In part six of the series, Seattle Times food writer Bethany Jean Clement and movie critic Moira Macdonald face a tater-tot-and-tray crisis in Bothell.
And we’re back! The Dinner at a Movie series — in which a courageous food writer/movie critic duo sacrifice themselves to test out Seattle-area spots serving full meals (and cocktails!) at the movies — has been on a brief hiatus, but we got tired of stale popcorn. Previously, we’ve reviewed Mountlake Terrace’s Cinebarre (salad in the dark), Redmond’s iPic Theaters (posh menu and blankets), Seattle’s Central Cinema (feels like “Cheers,” but with movies), Bellevue’s Cinemark Reserve (rather corporate-upscale, but best food so far) and Burien’s Tin Theater (a cozy delight).
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- The Anderson School’s food-and-drink-in-the-dark isn’t entirely incredible (but ‘Incredibles 2’ is adorable!)
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- A food writer and a movie critic try eating salad in the dark at Cinebarre
- A food writer and film critic put Seattle indie favorite Central Cinema to the dinner-and-drinks test
Moira: This time, we headed to Bothell to check out the Anderson School Theater, a single-screen, all-ages moviehouse on the grounds of the McMenamins complex. Open since 2015, the vast property also includes a hotel, several restaurants and bars, a pool, fire pits, a concert venue and probably a Ferris wheel lurking somewhere.
Bethany: It even has a weird eternal-flame torch! We almost have to add an entirely new category for judging the Anderson School, like “The Grounds.” It is a compound. You could live here — they even have a vegetable garden for end of days. The rest of the landscaping is lovely, and there is a bar everywhere you turn, plus tons of outdoor seating for summer fun. We snuck into the hotel, which is a converted old school (hence, the name), and marveled at the many, many lamps in the hallways. We peeked in a room, and they are huge.
Moira: The lampage (borrowing Bethany’s word) is amazing. It inspired me to rethink my entire lighting scheme at home.
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Bethany: I’m mad we didn’t go swimming, which is $6 to $8 for non-hotel-guests and free for citizens of Bothell. If I lived in Bothell, you would not be able to pry me out of the Anderson School’s pool. I am seriously considering moving. Moira, did you know that the pool is free for Bothellians?!
Moira: I did not. But nothing on earth would make me go swimming, which I hate. All that dampness! Just as well that I don’t live in Bothell. But if you move there, I will visit you.
Bethany: I forgot that you are a cat! OK, we could talk about The Grounds forever. To the movie …
Moira: Something new for Dinner at a Movie (which, to be fair, was Very Late Lunch, With Drinks, at a Movie this time): a screening full of kids! We saw the new Pixar film “Incredibles 2,” and everyone in the audience seemed to have an excellent time. As did I; this movie, with its zippy action and sweet family dynamics, is a kick. I am firmly on Team Jack-Jack.
Bethany: “Incredibles 2” is adorable (and also has a strong feminist message, unlike the first “Incredibles,” so hooray for that), and so is its built-in short film (which I will not spoil for you, but is all about dumplings and love!).
Moira: I love the short, “Bao,” so very much. It will make you want to call your mom.
Bethany: The baby in “Incredibles 2,” Jack-Jack, is extra-adorable. The babies in the theater who laughed helpless gales of baby-giggles whenever Jack-Jack was on screen were SUPER-ADORABLE.
Moira: It was like Jack-Jack was in stereo. So cute!
Bethany: Our spinach and artichoke dip ($10) initially tasted bland, but beneath its molten mantle, it possessed actual artichokey flavor and even a little spicy heat. The cheese-strands extending from the very crisp, plentiful tortilla chips to the dish proved difficult to cope with in the dark, but cheese-strands are a good problem to have.
Moira: It was a little high-risk, but quite tasty. I’m glad nobody could see me desperately trying to maneuver not-quite-visible cheese-strands into my mouth, though.
Bethany: The fish for my fish and chips ($18) wore big, puffy, crispy, properly greasy batter-jackets, on three sizable pieces. It approached the greatness of the fish ’n’ chips of the food truck Nosh — and that’s saying something.
