In pursuit of a decent Dinner at a Movie — defined as real-meal food (not just popcorn) and actual drinks (not just soda), consumed while gazing at a big screen — food writer Bethany Jean Clement and movie critic Moira Macdonald have logged many miles in and around Seattle. We’ve found crème brûlée at the movies in Bellevue (at the Cinemark Reserve), BLTs in Burien (the Tin Room), fish ’n’ chips in Bothell (the Anderson School Theater), and donned our best formal wear to watch the Academy Awards and drink bubbly on Capitol Hill (Century Ballroom).

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Just when we were tearfully concluding that our D.A.A.M. days had reached their logical end — we seemed to have run out of places! — up popped another possibility. The once-tired Regal Meridian 16, a downtown multiplex that’s been around since 1996, recently underwent a renovation: cozy recliners, reserved seats, an ambitious food menu and a full bar featuring “Jartails.” Like Bruce Wayne spotting the Bat-Signal, we were called to duty one more time.

The Movie

Moira: Out of about a dozen movies on display, we chose “Captain Marvel” for a handful of reasons, not the least of which was that I thought Bethany would enjoy the cat (see below). And it seemed wise to pick a movie that one of us had already seen, so there would be a logical candidate for fetching the midmovie popcorn in the tragically waiterless Regal Meridian 16. It’s not my absolute favorite superhero movie — recent ones I loved more include “Black Panther,” “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Wonder Woman” — but it’s good fun, and Brie Larson’s flight jacket is quite covetable.

Bethany: Light entertainment with both feminism and a cat is a win-win-win in my book. With “Captain Marvel,” feel free to let the initial plot exposition just wash over you; I did. The movie gets better as it goes along, an amalgam of a bunch of genres (I think — Moira?) bolstered by the dual charms of Larson and Samuel L. Jackson.

Moira: Yes, it’s a superhero movie with buddy-movie elements mixed in; Larson and Jackson are insanely charming together, as are (less prominently) Larson and Lashana Lynch as her earthbound best pal. And, having now watched it twice, I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on in the early scenes. It doesn’t matter. Did you know that the official name of Annette Bening’s character is Supreme Intelligence? That seems about right, casting-wise, doesn’t it?

Bethany: I also just watched “Unicorn Store” on Netflix — Larson/Jackson again, but in a completely different style, also very good fun, I think you would like it! And now I’m picturing a franchise featuring the “Unicorn Store” unicorn and the “Captain Marvel” cat. Though the unicorn should beware.

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Moira: Ooh! I would watch that!

The Cat

Bethany: Moira knows things about the cat: Hollywood insider secrets. Also, Moira and I both have orange cats that we love very, very much. As much as I enjoy Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, the cat should’ve gotten top billing here.

Moira: The “Captain Marvel” cat, Goose, is actually four credited cats, named Reggie, Archie, Gonzo and Rizzo. All of them are adorable and meticulously trained and perfect (though not as perfect as my cat, or Bethany’s), and they appear at different moments according to their particular strengths. (Gonzo, for example, is a good holding cat. Reggie apparently gives great face.) Goose is also sometimes played by CGI or by a kitty puppet, because apparently Brie Larson has allergies.

Bethany: Our orange cats at home — who are excellent at walking, being held, sneaking into places (including, surely, spaceships) and looking extremely cute in close-ups — are apparently quadruple threats. Talent! We should take them to L.A., Moira.

Moira: Judging by how my cat behaves when taken to the vet, I think L.A. needs to come to her.

The Food

Bethany: Remember when airport food was still terrible, in a weirdly uniform way, like it’d all been extruded from a Foodlike Substance Machine?

Moira: Wait, it’s not terrible now? I had Something Resembling Chicken on a flight recently.

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Bethany: You had food on a flight?! I thought that had been abolished along with legroom.

Moira: It was nine hours! I think they still have to feed you.

Bethany: Well, if it was like the protein substance in our Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich ($10.39), I am very sorry for you. At least we had popcorn to look forward to … Though I’d imagine as a film critic, popcorn for dinner has lost the luster for you that it still possesses for the rest of us.

Moira: I LOVE popcorn for dinner. I do it all the time. (Don’t tell my mom.) It always feels like a treat, and you know what you’re getting — unlike the mysterious menu at the Regal Meridian 16, about which I’ll just say that it’s probably best that we were eating it in the dark. That chicken sandwich was the least objectionable of the lot: At least the bun was nicely toasted and had some crunch. The Korean BBQ Steak Street Tacos ($10.39) were a sloppy, gloppy, weirdly sauced mess and did not appear to contain steak, and the Green Goddess Salad ($8.39) should apologize to all goddesses, because it did not actually involve Green Goddess dressing. I guess it was just named that because it’s green?

Bethany: I absolutely agree that the sandwich wins Least Bad Actor — ranch dressing has the ability to ameliorate some very serious flaws, including chicken cubes with a disturbingly uniform artificial texture.

Moira: That chicken was kind of … spongy? Is that a food word?

