In part five of the series, Seattle Times food writer Bethany Jean Clement and movie critic Moira Macdonald have their dinner before their movie (but drinks throughout!), and they adore almost everything about it.
We’ve been all over the place for our Dinner at a Movie series: up north to Mountlake Terrace’s Cinebarre (our first time eating salad in the dark!), east to Redmond’s iPic Theaters (our first, and sadly only, outing that came with blankets), into the center of Seattle for Central Cinema (the super-lovable “Cheers” of dinner-at-a-movie theaters), then back east again for Bellevue’s Cinemark Reserve (blandly upscale/brown décor, yet super-comfortable, with the best food yet).
Bethany: This time, it’s south to the Tin Room Bar & Theater in cute old-town Burien. Yes, your dinner is separate from your movie here: Food is served in the restaurant and bar, then the film is shown in the adjoining little theater. But you can take cocktails into the show (and sorry, kids, the theater is 21-and-up only) — certainly enough to merit a research expedition! Those drinks aren’t going to taste themselves.
Moira: They are not! The Tin Room Bar opened in 2004 on the former location of Ernie Eder’s Hi-Line Tin Shop, with owner Dan House operating his Dan the Sausageman business in the adjoining space. In 2010, he moved the sausage business off-site and opened the 39-seat theater, remodeling the room where he once assembled food gift boxes. It’s now open for movies most nights (mostly second-run), as well as monthly comedy nights and wine tastings. (Check the calendar before you head out; the Tin Theater is sometimes booked for private parties.)
Moira: Can I just say how cute this theater is? And how delightful it is that we were greeted by a mermaid statue? (That statue, by the way, has a connection to the Seattle band Alice in Chains. Which seems … both random and kind of great.)
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Bethany: The theater is tiny and adorable, with polished wood paneling and wine-red velvet curtains. As we walked in (buy your ticket for the film right when you get there, then you can claim a good seat), another patron happily exclaimed, apropos of nothing, “There isn’t a bad seat in the house!”
Moira: She was right! There wasn’t. The screen is small (think Grand Illusion-sized or maybe even a little smaller), but well-proportioned to the room, and the seats’ cupholders nicely fit a cocktail glass.
Bethany: The screen was maybe — I don’t know how you movie-professionals put it — a little wrinkly? But not terribly distractingly so.
Moira: Cinerama this ain’t. But it very much feels like a private screening room in some very wealthy person’s mansion; you feel like you should be on your best behavior, so you can be asked back. I loved the votive candles and the sconces.
Bethany: Yes, Deco-style sconces! We haven’t seen those since Cinebarre, which was huge and charmless in comparison. Everything about the Tin Room Bar & Theater felt so old-fashionedy and small-towny, and every single person we encountered was super-nice. It’s like Central Cinema, but old-timey and in Burien. And we LOVED Central Cinema.
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Bethany: Your dinner is served in the also-old-fashionedy bar, which was boisterously loud and fun, or near the entrance to the theater (old movie posters, quieter), or in the back room (also quieter).
Moira: Everybody knows everybody here! After saving our seats for the movie, we took a table near the bar, which has the original Hi-Line Tin Shop sign over it. I’m not sure if the “Big Chill” soundtrack was playing, exactly, but it sure sounded like it.
Bethany: A menu of pubby classics — sandwiches, meatloaf, fish ’n’ chips — looked perfect for the circumstances, and the food turned out to taste just right. The Caesar ($8.95) was gigantic, and it was the first salad I’ve ever eaten with Moira in normal lighting conditions, and they split it for us — bonus points. (At Cinemark Reserve, we had to split a Caesar in the dark theater. Not easy.) It had that unfancy, extra-creamy type of dressing, and arguably too much of it, but in a good way, where you shovel bite after bite down while thinking “This is a little overdressed.” Hardish baguette slices made for subpar croutons, to nitpick, but the snowy topping of Parmesan tasted fresh, and the lettuce crunchy-good. My fish tacos ($15.95) came with lots of slaw — another stand-up version of a pub favorite, and too much to eat in one sitting, including a side of rice and beans (that weren’t very warm and could’ve used a little salt, but again, nitpicking).
Moira: I am picky about BLTs. Why do so many places put cheese in them? But mine ($9.95) — arriving, as requested, without cheese — was very good, with lots of crunchy bacon (and avocado!) on a chewy ciabatta roll. Good fries, too. Then again, I am NOT picky about fries. Just the fact that they exist is more than enough.
Bethany: All food experts (and normal people) agree: A BLT should not have cheese. But onward, to the drinks!
Bethany: The Tin Room Bar makes an excellent classic Manhattan ($11.95): large-format, with Maker’s Mark and a just-right amount of bitters. If I lived around here, I’d come sit at the bar and have one without going to a movie at all. The bartender also wore a neat vintage tie, which was the topic of admiration from the crowd, and the TVs showed women’s wrestling. Also: rosy-dim lighting. Approved!
Moira: My lemon drop ($10.95) tasted freshly lemony; so delicious I had to keep reminding myself to not gulp it down like lemonade. Let it be noted, though, that a lemon drop is not the right thing to drink during a movie — the sugar rim makes the glass quite sticky. Live and learn. Apparently there is a reason that Diet Coke exists.
Bethany: As with “Black Panther,” which we watched in the gloriously boring/deluxe confines of Bellevue’s Cinemark Reserve, I am the last person in America to see “Call Me By Your Name.” It, too, as everyone says — including the Oscars, right, Moira? — is really good. I was a little troubled by the way the women quasi-love-interests are cruelly cast aside, but I’m sure this gender-politics problem has been amply addressed. Also, the film is very long; beautiful, but very long. I wished I’d ordered another Manhattan for halfway through, but kept thinking it must be almost over, so didn’t flag anyone down.
Moira: It’s long, yes, but long in the way that summers are when you’re a teenager aching with love and desire. Which is, for those who haven’t seen CMBYN yet (and what are you waiting for?) what the movie’s about. The acting is gorgeous — Timothée Chalamet’s face, over the closing credits, is a master class — and the Italian-countryside-in-the-summer setting is swoonworthy. And yes, it was a four-time Oscar nominee; screenwriter James Ivory (of Merchant-Ivory fame) won his first Oscar, at age 89 (!), for his adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel.
As for the visual display — well, the Tin Theater uses projected Blu-ray, so movies won’t look as sharp and vivid as they might at a bigger theater with a more advanced system. The slight softness didn’t bother me — it actually suited this movie, which takes place several decades ago — but those wanting state-of-the-art projection should be warned.
Bethany: Again, everyone was so nice. I have zero nitpicks. I wish service at all Seattle restaurants of every caliber was this good. And they explained how the setup worked in a way that some other Dinner-at-a-Movie places have failed to: simply but thoroughly. And they transferred our bill so we only got one at the end, for dinner, drinks and movie tickets.
Moira: Our server in the bar, noticing that Bethany didn’t finish her fish tacos, offered to wrap them up and store them in the bar’s refrigerator while we were watching the movie. This is one of the greatest things I have ever experienced in a restaurant. But then again I don’t get out much.
Bethany: It was awesome; it was thoughtful and it made sense. Two things that service, sadly, often lacks.
The Overall Experience
Bethany: Based on our overall experience at the Tin Room Bar & Theater, I am considering moving to Burien.
Moira: Can’t the Tin Room Bar & Theater just pack up and move to my neighborhood? I’ll even let them put cheese in the BLTs.
The Tin Room Bar & Theater
923 S.W. 152nd St., Burien; 206-242-8040; tinroombar.com