Moira: There was, however, a DARK CLOUD over our meal. The menu offers a choice of fries or tater tots with sandwiches, and I excitedly ordered tots, because I am but human. When my 19th Hole Sandwich (smoked turkey, bacon, avocado on a bun; very fresh and good, $15.50) arrived, it took a while for me to notice in the darkness that I had been brought not tots, but fries. Not wanting to be That Person Who Complains (what am I talking about, I’m always complaining), I ate them and they were fine. FINE. But I am telling you, Anderson School Theater: Do not offer a lady tots and then not follow through.
Bethany: Moira actually, literally said, “That’s exciting!” when she saw that she could opt for tots.
Moira: Clearly, I don’t get out much.
Bethany: It is beautiful and right to be excited about tater tots. It is not right to have them offered, and then find fries in the dark instead. While we’re complaining, the paltry dessert selection — just cookies or candy — disappointed us so gravely, we chose nothing. We have become accustomed to crème brûlée at the theater. Dinner at a Movie has standards.
Moira: The drinks menu is short, with the star players being McMenamins’ various ales and beers. We went for cocktails, though; I tried the Edna-Ade ($9), named for the delightful couturier of the “Incredibles” franchise, Edna Mode. While naming a cocktail for a kid movie is a little weird, it was unusual and tasty; sort of cinnamony (thanks to a special McMenamins’ liqueur) and grapefruity, like a mojito with an accidental splash of spice tea.
Bethany: Moira kindly let me try her drink, which indeed had a nice herbal complexity to it, and, like Edna Mode, no oversweetness. My Cuba Libre ($8.25) seemed a little weak on the rum front, but its excellent lime level made me think I should stop overlooking this drink. Simple summertime goodness! Also, if you’re sleepy, which I was, the Coca-Cola lends a little giddyap to go with the rum-whoa.
Moira: I did not know until that very moment that Cuba Libre is rum and Coke. Live and learn.
Bethany: Moira declined to taste it. She only drinks Diet Coke (about 17 per day — her desk is a wall of cans), and, she noted, “I would never put rum in it. It’s perfect on its own.”
Moira: Standards, my friend. Standards. (Note to my mom, if she’s reading this: Bethany is exaggerating.)
See what else Bethany Jean Clement has been eating and loving (or complaining about!) lately
Find all of Moira Macdonald’s latest movie recommendations (plus the stuff she suggests can wait for Netflix!)
Moira: The theater is really charming, with those trademark antiquey-styled chandeliers up above and vintage circus posters on the wall. There is, however, a big problem: the swivel “tables” on which you place your meal. The sizes are all wrong: Drink glasses are too short for the cup holders, plates are an awkward fit in the tray part. And they are rickety! One of them, in the row behind us, became detached and crashed to the floor mid-movie, to the dismay of the kids sitting nearby.
Bethany: The tray situation really was untenable. They’re also too small overall; we both ended up commandeering our adjoining seats’ trays, but at a crowded show, you’d have nowhere to go.
Moira: It does seem weirdly not-thought-out. A couple of the rows have a long, narrow table in front of the seats, rather than the individual swivel ones; that might have been a better option.
Bethany: Hey, McMenamins — you can keep an eternal flame burning, how about addressing the tray-table trouble?!
Bethany: I loved the brusque but not at all unfriendly service at the bar — you order there and receive your drinks, then they bring the food to you. What I didn’t love was trying to carry my cocktail, cutlery, a napkin, condiments and a cup of water into the theater. What am I, an octopus? It definitely requires two trips. Moira nicely fetched me some water when she went back.
Moira: The food all came at once — we’d thought the appetizer might come first? — and was pretty unwieldy for those small tables. Maybe most people don’t order full meals.
Bethany: We balanced the artichoke dip between us — I’m surprised we didn’t end up wearing it.
The Overall Experience
Moira: The optics of the movie were very nice indeed: a big screen, good sightlines (if you sit in the back half, which is stadium seating), and an excellent sound system, even aside from all those babies in stereo.
Bethany: And cushy, high-backed seats that rock a little bit — no reclining, but you could nap here quite happily.
Moira: Wandering through the complex on our way to the movie theater, we felt like two Alices in Wonderland. (If Alice had notebooks and a critical eye.) It’s really a lovely place, and if they can figure out how to resolve the eating-a-meal-in-the-theater situation, I would happily go back.
Bethany: Yes — and also, crème brûlée, please!
McMenamins Anderson School Theater
18607 Bothell Way N.E., Bothell; 425-398-0122, mcmenamins.com/anderson-school/anderson-school-theater