trying to find fault with the dish.

I find the moviegoing experience to be very nostalgic. I don't go out to see movies much anymore. I'm too busy, and there's Netflix, and who can stand to sit still for two or more hours, bereft of technology? Seeing a film in the theater reminds me of middle school and high school, when my parents would drop me off outside Tinseltown to meet friends for a night of overpriced sugary treats, arcade games and, no doubt, terrible movies. I miss the innocence of that routine.

But an evening at Alamo Drafthouse brings it all back to me. For a brief moment in time, I can't talk to anyone. I can't text or check my email to see if I'm missing something important. I can't worry about the future because, safe in my cushioned chair in the dark, I can't do anything about it anyway. And besides, I'm off in another world, chatting with Joaquin or battling demons or watching a couple fall in love.

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Laura Michaels
Laura Michaels

When Rick dyer shows up with his fake Bigfoot, you will all be vomiting up your A-list dinner after you see how you've been ripped off!