CinéBistro, Sarasota's new luxury dine-in theater, opens this Friday, Feb. 12, at the Westfield Southgate mall.
Here's how it works: You book a seat online then arrive at the theater 30 minutes before showtime. Servers flit up and down the rows, taking drink and food orders, and all the dishes come out before the show starts. After the movie begins, the servers depart, and you can eat and drink at your leisure. The theater is home to seven screens, three of them tricked out with 3D. Each auditorium seats between 74 and 98 viewers, who rest in absurdly comfortable soft-but-firm leather recliners with small tray tables that swivel back and forth.
Evening tickets run to $15, extra for 3D and, of course, the food, which comes from a menu that spans everything from humble items like beef sliders and fried chicken sandwiches to more upscale fare like a $28 ribeye and a $26 wedge of miso-glazed black cod. The theater hosted a tasting event for local media outlets at noon today. Highlights included a smoked mahi dip accompanied by small pickled shrimp ($13.50), tender lamb chops blessed with a crackling Moroccan spice crust ($32) and a superstar dessert: a doughnut stuffed with Key lime crème brûlée. Far out.
The CinéBistro brand has taken off in a number of cities, including Tampa and Miami. Each menu is unique, and Sarasota's is largely original; Corporate Executive Chef Isaac Stewart estimates that roughly "90 percent" of the menu is unique to Sarasota. But some popular items—e.g. the burger, the banana cheesecake and a "popcorn" trio that includes chicken, shrimp and squid—have been retained from other locations.
The drink menu is just as extensive as the list of entrées, with a range of martinis, plus specialty whiskey drinks and fruity mixes. One nice addition: beer by the pitcher.
You don't have to catch a movie to try the food and drinks. The bar sits inside a high-ceilinged chamber at the front of the theater that doubles as a restaurant space. A smaller room off the main hall is designed for private parties or meetings.
"This is the way dinner and a movie should be," promises Matt Russell, the regional operations director for CinéBistro.
Put that to the test this weekend. Tickets are on sale now.