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Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, One Loudoun at East Hampton Plaza in Ashburn - Expanding to Two New Locations


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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).

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At Don's insistence after allaying his skepticism about the menu, I feel I need to post this video that showcases their kitchen and shows their preparation standards:

The food is cooked fresh, even if it might be streamlined for quicker service. You're not getting frozen stuff and reheats here, and they even segregate fryers and grills for gluten-free/vegetarian tickets. I'd rate the food quality somewhere around chain-level. As long as you expect Applebee's and not Palena, you'll be pleased.

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Alright, just got back from seeing Man of Steel here (go see it, even if you don't think it'd be 'your kind of film'), and treated myself to two new things:

Fried Pickles: for once, these weren't just pickle 'chips,' they were actual fried pickle wedges. Eight of them come in the order, and you're gonna want them to cool down a bit (or cut them with a set of utensils) or you'll burn the holy hell out of your tongue. They only give you one buttermilk ranch cup, and I found it wasn't enough - ask for two, they won't charge you for it. They had a good taste, but I don't know whether I'd order them again. If two people shared four between them, it's a nice little stomach-shutter-upper.

The "Carnivore" Pizza: a 12-14" pie, *very* generously topped with assorted meats (could've done with a bit more cheese, though). I asked for red onion and was, again, given it for no extra charge. Ask for a set of utensils (either on the order slip or when the pizza comes) as the pie comes out hot and melty, and I *would not* recommend trying to eat it by the slice off the bat unless you feel like wearing some of it. The dough had a very good taste and consistency, though the dull metal knife needed some work to get through it, and it disappeared quite quickly. This is *not* a 5-6" UNO microwaved pie by any means, and it might be my new staple over the burgers simply because you can pace yourself on a pizza, but a cold burger and fries *always* sucks. I've recently taken to ordering from Donato's now that it's in Vienna, and this pie easily tasted as good as anything I'd get from there.

I got my first look at the 'bottomless popcorn' tub as well. Think the size of a cake batter mixing bowl. Each 'order' is about the total of one and a half bags' worth of popcorn, and they'll refill it as often as you empty it. For the price, it blows the holy hell out of any bigger chain theater, and the usher always asks you if you want fresh butter, not the imitation stuff. Excellent share value.

Oh, and their next 'motif' event is a build-up of giant monster movies building up to the release of Pacific Rim on 7/12.

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Some (well, most) of the items on this guy's photostream aren't on the Ashburn menu (I'm guessing he's down in Texas, where the chain started), but some others are, if you want a look:

Flicker Stream of Alamo

Also, a few are special "feast" items, which are made especially to go along with the theme of whatever movie is showing with them.  Also, Don was worried I was a shill for these folks - I'm not, I've just *really* been waiting for an alternative to the Drafthouse in Arlington. -_-

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I was there for Godzilla a few weeks ago and I am a fan.  My mushroom pizza was very generous with the mushrooms and responsible about the crust -- crunchy and good flavor but not quite the level of really good homemade.  Def better than most restaurant pizza.  I didn't try any of the other food but it was well received by my guests.  We are probably an extreme case but we were up to a couple hundred bucks for five people -- two of those were teenage boys who eat EVERYTHING, plus I had a couple of ten-dollar margaritas, so if you order carefully you can do much better.   That popcorn sounds like a heck of a deal and the quality of the pizza makes me believe that the popcorn will be excellent.

Regarding the ten-dollar margaritas,get one *at the bar* and don't order one from your seat.  My second one got watered down bad by melting ice but my first one was really darn good.  The beer selection is very good although I think a "drafthouse" ought to have at least one cask ale on tap, but who actually does that.

One structural problem I have is that beer and popcorn don't really make sense to me, and beer just feels a little wrong in a movie theater.  I think I'll be able to overcome that, though.

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I agree that a beer order takes a while during peak times and during evening showings in general - I've never gotten a cold beer at Alamo that I didn't order *at the bar* before going into my theater.  I can't imagine ordering a pitcher, though - the lead time alone would lead to the dregs of it being piss-warm by the time you made your way to the bottom.

Another trick for the pizzas - and any other snack/entree - you can always ask for 'extra' of something that they don't charge for, or ask them to add something (within reason) to an existing item.  I ask for extra cheese, bacon, and chopped red onion on their cheesesteak when I get there too late to save some cash eating at the Firehouse Subs 50 feet from the door.  If anything, enough fast-casual places are sprouting up around the theater that it might start hurting their entree profits a bit.

Oh, and if you want quicker turnaround on drinks, they keep a cart of ice water ready to go in every theater, and they don't charge for it, either.

