Restaurant Review Violet Crown Cinema
Few things can spoil a nice meal more than having to rush through it to get to a movie on time. The new Violet Crown Cinema in the Railyard attempts to eliminate that problem by allowing you to carry your food — whether it’s a snack, a sandwich, or an entrée — to your seat, which includes a deep cup holder and a retractable tray built into one of the arms. When you purchase your ticket, you choose an assigned seat, so there’s none of that scurrying to make sure you secure a prime spot. The theater’s website does recommend that you arrive 45 minutes prior to the start of your show if you plan to eat, though.
Traditional movie snacks like popcorn and candy are available at the concession stand, as are some “grab ’n’ go” items like prepackaged sandwiches and pasta salads, but gone are the days when you end up just having popcorn for dinner at the movies. You can slurp down an ice-cold soda in any standard multiplex in America, but here you can carry a frosty pint of beer — Violet Crown has a rotating selection of 30 brews and ciders — or a glass of wine into the theater if that’s your preferred thirst-quencher.
If you wait to enjoy your meal after the movie has ended, you can relax in the open, loungelike dining area or on one of the picnic-bench-inspired tables on the patio, which looks out across the railroad tracks. This is little like airport dining — as you eat, people are dashing to various doorways, and a voice on the loudspeaker offers a gentle reminder that seating for a particular movie has begun.
Violet Crown serves a few salads, including a lovely but simple medley of mixed greens with a tangy balsamic-based dressing, rings of red onion, and Parmesan shavings. I added tofu for a protein boost, but I expected more than three triangles for a three-dollar upcharge. Anyway, there’s a reason salads aren’t common movie-theater nosh — they’re not easy to eat in the dark, especially when you’re trying to focus on the big screen at the same time.
Fries, though, are an easy-to-eat (and quick-to-prepare) option. On one visit, ours were al dente (I suspect they hadn’t been “double-fried,” as the best of their kind are). On another visit, they were perfect, with soft starchy centers and crisp tawny skins. Fries doused with truffle oil and garnished with cheese, a widely popular trend that has always struck me as gilding the lily, are an option here as well (and called Crown Fries); the kitchen applies the distinctively aromatic oil judiciously, but our fries weren’t hot enough to create that desirable melty bond with the grated Parmesan, which tumbled right off.
Brussels sprouts are a bit of a second-run menu item these days, but they make an appearance at Violet Crown. They’re flash-fried for crispy outer leaves and lightly lacquered in a sweet-tart apple-cider gastrique, but ours needed some par-cooking — their tough, overly firm centers made for onerous chewing.
The menu features two hot dogs, one an acceptable Chicago dog with all the requisite toppings. The all-beef frank was large, juicy, and plump, but my purist dining companion pointed out that the bun had been grilled rather than steamed, which caused it to fall apart after only a bite or two. In the distracting state of a dark theater, this could get very messy very quickly.
Violet Crown’s kitchen includes a stone-hearth pizza oven that seems to be constantly ablaze. We tried two pies — one topped with crumbly, sweetly seasoned pork sausage and mild but noticeable green chile, and a margherita, topped with fresh basil and slices of colorful local organic tomato from Growing Opportunities (this may have marked the first time I have eaten anything locally grown at a movie theater). With their thin, crackery crust, these pizzas are more snacklike than substantial, but they’re easy to eat and will satisfy a rumbling tummy.
You’ll have a few other hand-to-mouth foods to choose from. The chicken flautas are crisp and crunchy (though not enough to annoy your fellow theatergoers), but the meat in ours hadn’t been thoroughly chopped — with each bite, it pulled out of the shell in large chunks. The carne asada skewers were incredibly tough — I felt like an Indominus rex, tugging to get a bite. The juicy-fruity pineapple salsa offers an excellent contrast to the smoky, chile-dusted grilled meat, but you’ll need a fork to enjoy it.
Violet Crown is a welcome addition to the increasingly lively Railyard. Whether you’re spending two hours speeding through a postapocalyptic desert, running from dinosaurs, fighting bad guys with Ant-Man, or letting Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer tickle your funny bone, you’re probably going to work up an appetite. It’s nice to have decent, varied food and drink just a few steps away.