No one likes a chewer at the movies. It boggles the mind that theaters sell nachos. Of all the possible snack foods, why choose one of the loudest?
One solution for this scourge is to stay home and rent a movie. If you subscribe to a by-mail DVD service like Netflix, even less effort is required.
The best part of the home theater solution is that you can eat whatever you want. Grilled cheese? Fire it up. Canned sardines? Who's gonna say anything? Duck a l'orange? Hey, if you can do it, more power to you.
But the restaurant takeout option is ideal: less work, fewer dishes. With the aim of lifting all but the most trivial effort off of your shoulders, I'd like to present you with five harmonious DVD/takeout pairings. Enjoy, and until the curtain rises - may neither the ending nor your appetite be spoiled.
The Sausage King of Chicago
A Chicago-based movie requires some kind of Chicago-related food. It could be The Fugitive and green beer, The Blues Brothers and four fried chickens and a Coke, or The Breakfast Club and a nice plate of sushi (it's either that, or a white bread/butter/Cap'n Crunch/Pixy Stix sandwich, and I'm not going to recommend that to anyone).
My pick, however, is Ferris Bueller's Day Off and a straight-up Chicago-style hot dog. And Mad Dog's Chicago Style Eatery is just the place. In addition to the dog "dragged through the garden," you can get a nice chili-cheese dog, Italian beef, or a well-dressed Polish. After the Chicago dog, your plate will resemble the pointillism of Georges Seurat, with poppy seeds, yellow mustard blobs, and atomic-green relish dotting the surface.
Parking is at a premium in Mad Dog's neighborhood, so bring change for the meter (wieners are fast enough that you don't need to worry about advance notice) or call ahead and enjoy Mad Dog's curbside service. Yes, the kind employees will bring your order out to your car. (The shop also has limited downtown delivery.)
Make sure to check the specials board, which features such oddities as the Campfire Dog (with beans and bacon) and the Taco Dog (topped with, among other items, Fritos).
Everything the Body Needs
With the heavy Asian influence on "The Matrix Trilogy," a pairing with the southeast Asian fusion food from the Bamboo Hut seems destined for greatness. Sure, the scene where we see humans turned into machine food may not be the most appetizing movie moment. But hey, not everything can be the exploding orgasm cake from The Matrix Reloaded.
Neo expresses a fondness for noodles in the first installment, and you can share that fondness with a bowl of the Bamboo Hut's curry noodle soup. It has a musky curry flavor with more heat than the menu admits. If you're looking forward to a nice steak, like Cypher, there's a spicy steak salad. Planning a three-movie marathon? Be sure to check out the well-received crispy-stuffed chicken wings. The monologues of the vaguely Colonel Sanders-ish Architect will be made infinitely more tolerable with these finger-licking works of art. Plus, the colors of the royal sticky rice and the mango/avocado salsa will make you feel like you're in Morpheus' closet.
Between the ample entrees and the surprisingly large appetizers (like the cilantro-tastic spring rolls), you'll find that your money has been well spent. You'll even have leftovers to see you through all the DVD extras.
Tea and Strumpets, Nawlins-style
Sometimes, we just need to shut the old brain down for a while. Easy, simple food from a straightforward menu is one way. A completely childish potty-joke comedy is another method. I say the two go together like Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas, the two doofus protagonists of Dumb and Dumber. The food you may be snorting up your nose or spitting out in laughter comes from Babs' French Quarter Kitchen.
Babs' menu is one-quarter of a regular sheet of paper, and the items are generally variations on the po' boy theme. Harry and Lloyd would order one of these gleefully, since they find themselves unemployed and short on funds very early in the movie. There's catfish, meatball, veggie, and hot sausage, among others.
The many mental simplicities of the Dumb and Dumber boys find giggle-worthy outlets in Babs' other offerings. There's a barbecue shrimp salad for those of you flying in from Austria (y'know, "throw another shrimp on the barbie"? Austria?), and plenty of hot sauce to splash on your unsuspecting dining companions' cheeseburgers. Lloyd would probably snicker uncontrollably at the sophomoric humor in the muffuletta sandwich's name, but the olive salad-and-deli meats combo will provide you with two very serious meals' worth of chow.
