Circumstances may have conspired against Dinner at a Movie, but Dinner at a Movie has conspired right back. We — food critic Bethany Jean Clement and movie critic Moira Macdonald — began our adventures together way back in 2017, seeking out places where we could enjoy real food (not just popcorn), plus real drinks, at a good (or otherwise) movie. We traveled far and wide, enjoying cocktails, taste-testing cinema cuisine and getting popcorn dumped on us in the dark — and, along the way, we became great friends, just like in a movie. (Call us the Thelma and Louise of The Seattle Times, minus the driving-off-a-cliff and Brad Pitt.) All was lovely, and even a global pandemic just made D.A.A.M. get creative, with a brief respite last summer allowing us to enjoy “F9” and boozy milkshakes in Totem Lake.
Now we’re back at the actual movies again (yay!) with a visit to Issaquah’s brand-new The Big Picture. This is actually a Dinner at a Movie sequel, of sorts: We had a lovely time at the original Big Picture in Belltown once upon a time. After losing the lease there, owners Katie and Mark Stern relocated to a former pub in downtown Issaquah earlier this year — so to the east we headed, ready to D.A.A.M. once more.
Bethany: We don’t know about you, but Dinner at a Movie could use a drink. Ensconced at a table in the lobby bar at the new Big Picture, we turned our attention immediately to cocktails. Moira selected a Bond Girl ($11.25), of which she graciously offered me a sip — I didn’t say anything at the time, but that sip-offering felt like a level of optimism, and trust, and, well, yes, love that almost made me start crying. Dinner at a Movie is emotional, OK?!?! We’ve earned it. We’re back! Again!!!
Moira: Anything I have, I’ll share with Bethany, especially drinks, popcorn, exclamation points and gossip. And no, I am not getting teary-eyed right now. Really.
Bethany: Merp … anyways! The Bond Girl tasted perfumey, floral — as if it would smell lovely on a great aunt, but maybe was not meant for actual human consumption. But, then, I do think the massive marketing behind St-Germain elderflower liqueur has resulted in some mixological missteps, and, as you can readily see, I probably qualify as a cocktail-overthinker, so! Moira enjoyed it, and that is, truly, what matters.
Moira: I like my drinks to taste like bridesmaid bouquets. So there! Actually, the Bond Girl really was good — nice and light and fizzy — though admittedly I ordered it because of the name. I am known for liking my cocktails to be on the Diet Coke end of the sweetness spectrum.
Bethany: And for some time, I’ve been on a bit of a brown liquor cocktail kick, a role that the Super Manhattan ($13.50) performed nicely. I did ask for it easy on the apricot liqueur, a bit of fussiness that got very nicely accommodated by a barkeep who’d been with The Big Picture for 15 years before the pandemic and has now returned! This speaks volumes about the owners as employers — kudos to them.
Moira: I did not ask for a sip, as one of the few things Bethany and I disagree on is whether Manhattans are disgusting. We did also have some bubbly in the theater during our movie, and it was … bubbly! Delightful!
Bethany: All movies should involve a glass of sparkling wine ferried to you partway through, materializing silently in the dark. This is the kind of magic I can get behind. The magic in the movie itself — well, first let’s briefly discuss …
Moira: Let’s be fair: The Big Picture has limited kitchen facilities and a limited menu. You will not find crème brûlée here (as we did in several other theaters during The Before Times).
Bethany: That being said, the wagyu smash burger ($11.75) is absolutely decent — made with two patties of wagyu beef that gets crispy edges from proper time on the grill, American cheese and a very squishy, low-profile bun reminiscent in a not-bad way of a fast-food one.
Moira: And it can be ordered with tots ($4)! Which are always a pleasure. (I STILL remember, Anderson School Theater, that time you stiffed me on tots. Dinners at a Movies Past are now playing in my head, accompanied by “The Way We Were.”)
Bethany: Tater tots for king of the, um, Wizarding World! If that is a thing. The Big Picture’s pizza possessed a sponginess of crust that fans of a certain kind of frozen pie will appreciate. We are still kicking ourselves for our failure to try the Chicago dog — the owners are from Chicago, so they very likely know their way around that city’s namesake delightfully-loaded-up wiener situation. Next time!
