Following in the tradition of Williamsburg’s affinity for old things (antiques, records, books, etc), Nitehawk Cinema brings the cinema/restaurant combo to both independent and retro cinema without the taint of superficial hipsterdom. From their staff-run blog to homemade trailers, you can tell that Nitehawk employees genuinely love movies just as much as their patrons, who will make it out to series like “Animation Attacks for Midnight” or “VHS Vault Mondays” for no reason besides catching cuts that rarely see big screen after release, drinks and conversation at the lobby bar notwithstanding.
The Nitehawk system of dine-and-watch is simple, but ingenious.You pay $11 for a ticket, and you can just simply watch the movie without food or drink. However, this is hard to do, as each intimate, two-person table carries a menu, two notepads, and two pens. At any time during your visit, you can simply write down an order, place it on the paper stand, and someone will be there within two minutes. Some people even like to take an artistic approach to ordering.
You would think with a 100-something seat theater, table service would disrupt viewing. Fortunately, the wide rows and subtle, yet meticulous aisle-lighting makes it so that servers get in and out quick without blocking the screen. Also, the superior sound quality eliminates the threat of clinging forks or loud chewing. This comes as a pleasant surprise, considering the elaborate fare served during screening, some of which is specifically themed in accordance with the picture being shown. In addition to Nitehawk’s take on classic concessions like popcorn (which ranges from butter to a lime, cheese, and cilantro blend) and nachos (they serve queso and chips instead, one which comes with chorizo and black beans), the creativity the chefs bring to the ever-changing menu is nothing short of admirable. For Beasts of the Southern Wild, the picture I caught last week, I ordered their Waffles and Fried Chicken, which not only pleased my taste buds, but got me in the mood to experience the film’s setting of Louisiana on the screen. Entrees are standard restaurant price ($10-$20), but taking into account ticket fare, a visit to Nitehawk requires a little dough.
Keeping in touch with the film’s setting, I also sampled the delicious “Wink’s Bathtub Gin,” consisting of Bulldog Gin, Lillet Blanc, creme de cacao, and lemon juice. While drinks run a little expensive ($7-$10), it’s worth the quality of the selection. They have a wide selection of speciality brews, domestic and international wines, liquors, and of course, movie-themed mixed drinks.
The thrill of visiting Nitehawk isn’t just about reliving the long-forgotten days of cinema/restaurant combos (although that is quite important); their program is quite impressive considering they have to both feed and entertain. They select indie films that are well-respected by cinephiles, while also accessible to the general public. In terms of their retrospective screenings, they are somewhat nostalgic when it comes to showing old movies, screening both childhood hits and movies that the older generation always raves about.
Seeing how the kitchen deals with new releases is a very exciting phenomenon, and merits multiple visits. Whether you go on a date, with friends, or with family, leaving a theater both entertained and full of good food is a rare delight that everyone should experience.