Of course, if you don't want to go for the single-entendre joke, or the misplaced geography lesson, or the prankish food vandalism, there's always the soup du jour. What's the soup du jour, you ask? Why, it's the soup of the day. Sound good?
Locale-Hopping with Kipp's, Parole-Violating with Clooney
There's this fellow named George Clooney. Perhaps you've heard of him.
He's been in some awfully high-minded and serious films in the last couple years, but before all the treatises on corporate responsibility, sincere journalism and scientific complicity in criminal enterprise, he was just a plain old criminal in a pleasant little flick called Out of Sight. This movie covers three distinct geographic regions of the country, and in one meal from Kipp's Down Home Cookin', I can guide you to all three.
Out of Sight begins, chronologically anyway, in the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary in California. As such, you might begin your meal with the California Cream Spinach, a substantial tub of flavorful and not entirely unhealthy greens. Ask a friend to serve as your accomplice in polishing off this "side," as its sheer bulk will ruin your meal with malice aforethought.
The second location is Miami. We meet Anglos and Latinos in the south Florida scenes, so go ahead and pick the Cuban black beans and Cuban rice as your side orders. Intensely flavored and surprisingly sweet, this complete protein will represent a pleasant interlude between greens and the main dish.
What main dish could possibly represent Detroit, the third setting of the film? You can have your pick of four disparate sandwiches, and any will suffice. This feat is accomplished by virtue of Kipp's "Brian Calhoun TD Special." Calhoun, a former UW Badger running back, now earns his paycheck from the NFL's Detroit Lions. Your choice from among barbecue chicken, turkey meatloaf, fried chicken, or a really great breaded catfish, plus you get two sides (and a muffin!) for a great bundled price.
So good, you won't even have to confess afterwards.
No Translation Necessary
Some folks find the depiction of the Japanese in Lost in Translation to be stereotyped and demeaning. I'm not going to get into that here, but if you want to feel a friendly kinship with others in a Japanese setting, by all means pair your Murray/Johansson evening with a quick run to Takumi. You may not speak the language on the menu, but here it really doesn't matter. Mostly. The staff is truly jovial and welcoming.
I say "mostly," because I encountered one significant language hurdle when trying to order a beverage while I waited for my takeout. (Disclaimer: I had a designated driver.) Anyway, my attempt to order a Sapporo after selecting my sushi rolls somehow came across distinctly and repeatedly as though I were asking for a "separate roll." So, I went without the beer and left with sushi. I suggest mentioning that you'd like a drink first - then say what kind.
The gentlemen in the audience might appreciate an order of gyoza while watching the disarmingly lingering opening shots of Lost in Translation. The pillowy-soft dumplings have the slightest bit of crispness, and are wonderful with just a little dip in soy sauce. Of course, everyone should enjoy these pseudo-potstickers because they're a great value, and darn tasty.
The real draw to Takumi, of course, is the sushi. Sashimi is probably best enjoyed on-site, so stick with the rolls and you'll travel safely. The spicy tuna, vegetable tempura, and salmon avocado rolls will thrill your senses as Bob and Charlotte traverse the urban Japanese landscape of pachinko parlors and blinking neon. The flavors are distinct; the seafood, fresh. If you resist the urge to order one of the more self-indulgently overloaded rolls, you cannot help but find happiness.
I can't say I find Lost in Translation to be a particularly uplifting film. I'm an attached and attaching person, and there's just so much isolation and loss that I get a little sad by the time the screen fades to black. At the end, if you're questioning every decision you've made and every relationship out of which you've slipped in the night, you'll need something bright and wonderful and exemplary to distract you. Lift your glass, offer a warm "kampai" to your dining companions, and enjoy the meal and the moment.