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  1. Location: 20575 Easthampton Plaza, Ashburn, VA 20147 (Right off of the Loudoun County Parkway exit on Rt. 7) Website: http://drafthouse.com/northern_virginia/one_loudoun Menu (PDF): https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/30900543/menu_loudoun2013_web_reduced.pdf EDIT : there may be a 'bug' in reading the menu in a browser window - if things look bad or parts look as if they're missing, save it as a file and open it in the PDF viewer you use manually - that should fix it. ...or just click here and look at the image files: http://drafthouse.com/northern_virginia/one_loudoun/one_loudoun_our_menu/ For those who don't know, Alamo Drafthouse is a first-run movie theater with a twist. The 'twist' being that they actually serve halfway-decent food that kicks the hell out of anything you could ever buy at an AMC concession stand. Each show has reserved seating, and they only sell tickets one week in advance, so no long-term reservations are possible, which is a bit of a pain, but you get over it rather quickly. Also, if you want the promptest service by the ushers, pick the middle row - they 'hover' near the exit, and it's easiest for them to see the upturned order cards on the seats overlooking the center crosswalk - it's also got the most room for them to maneuver. They suggest you get to the theater ~30 minutes before your showtime, to have ample time to order food. The food itself is, as you can see on the menu, not *insanely* priced, but still a bit steep. The best value is the 'bottomless' soda and popcorn, which for ten dollars means you could get yourself and a friend a drink and still not total the price of a single 'combo' at one of the AMCs around here. The other reason to show up early is that if you show up after the movie has already started, they won't let you in the theater due to their 'no-latecomers' policy. You will be refunded, though. The caveat is that each time you want a 'refill' of either, you need to fill out another order card and stick it in the metal slat, and hope one of the ushers sees it. Turnaround time is anywhere from ~5-15 minutes based on my experience. Filling out 1-3 refill cards beforehand while the house lights are up is a good idea, for reasons you'll see in the next paragraph. Now, since this is a restaurant review site, I might as well talk about the food itself, of which my experience is limited. The only entree I've had there is their 'Royale With Cheese' burger, and while it's far from the best burger I've ever had, it's certainly by no means the worst. You do experience a certain amount of paranoia eating something that involves meat juices (if you put 'medium' on your card, they'll listen) and ketchup in the dark, and one difficulty in eating something complex at Alamo is that the 'table' they give you is an inconvenient distance from your seat. I'm 6'1" and *I* have to hunch forward or make the distasteful move of holding my metal 'meal tin' up close to my face as I gnosh on my burger. Also, though they do give you lights to peruse the menu during the movie, they're super-dim, which makes not only viewing the menu difficult, it makes filling out an order card doubly difficult unless something bright is playing on-screen to provide ambient light. Or you can take a risk and pull your cellphone out and use the screen with a cupped hand (they have rather strict 'don't be a nuisance' guidelines). Other than that, the other thing I decided to fish for was their 'cookie trio,' which is very worth it a la mode. I think I enjoyed the PB&Banana one the most simply because I knew what to expect from the chocolate varieties, and was pleasantly surprised by the 'outlier' of the bunch. Also, Alamo doesn't show *just* first-run movies. Going to see "This is the End" there (verdict: funny, yet don't bring a woman to it - there's nothing for her), they advertised an upcoming event where they'd be showing Silence of the Lambs complete with a four course dinner attached to it based on the cuisine from the movie (human-flesh-free) matched with specially-commissioned wines, the boxes of which you can see if you visit the website (or if you just click here: http://www.personalwine.com/silenceofthelambswine ). They also have 'quote-a-longs' where I believe the 'absolutely no talking ever' rule is circumvented so the audience can fill in the line, 'sing-a-longs,' which sound like a fresh kind of hell, and last but not least, they're at the tail-end of their "Summer of '83" promo, which showcases movies like WarGames, Risky Business, and National Lampoon's Vacation. If Loudoun's too far out for you, you'll be happy to hear that the One Loudoun location is just their 'pilot' spot, and they're already looking for places to set up closer to and inside the Beltway, especially in Fairfax County itself. I wish them luck in that regard, since I can't think of many places where they could drop a building as large as the Loudoun location without buying up and demolishing something that already exists. It's exceptionally easy to drop 30 bucks just on just yourself at this place, and they certainly know it. But unlike other places where they badger you into the upsell, Alamo doesn't. You don't get an evil eye from the ushers if you go cheap (if anything, it just means less walking for them), and everyone seems to be happy, which reflects on what I've heard that it's a positive working environment (which means less chance of spit in your food).
  2. http://www.spinningplatesmovie.com Opens November 8th, E Street Cinema From the website: Spinning Plates is a documentary about three extraordinary restaurants and the incredible people who bring them to life. A world-renowned chef competes for the ultimate restaurant prize in Chicago, while privately battling a life-threatening condition. A 150-year-old restaurant in Iowa is still standing only because of an unbreakable bond with the community. And a fledgling Mexican restaurant in Tucson struggles as its owners risk everything to survive and provide for their young daughter. Their unforgettable stories of family, legacy, passion and survival come together to reveal how meaningful food can be, and the power it has to connect us to one another.
  3. I just saw this trailer for a documentary on the Prestigious Master Sommelier Exam. Looks to be an entertaining film if your into that sort of thing.
  4. We had lunch here today. This is a cool place. My Asian chicken breast sandwich was much better than popcorn, and my spouse's blueberry muffin was even better than buttered popcorn. After lunch we saw the new German film "Barbara" followed by a Q&A with the US distributor. This place bills itself as a "film center" and it is very different from a multiplex. Culture comes to Merrifield!
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