When it comes to American leisure time, there are few activities as universally loved as the classic dinner-and-a-movie combo. But what if instead of separating the two into distinct experiences, you combined them into one seamless cinematic feast, with a menu designed to be served right along with the action in the film?
Since 1997, that’s been the mission of the the Alamo Drafthouse, the Austin-based theater franchise that helped pioneer the restaurant-inside-a-cinema concept, which allows you to eat and watch at the same damn time. And we’re not just talking about glorified popcorn and nachos, either. Alamo’s devotion to the perfect pairing of film and food runs the gamut from the epic—like a legendary eigh-course “Hobbit Feast” to go with a marathon screening of the Lord of the Rings trilogy—to the relatively restrained (a one-night-only screening of Conan The Barbarian with roast turkey legs and a plate of bone-in meats, just like they do it in Cimmeria).
Here’s the best part: If you don’t live anywhere near an Alamo, or you’re looking to save money, impress a date, or just catch up on your Netflix queue, there’s no reason you can’t pull off one of these food-driven movie nights yourself.
To aid you in the quest to craft a compelling movie-and-menu pairing, we hollered at Drafthouse’s concept chef, Trish Eichelberger, to find out how she does it. You may not be able to match her pro moves just yet—pairing dinner with Silence of the Lambs takes an experienced hand—but her best practices will set you on the path to greatness.
Here, Eichelberger breaks down eight essential tips for transforming your next movie night into a feast to remember.