At the Movie Tavern — Baton Rouge’s new restaurant and movie theater combo — the seats are plush and comfortable, and the screens are wide and sharp.
The cinematic presentation is terrific.
But the dining experience is far from that.
When we visited the Movie Tavern twice earlier this month, we loved the big reclining chairs and wide aisles with ample room to stretch out. The first theater in Baton Rouge to serve full meals, Movie Tavern’s food prices don’t feature the extreme mark-up you expect at theaters. Instead, the prices fall in line with most fast-casual restaurants like Applebee’s or Chili’s, and the tickets compare to traditional theaters.
Their extensive menu features a variety of alcohol — beer, wine and margaritas — as well as pastas, sandwiches, salads, wings, tacos and desserts.
At a lunchtime matinee, the theater was about one-quarter full. A waiter gave us menus as the previews rolled and house lights brightened the room. Little buttons on our trays allowed us to silently call our waiter.
My guest and I chose an appetizer and two entrées, and once the movie began, the room darkened.
About 30 minutes into the movie, I received my main course, a cheeseburger ($10.50), but not the bacon cheeseburger I had requested. It came with all the fixings on the side, and I fumbled in the dark to assemble the lettuce, tomatoes and pickles onto the bun.
Once I tasted the burger, I was highly disappointed. All I could taste was the oily American cheese, which is not among my favorites. The beef and fixings had little flavor, and the only condiment on my plate was ketchup. It tasted a little like the hamburgers at my high school cafeteria. I hoped it would get better with each bite, but I bowed out after finishing half of it.
Our appetizer came out five minutes after the entrees, and the Margherita flatbread ($8.95) was the high point of my meal. It featured a crispy crust a little on the oily side with mozzarella, small slices of tomato and a kick of basil.
My guest chose the Cajun shrimp pasta ($11.75), a dish of shrimp, bell pepper, mushrooms and Cavatappi macaroni in a white wine Alfredo sauce. Despite the Cajun label, the dish is not robustly peppered. It was pleasant and creamy, and the shrimp seemed firm and reasonably fresh. It’s a pretty good and filling dish.
For a drink with the meal, my guest chose the Oreo cookie milkshake ($5.95), which he said was satisfying and would make a nice dessert.
On another visit we tried the Kobe beef sliders ($13.95), little hamburgers made topped with Boursin cheese, bourbon onions, and sliced bacon. These were delicious. However, the Mini-Me burgers ($10.75) were more like the sub-par cheeseburger.
Also, on this occasion, the Margherita flatbread, which we loved before, was soggy and served at room temperature.
During our first visit, I feared that staff delivering food and refilling drinks would distract from the movie, but our waiter showed plenty of stealth.
Darkness in the theater proved the greatest problem.
Assembling a burger, dipping fries in ketchup and transferring pasta from the plate to the mouth were tough to accomplish while watching a film. Or, as a man in the restroom said while spot-cleaning his shirt: “You can’t see what you’re eating ’til it’s on you.”
Toward the matinee’s end, our waiter dropped off our bills, and I paid with a credit card. Somewhere between my seat and the credit card machine, my card fell from his stack of folders. The poor guy had to crawl around in the darkness to find it.
Movie Tavern is a comfortable place grab a beer or margarita and a snack and watch a movie.
But I wouldn’t eat a meal there again.