Bethany: Yes, and it’s precisely the right one. It appears from our receipt that our “Street” (is there anything more street than the second floor of the Regal Meridian 16?) tacos were actually made with pork — not sure how that happened, but their strange, dry, pitalike encasements and cloyingly sweet sauce dominated anyway. I’d never before met a green goddess salad composed of tough spinach leaves, rubbery squiggles of indeterminate cheese, slices of cucumber with notably hard skin and a choice of three nongoddess dressings, and may we all be spared this in the future. Even the waffle fries, which should always go from the freezer to the deep-fryer with aplomb, somehow attained a mealy quality. We finished poking sadly at all the food — presented in unwieldy cardboard boxes — by the end of the previews.

Moira: Luckily, popcorn, like Captain Marvel, always saves the day.

The Drinks

Bethany: The bartender at the new open-air bar adjacent to the concession stand gently guided me away from the glossy menu page labeled “Classic Cocktails.” Apparently, the Regal Meridian 16 is better prepared to administer its presumably trademarked Jartails, which are concoctions served in jars reminiscent of the ones popular in real bars about five years ago, except these jars are made of plastic. My margarita, with its piercing citric-acid taste (and aftertaste), made the top of my tongue hurt well into the following day.

Courtesy of the Regal Meridian 16, here are some Jartails floating in space (normal gravitational conditions are maintained in the theater).  (Regal Meridian 16)
Courtesy of the Regal Meridian 16, here are some Jartails floating in space (normal gravitational conditions are maintained in the theater). (Regal Meridian 16)

Moira: They also serve, in those faux Mason jars, something called “Winetails.” Mine was a Sparkling Berry Rossini, which was pink-lemonade-ish and not unreasonable. It did contain a delightful fresh raspberry, which I had fun fishing out. I shall henceforth be using the word “winetails” frequently, as in, “Let us gather after work for food and winetails,” because it’s hilarious and dangerously close to “entrails.”

Bethany: Watch out, Moira — I’m thinking “Winetail” is probably trademarked, too. I liked how after your first sip, you ventured, “It’s kind of good?” Which counts as a ringing endorsement at the Regal Meridian 16. And thank you for bringing me that glass of mercifully drinkable rosé midway through the movie. I will remain eternally grateful.

Moira: I use a lot of question marks when discussing food, as I have no idea what I’m talking about. A great food writer like Bethany can taste, and perfectly describe, things that make me say, “Um, that’s good?” I decided not to press my luck on the Winetails, switching to Diet Coke midmovie. This review, and all of my reviews, is brought to you courtesy of Diet Coke.

Bethany: You are too kind! And Diet Coke owes you some residuals.

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The Service

Bethany: As we’ve already mentioned, the Regal Meridian 16 has no in-theater service. Color us spoiled, but having to obtain your own popcorn and second beverage during the movie is not the standard to which we’ve become accustomed.

Moira: It isn’t! We like pressing buttons for service. But let it be said that every staffer at the bar and food counters was extremely nice and helpful, and that they all seemed to be valiantly trying their best in a REALLY confusing setup. The “Enhanced Food” menu, for some reason, was kept behind the counter when we visited; you have to know to ask for it, like you’re in some sort of weird corporate speak-easy. This despite there being an enormous menu posted downstairs in the lobby.

Bethany: Every bit of everybody was so entirely nice, and I fear for them if there’s any kind of a crowd … we seemed to be the only people trying to order anything “Enhanced.” If you go, be kind. And maybe just order beer or wine.

Moira: Also, I am now deeply in love with the bartender who spent a very long time scrutinizing my ID, as if it might be possible that I am not old enough to drink. I know he was just following orders, but still. After IDs were checked (Bethany’s was also given an extremely thorough once-over), we were given yellow paper wristbands, to keep us from ordering more than the three-drink maximum.

Bethany: An unscrupulous person could remove their wristband easily, but then it’s hard to imagine wanting more than three Jartails (or even one).

Moira: Also, who orders more than three drinks in a movie? People who’ve never heard of bars? (Speaking of which, there’s a serviceable one right across the street, where we had much better drinks afterward.)

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The Décor

Bethany: The seats at the Regal Meridian 16 are cushy, recline nearly noiselessly at the touch of a button, and offer ample armrest area for you and those next to you. Four stars!

Moira: Yes, the chairs are super-cushy, and the footrests go up nice and high, so you’re basically watching the movie while comfortably sprawled. Nothing wrong with that! And the sightlines seem improved since the preremodel days, despite there still being a faint sensation of peering over the row in front of you. One nitpick: The tray tables are not big enough, but this  has been true for nearly every Dinner at a Movie place we’ve gone to.

Bethany: Correctly sized tray tables do not seem like rocket science. They can do it on an airplane, and probably on a spaceship. Maybe someday this technology will come to a theater near you.

The Overall Experience

Moira: Bethany and I have learned, in our various Dinner at a Movie wanderings, that it is not impossible to provide good food in a chain multiplex. (See: Cinemark Reserve in Bellevue. Or better yet, go; it’s great.) However, the Regal Meridian 16 isn’t remotely there yet. We had hopes, but they were crushed, like that raspberry in my drink by the time I got it out.

Bethany: The food at the Regal Meridian 16 was, in a word, abysmal; the cocktails, to be avoided. But the service, the wine, the seating, the movie and the company: all lovely. Just eat first (or plan for popcorn for dinner — yay!).

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Regal Meridian 16: 1501 Seventh Ave., Seattle; 844-462-7342, ext. 808; regmovies.com

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