Moira: It was “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the third in a supposed five-movie series that is sort of a cousin to the “Harry Potter” world. I am DYING to know, Bethany, if this movie made any sense to you at all. (For the record, Bethany told me before the screening that she had never seen a Harry Potter movie. We would not necessarily have chosen this movie, but it was the only thing The Big Picture — which has but a single screen — was playing.)
Bethany: It did not make any sense whatsoever. It was anti-sense-making. One could call it … nonsense?
Moira: Ha! For the record I have seen every Harry Potter movie, and the two previous Fantastic Beasts movies, and for the most part I have NO idea what was happening in this movie, other than a lot of extremely enviable coats. The storytelling is … muddy, and that’s putting it nicely. There’s a pink velvet coat in this movie that has way more thematic cohesion than the script.
Bethany: The man who appeared to be in full Harry Potter costume in the lobby is the closest I’ve come to any form of Harry Potter, and I did admire his sartorial commitment. The scarf also looked cozy — if the theater had proved to be cold, he could’ve fashioned a sweaterish mummy-style sheath out of it. (The theater did not prove to be cold.)
The film left me entirely flummoxed. It seemed a very strange conflation of magic; cute CGI animals who are also magic; a power struggle between magic people/animals and maybe Nazis?; and, yes, good coats and shoes. And castles, and woods, and castles in the woods. And a lot of cups and glasses floating in midair on many different occasions, not unlike The Big Picture’s bubbly. Magic!
Moira: Basically, yes, but if they’re so magic, why don’t they just solve their issues with some wand-waving and then have tea? This movie is very pretty to look at, but it is no “F9.”
Bethany: Whatever-this-movie-was-called absolutely needs more tea and fewer issues. I must say, I hope children are not being allowed to watch it. Early on, an EXTREMELY sudden/violent/traumatic — spoiler alert! — Bambi-type extinguishing BUT WORSE happened, which almost made this adult leave the theater. The world’s scary enough!
Moira: It says basically everything about this movie that I can’t remember the incident you’re referring to. In any case, there are no children at The Big Picture, which is 21-and-over only. The theater, by the way, is very small — just 33 seats — but quite comfortable, with a screen that’s surprisingly large for the space. The seats don’t recline but they are commodious, with a cute love seat in the front row if you’re on a date night.
Bethany: The sound seemed, to use a Professional Film Critic term (right, Moira?), good. And the popcorn, also ferried to us in the dark as if by nonviolent magic wand, tasted just unbelievably excellent. We’ve been making our own movie-theater-style popcorn at home for too long — having someone else not just pop it, but bring it to us, felt like the very lap of luxury.
Moira: In general, service is delightful at The Big Picture, whose staff — working alongside the Sterns — were all most helpful and very sweet. (You order food and drink at the bar, which can feel a little chaotic during busy moments, but the staff had everything well in hand.)
Bethany: We felt very well cared for! Which felt supernatural! Thank you, The Big Picture!
The Overall Experience
Moira: During the past two years, I think we’ve all learned how much it means to be able to spend an evening with a friend, giggling over cocktails and sharing popcorn and watching a movie side-by-side. It’s not something I will ever take for granted again. Hanging out with Bethany is way more magic than any movie (particularly this movie), and The Big Picture was a lovely place to do that.
Bethany: Awww! It’s true — we’re so lucky to have this wizard-free world, new places to go Dinner at a Movie and each other. However …
Moira: Dinner at a Movie is about to go on another hiatus, as I’m going on leave until the fall. But we will be back, scrutinizing cocktails and scarfing down popcorn and wishing The Rock were in every movie. (And you might find Bethany and me having drinks together in nonmovie places, strategizing D.A.A.M.’s glorious return.)
Bethany: Moira, you will be missed in these pages/pixels, but clearly nothing can keep Dinner at a Movie down. This franchise will ride again, and much more sensically than the cousin-of-Harry-Potter one!