Neighborhood Flix Cafe & Cinema

There will be grub!

It was certainly more enjoyable than the movie.

I'd been looking forward to seeing There Will Be Blood. It had been nominated for about a hundred Academy Awards, and my more serious film-nerd friends talked about it like it was a singular work of staggering genius that would shape the way Hollywood made movies for decades — the Citizen Kane of their generation, and on and on like that. But I can sum up the entire movie in two lines: Daniel Day-Lewis begins as a miserable bastard with a fondness for silver and unusual facial hair. Daniel Day-Lewis ends as a miserable, drunken bastard with a fondness for oil and unusual facial hair. There is precisely one reason for seeing this movie, and that is to see Daniel Day-Lewis play a miserable, drunken bastard with unusual facial hair. There's an even bigger reason not to bother: You're going to spend two and a half hours watching Daniel Day-Lewis play a miserable, drunken bastard and, after about the first half-hour, the only thing that's going to change about him is the unusual facial hair.

When we returned to Neighborhood Flix two nights later, Laura and I knew what we were doing. We arrived with barely ten minutes to spare before the start of the movie, so we walked right up to one counter to buy our tickets, then made straight for a second counter where you place orders for in-theater dining (altogether avoiding the cafe, which, even on a Sunday, was doing a fairly brisk trade).

James Mazzio makes food a featured attraction at Neighborhood Flix.
Mark Manger
James Mazzio makes food a featured attraction at Neighborhood Flix.


Standard adult ticket: $10
Sweet potato fries: $4
Mac-and-cheese: $9
Pot pie: $11
Bratwurst: $7
Popcorn: $4
Beer: $6
Closed Location

Once you understand the system here, it seems rather ingenious, even smart. You put in your order — for full meals or more traditional movie snacks — and pay, then are given a pager. You move on to the bar, secure your cocktails and continue on into the theater. In a surprisingly short amount of time, the pager will go off like a loud vibrator accidentally switched on in mixed company, sending you to yet another counter (this one in front of the kitchen and directly outside the theater entrances), where you will find your food waiting on inventive, custom-designed plastic trays loaded with disposable silverware. You take what's yours, resist the temptation to pilfer someone else's unguarded cheeseburger, return to your seat and proceed to stuff your face with Vietnamese vegetable egg rolls, Indonesian curry, New Orleans-style gumbo and carrot cake.

Most people who come to Neighborhood Flix appear to have the system down. The smart ones grab their seats, order their food, buy doubles at the bar, get paged during the previews and are safely back in those seats before the feature begins, plugging their trays into the cup-holders in the fold-down arms of the seats to create small, adjustable tables. The really smart ones will have known to grab their seats low on the riser and on the side nearest the door, so if they're suddenly seized by the urge for a second bucket of popcorn, some lamb stew or a third vodka tonic during the picture, their departure won't disturb anyone. And while Friday night must have been date night for loudmouths, amateurs and the sexually adventurous, Sunday was obviously for the pros. Needless to say, my second night at Neighborhood Flix was a far more pleasant experience all around.

For starters, Laura and I ate a lot better this time, essentially walling ourselves off behind a battlement of beers; popcorn (which, owing to the fact that I'd been allowed to add my own butter, was too buttery); a nice, springy pasta of pesto, sundried tomatoes and bite-sized pieces of grilled Red Bird chicken; and an enormous basket of fantastic fries. They were sweet potato (which I love), cut thin, perfectly blanched and then fried for that ideal crispy surface. They came sprinkled with sesame seeds and drizzled with a sweet ginger syrup that I would have drunk as a shot if only the bartender would have sold it to me.

The movie was also much better. In Bruges is a seriously dark comedy about two hit men (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell) sent to chill out in the medieval city of Bruges by their boss, Harry (played by an even-more-skeletal-than-usual Ralph Fiennes), after a botched assassination attempt on a priest in Dublin. It's full of midgets, weirdness, drug-abuse gunfights and jokes about Belgium. It's also shorter than There Will Be Blood by about 98 and a half hours. All told, it was a wonderful movie-watching experience, made even more wonderful by the fact that I could watch Farrell, cranked up on booger sugar and discussing the coming race war with three prostitutes and a midget, while dining on a menu carefully designed by Mazzio for easy consumption in the dark (once those sauces cool, anyway).

The partners behind Neighborhood Flix — locals Jimmie Lee Smith, Michelle Dorant and Melodie Gaul — took a big, expensive risk in trying to meld upscale cuisine and movies together for a singular experience. But when the system works, it really works. All they needed was a beautiful, multimillion-dollar location, a willing and polite crowd, a talented chef with a head for strange culinary diversions, a super-fast galley crew who can bang out a dozen meals in the time it takes a preview reel to run, and a restaurant critic easily amused by fancy-pants french fries, macaroni and cheese, and movies about Irish hit men and midgets.

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