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I haven't had a chance (or reason) to bump this in a while, but I just got an email that they're getting ready to do another three-course event revolving around Dazed and Confused on the 20th of this month.  Details (and menu):

"Dazed and Confused Dinner Party"

The price is a bit steep at $35 per person, but 1) there won't be anyone under 21 at this showing, and 2) the 'feast' events are always pretty special...even if I won't be able to make it to this one.

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Honestly, their Chicken Shawarma wrap has always smelled great, even though my 'go-to' staple is their Carnivore Pizza with extra cheese and added chopped red onion because I can pace myself on the slices.  When I first started going there, the pizza was about as big as the platter they served it on (figure 12", give or take), but it's since shrunk down to ~8", so figure a microwave-sized single-serve pizza doubled in size (but freshly cooked, not just heated up).  Their burgers are respectable, the fries are always nice and crispy, too.  The Cookie Trio a la mode is a nice treat to share with *one* other person - the shakes are nice, but overpriced seeing as you have 'The Meadows' frozen custard parlor about 50 feet from the front door.  The cheapest option is bottomless popcorn and endless free ice water, or, if you don't want to kill yourselves on that, the baked pretzel is good, and again, freshly made - it's definitely not a SuperPretzel run through a glorified Easy Bake Oven.

One Loudoun's just about got a very well-developed spate of grub-to-cuisine options both building and established, so it's not like the theater's food is the ~only game in town~ anymore, either.  Come expecting Applebee's-level food and you won't be disappointed.  As for Alamo, it's pricey, but no more so than if you were eating in a mall restaurant, and it's a bargain compared to going to an AMC and getting a Pizza+Soda combo for $15-17 - here you get a burger (or pizza that's twice the size) and bottomless soda that they'll refill for you for $17.  It's also the cleanest movie theater you'll ever watch a movie in, too - and, no pun intended, that's worth the price of admission.  The booze is way overpriced, though.

And if you sign up for their 'Victory' program, you get a free Birthday ticket and ~2+ free screenings each year of old/newish movies.  The old movies are always 'free' save for a $5 charge that can be put forward a food or beverage purchase.  Again, I know I sound like a shill here, but I'm not an employee, just a convert.  It takes me ~30-45 minutes to get there in the early-to-mid evenings, when I'm only ~15 minutes from AMC Tysons, and I'll take this place every friggin' time.

But since it just dawned on me that none of all of that answers your question.  No, you wouldn't go all the way out there just for the food (maybe with the exception of their 'feasts,' which are several-course meals and prix fixe).  Consider the food an afterthought, and consider the cleanliness, options, and service the true draws.

Updated menu link, since the one in the first post is invalid.

LoudounDrafthouseMenu.pdf

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12 hours ago, DonRocks said:

How *is* the food? Is it food you'd go out for if there wasn't a cinema 

11 hours ago, Destruya said:

But since it just dawned on me that none of all of that answers your question.  No, you wouldn't go all the way out there just for the food (maybe with the exception of their 'feasts,' which are several-course meals and prix fixe).  Consider the food an afterthought, and consider the cleanliness, options, and service the true draws.

Updated menu link, since the one in the first post is invalid.

LoudounDrafthouseMenu.pdf

This may just be a case of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but my biggest issue with the food here is that you can't see to eat it.  I realize that sounds both ridiculous and obvious, but they completely black out their theatres when the movies start - there have been several times where I've somewhat given up on my meal after fumbling around with it in the dark (insert bra joke here).  The solution is to stick to items like chicken fingers, pizza, popcorn, etc that don't require a great deal of coordination, but picking through an entree with a fork or trying to hold together a messy sandwich is more trouble than its worth.  If you arrive a half hour early you can usually get a decent start on your meal before the lights go down, but to me, if I'm going to eat before the movie there are other, better options in the neighborhood.

Oddly enough I never had this issue at the Arlington Draft House.  Either I was ordering more simply (food quality being far inferior to Alamo in my opinion), or they keep some lighting on.

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Hmmm when I was at Alamo, I could definitely see my food to eat it, it's been a while so I forget what I had, but split appetizers with co-workers. Maybe because we had the whole theater maybe the lighting wasn't as dark or the movie had more imminent light than another might have?

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18 hours ago, DonRocks said:

How *is* the food? Is it food you'd go out for if there wasn't a cinema there?

Not even close.  Not at Alamo in Loudoun or at Arlington Draft House. I've been to both several times.  But I don't think that is the question.  Its more a question of do the food and beverages enhance the movie going experience? 

Sometimes with some groups it has for me and others. I've enjoyed it for groups.  But "groups" isn't a normal movie going experience.  From my experience going with one other....eh...meh....might as well go elsewhere to eat before or after the film.  In fact dine elsewhere.  Its invariably better.

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