Dinner and a movie, perfected

By Trevor Felch

There are too many great restaurants just steps away from Bay Area cinemas to not make dinner half of the equation. Check out these nine delicious and super convenient options for making the perfect dinner and a movie night out.

Bluestem Brasserie and AMC Metreon 16
What doesn’t Bluestem do well? The spacious Market Street and pedestrian-only Yerba Buena Lane–adjacent contemporary American restaurant has a knockout burger and one of the city’s best casual dessert programs. If you’re coming for dinner, share the steelhead trout tartar with pistachios, the roasted chicken with citrus pesto and yogurt, and the seemingly six-foot tall Honolulu hangover cake (rum-soaked chocolate devil’s food cake with a coconut-rum filling), and you’ve got the ideal Bluestem experience.
Neighborhood: SoMA MAP

Paradita Eatery and AMC Bay Street 16 Emeryville
Dining options are slim in the immediate area around this cinema that’s popular with the Bay Bridge commuting set. But duck just outside the chains of Bay Street Emeryville and you’ll find a dining gem—the revamped (still under construction but very open) Emeryville Public Market. Whether you want high-end ramen or pizza, you’ll be looked after, but the biggest hit here right now is Paradita Eatery, a fast-casual concept from one of the Bay Area’s Peruvian cuisine pioneers, Carlos Altamirano. The quinoa salad with huge chunks of corn (add the pollo a la brasa) reminds you that in Peru, quinoa isn’t yoga food but a centuries-long staple of the cuisine, and the Inka Cola–marinated barbecue pork sandwich could win a competition in Kansas City. Also try to at least steal a taste of the lomo saltado, a Peruvian classic of beef and fries stir-fry, either in the sandwich or a rice and vegetables bowl. To complete the Peruvian experience, order a round of pisco sours and corazon skewers (yes, that’s beef heart).
Neighborhood: Emeryville MAP

Pläj and Landmark’s Opera Plaza
No, the restaurant’s name isn’t the Scandinavian spelling for a theater piece—it’s just a phonetic spelling for “play”—the restaurant is in the backyard of the opera, the ballet, the symphony, and this highly regarded movie theater. Swedish born chef-owner Roberth Sundell is one of the city’s most underrated kitchen talents, balancing elevated Scandinavian staples like Swedish meatballs and lingonberry and newer creations, like the delicate elk carpaccio with caviar and juniper berries. The setting is both elegant and unfussy, and don’t let the location in the rear of a hotel lobby fool you. The food and service are on point, and you’d be remiss to skip the signature marzipan-based princess cake for dessert, or the house-infused aquavit.
Neighborhood: Hayes Valley MAP

Lark and the Castro Theater
Before catching a classic film or singing along with a popular musical at the city’s iconic movie palace, swing by this contemporary wine bar and casual restaurant. Carefully balancing various European influences with American favorites, the menu lets seasonal salads, charcuterie, and cheese boards share appetizer space with Kurdish meatballs and Greek favorites like lamb souvlaki and calamari with feta. But without question the most popular items are the truffle fries and the messy, delightful burger, with lamb and Angus beef ground in house. Burrata is then added because, well, what doesn’t get better with some burrata? Before a Sunday matinee film, Lark’s bottomless mimosa brunch is a fitting prelude to a fun afternoon.
Neighborhood: Castro MAP

The Barrel Room and Landmark’s Embarcadero
There is no shortage of destination restaurants in the bustling FiDi, where this popular cinema specializing in art house films—if it’s nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, chances are it screened here first. The Barrel Room has one of the city’s deepest wine collections, matched with a menu of a la carte staples (the tuna poke is the standout) and themed towards a revolving cast of wine regions. Right now, South America is the focus, so look for empanadas, flank steak with chimichurri, and Chilean ceviche to pair with that hefty Mendoza malbec or inky tannat from Uruguay. It’s both a great date-night spot and fun with groups—and you’ll get a fast, extensive wine education with your meal and a movie, too.
Neighborhood: FiDi MAP

Jupiter (photo: Lance Yamamoto)

Jupiter and Landmark Shattuck Cinemas Berkeley
They may be operating on college diets and college “salaries,” but UC Berkeley students know their good food. After all, this is the city of Chez Panisse. Jupiter is a hit with students, families, professors, and anyone in town looking for great pizza and beer brewed in house. Fortunately, it’s also just one block from the city’s signature movie theater—and it’s a massive, bustling venue with a killer patio. The wood-fired pizzas here are named for Greek mythological figures; The Odysseus, with four kinds of mushrooms, fontina cheese, and oregano, never disappoints. Go full-college style and order up some chicken wings, to start, too, while appreciating how all the house beers are served in rather generous 20-ounce glasses.
Neighborhood: Berkeley MAP

Kin Khao and Century San Francisco Centre 9
Leave the mall, cross Market Street, and head into the back of the Parc 55 Hotel for the celebrated Thai cooking from Pim Techamuanvivit. Kin Khao has without question some of the most exciting Thai food in San Francisco, in an irregular-shaped dining room with bare wood tables offset by sleek and stylish accents. You’re here for the bold, often funky and spicy flavors on display—distinctly rooted in Thailand but using the best of Bay Area ingredients. For starters, the fish sauce–slicked chicken wings and mushroom curry mousse in-a-jar are both fantastic. Then get down with some noodles—go for the Northern Thai classic, khao soi. They also serve the city’s best version of khao mun gai, the beloved southeast Asian dish of poached chicken and chicken-fat rice. The cocktail program is particularly strong, too; where else can you try a tom yum soup–inspired gin cocktail?
Neighborhood: Union Square MAP

Huxley and AMC Van Ness 14
Bordering Van Ness and the fringes of the Tenderloin, AMC’s location here is isolated from the city’s hottest dining neighborhoods. But you only have to go three blocks to enjoy the Hux Deluxe burger with MSG aïoli (yes, there’s MSG in it and it’s delicious) and a wonderful steak tartare with a juniper smoked egg yolk at this tiny New American bistro. The menu is as compact as the space—a party of two can finish two-thirds of the dishes listed. But you get plenty of charm and big flavor in seasonal items like lamb chops with fava beans and heirloom grits. Huxley has “date night” written all over it.
Neighborhood: Lower Nob Hill MAP

SPQR and AMC Dine-In Kabuki 8
Forget that this swanky Japantown cinema’s name is suggesting you “dine in,” because some of the city’s best restaurants are just steps away. SPQR, Matthew Accarrino’s Fillmore temple to inventive but not over-the-top pastas, is always a thrill. Perhaps you’re in the mood for a Meyer lemon linguini with abalone “Alfredo,” or maybe you’re tempted by the heartier buckwheat fusilli with cider and bacon-braised suckling pig and rapini? Just get both—but don’t forget he’s equally playful with appetizers and secondi. The chicken liver mousse somehow manages to consistently be the city’s best version, and the Italian wine list is both strong and funky. The small room fills up fast, so book in advance to avoid disappointment, or try your luck snagging a seat at the kitchen counter.
Neighborhood: Lower Pacific Heights MAP

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