Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tried Something New Last Night

Stop that. This is a family blog.

For our anniversary, we went to a place called Studio Movie Grill. Notice that they do not add the pretentious "e" on the end. I like that. My wife found out about it from a Mom's Club member. It is a movie theater with several screens, on which patrons watch first-run movies as they dine on the moderately priced fare. We didn't know exactly what to expect, as neither of us had ever heard of a place like that. It sounded great, though, because we've lamented the fact that having dinner and a movie on a weekday makes for a very late night. We can never get to a restaurant and eat in time to make the 7-ish show, so weeknight movie dates were pretty much a no-go.

Overall, it was good, but it started out a little rocky. The show started at 7:30, but the Web site encouraged everyone to be there by 7:00. This time, it really was not our fault we were late.

We had ordered the tickets online and printed out our confirmation sheet. When we dropped Ben off at the in-laws' place, I called the theater's number to find out exactly where it was located. The recording said it was on West Park, two blocks east of the North Dallas Tollway, in Plano. We kissed Ben and left at 6:40, with about 20 minutes to get somewhere that should take about 10.

When I exited and headed east, as the directions said, we went much farther than two blocks. Probably more like a mile and a half. All we saw were houses. We turned around and started back the other way, figuring maybe the recording was wrong. I called the theater's number and a live person said we had gone the right way the first time. We called the inlaws, who usually give good directions, and they said the same thing. I turned around. Grrr...

It's about 7:00 by this time, so we know we're going to be late. Trying to keep our anniversary positive, I assured Shannon that getting there a few minutes after was no big deal.

Shannon was first to spot the Blue Goose, a landmark the theater guy had given us, on the left side of the road. Grumbling something about that not being anywhere near where he said it would be, I somehow got us across two lanes without crashing and turned into the parking lot of the Blue Goose.

We drove around the front of the Blue Goose and saw no entrance to the Studio Movie Grill's lot. At that point, those two curbs and that small strip of grass were not going to stop me. I very gently eased over the curbs and into the next lot, where I then hit the gas to cross the 100 yards of empty spaces. We had arrived, and it was 7:10.

I like to sit in the middle of the theater, just a little farther back than dead center. A couple sat in the prime spot, so we sat next to them. This was to our advantage later.

I'll describe in detail since it's so much different from a typical movie theater. The seating consists of black office chairs with armrests, the kind that run about $149 at Office Depot. Our row had a table that ran its length, butted up against a short wall. Recessed lights mounted at the top of the short wall shone just brightly enough to light our menus. A row behind us had the same chairs, but with two-top tables instead of the bar approach. Each couple had a lighted coaster (like the kind some restaurants use to page you when waiting for a table), which we could activate when ready to order or when we needed something. Very good idea.

The menu at Studio Movie Grill offers a nice range of choices. The Pizzas had various toppings on a base of honey-wheat crust, red sauce, and provolone and mozzarella cheeses; hamburgers resembled what you might find at Chili's. The prices ranged from $6.99 for the hot dog to $9.99 for a loaded pizza. I was surprised to see that the popcorn was only $1.99. They had mixed drinks aplenty, some of which sounded like they would make good desserts. We happened to be there on Margarita Monday, which knocked $1.50 off the price of a margarita. Shannon was a little queasy, so she passed, and I'm not a margarita drinker.

As we looked over the menu, the couple next to us helped make our anniversary better. They did not know it was our anniversary, which made their offer even nicer. The lady showed me a coupon book, and asked if we would like one of the tickets for "buy one entree, get one free." She explained that they expire in October, and there was no way they were going to use them all. We gave them the usual polite answer, something like, "Oh, well if you really don't think you are going to use them."

The couple asked for their spinach artichoke dip to come out before their meal. I thought maybe they were just being cautious, so I said nothing. Yeah. Nice.

About 10 minutes after we ordered, as we watched the trailers for upcoming features, all of our food came out, including our "appetizer" spinach artichoke dip. Shannon's pepperoni pizza was very good, and my burger was tasty. The lighting was low enough that I couldn't tell whether it was done, but it tasted okay, so I devoured it. I have only about three or four burgers a year at the most, and it was very good.

We saw "Wedding Crashers," which was very funny. The whole crowd laughed out loud many times. The story was a formula seen in several romantic comedies over the years, but Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson did a great job with a funny script. They make a great comedy duo. There's also a hilarious cameo that had my mind racing to guess who it was before he was revealed, but I don't want to spoil it for anybody. We had a hard time buying Owen Wilson as a romantic lead, but maybe that says more about us than it does about the movie. I don't have time for that blog entry.

There were a couple times during the show that we could hear booming bass from one of the other screens, a problem I suspect I would find in any of today's multi-giga-super-plex cinemas.

If you are up for dinner and a movie and there's a Studio Movie Grill nearby, then give it a try. It cuts out waiting for a table and the rush of trying to make it from one place to the next.

That is, if you can find it.

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