The Alamo Drafthouse and the attached Chesterfield are open for business in the Power & Light district in Kansas City. A name which is a throw back to an old Kansas City speakeasy worthy of doing some reading on.
While not yet being a full Drafthouse, those with the theater indicate they are targeting a fall (September/October) grand opening date, cosmetically not much has changed since the Drafthouse took over the theater. Don’t be fooled however as certain, and beloved elements of the Alamo Drafthouse are already in place. Those include their awesome and entertaining pre-shows that feature no paid advertising, and for most films are in some way related to the film being shown. One encounter with an Alamo Drafthouse pre-show and I’m willing to bet that you’ll never want to see movies in another theater again if only for their pre-shows. Their famous no texting, no talking policy and lastly the element that oft seems to be overlooked when talking about the Alamo Drafthouse, the food and beverage menu.
The Alamo Drafthouse is truly a trifecta of things I love nearly more than anything else in life, something my stereotypical Midwestern waistline can attest to. Cinema, Food and Beer. Three things meant to be a shared experience, and three things the Alamo Drafthouse does exceptionally well. The Drafthouse invited out the local press this week to sample some of their current food specials and cocktails at The Chesterfield.
Among the items on the sampling menu, and the first thing the attractive wait staff brought by included a Tuna Fatoosh. The Drafthouse’s take on the traditionally Mediterranean salad was topped with seared Ahi Tuna and upon visual inspection looked more like a traditional salad found in the states with romaine lettuce serving as the base. Reviewing the ingredient list indicated the salad contained toasted pita croutons, green bell peppers, Roma tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, shaved red onions, mint and was topped with a lemon sumac vinaigrette. This indicated that my visual inspection was either blurred by the cocktails I had consumed earlier or I just needed to dive in fork first. “It’s a perfect summer dish” my Friend Matt crowed after quickly wolfing his sampling down. I was nearly halfway through mine and couldn’t find fault with his argument. The light salad was the perfect cool alternative to any hot food considering the sweltering heat outside. “It goes perfect with the Gimlet.” he added. The Gimlet, or Classic Gimlet as named at The Chesterfield is a nice, light, and sweet cocktail that I found paired very well with the saltiness of the tuna and vinaigrette cutting down on some of the gimlet’s layer of sweetness on the back end of the cocktail.
Next up were the Sweet and Sour Wings. The wings, to steal a large chicken chain’s slogan, were finger-licking good. Tossed with a soy reduction and then topped with a plum ginger sauce, which is what really shines here and takes what might otherwise be a typical chicken wing to a level I doubt they’ve likely ever seen in a movie theater previously. If today’s movie remakes aim at being “not your grandfather’s Total Recall” these wings aim at not being your grandfather’s chicken wing. I found the plum ginger sauce to be the highlight here as it danced across my palate like that of a water dancer from Game of Thrones hitting the perfect strike points of tang and sweetness that never overreached its intended target on my flavor receptors. Matt concurred with my thoughts having mopped his plate of every last drop of the ginger sauce with the final bit of chicken he had on a drumstick.
The Chips and Queso with salsa might have been the only item on the evening’s menu I had that didn’t leave any particular mark on me. They were good, but no revelation. I’d certainly choose them over the tired combo of popcorn and Junior Mints that has sustained my theater diet for the better part of 25 years now, however. With the newly expanded beer menu at The Chesterfield, the salty treat would make a perfect pairing with a bucket of beers while one takes in the near pitch perfect, but lengthy The Dark Knight Rises.
Being that this event took place on National Hot Dog day it was appropriate that the “Fireside Dog” was on the menu. With comfort foods being the haute cuisine for what is quickly approaching the better part of half a decade; extravagant, chef-inspired takes on foods that we all grew up with and loved has nearly become common place. One trend that hasn’t quite reached the Midwest is the bacon-wrapped hotdog. Something that you can’t miss if you go out for an evening on the west coast, but sadly lacking here in the Midwest. Not any longer. The Fireside Dog is an all beef, wrapped in bacon dog on a toasted hoagie roll with Dijon Aioli, shaved lettuce, Roma tomato, red onions, banana peppers and oregano. With the tomato, onions, and banana peppers one might be inclined to think this is a descendant of the Chicago Dog. A staple among encased meat aficionados. This is far from the Chicago dog known as being “dragged through the garden”, and ready to be eaten in the dark of a dine-in theater at the Alamo Drafthouse.
My end cut sampling seemed devoid of much Dijon Aioli as I took a bite and I noted the lack of that signature taste from my dog. Lack of Dijon or not, all the other items listed were there and presented a nice flavor without being overpowering. For what at its core is an old-school theater favorite the Fireside Dog is a modern spin on a proven classic. Matt liked his dog but didn’t find anything too radical going on with his sampling.
The food portion of the evening was capped off with a Dark Chocolate Espresso Mousse. The shot-sized serving, usually served in a glass closer in size to a rocks glass and perfect for sharing, is served with a hazelnut biscotti that I found to be a better, and tastier serving device than the spoon that was provided. It was a balanced finish that didn’t pound one over the head, and could help one finish off a snoozer of a film with the added jolt from the Espresso.
Besides the aforementioned Gimlet I was also able to sample three other cocktails on the Chesterfield’s menu. The highlight, for my Rye-leaning ways was easily the Sazerac. The staple cocktail of New Orleans is done justice here being prepared and served properly with a splash of absinthe in a rocks glass cold and neat. I should warn you however that it might be based on your mixologist. I tried two Sazeracs as I found the first to offer no specific flavor profile, the second was much more pronounced. Not sure if it was a change in mixologist, or something else but an odd occurrence. Not being much for tequila I sampled the Margarita and found it to be a potentially dangerously smooth lurker of a drink. Too many of these sitting down and you better have someone to get you to your theater or drive home. The final drink I sampled was an Aviation. This was a direct take on the classic cocktail, which I’ve yet to try, for reasons I’m not going to lie about. The cherry that typically rests at the bottom of the near lavender colored drink served in a cocktail glass always seemed a little to frou-frou for me. Matt found that the Avation left him grounded in the ways of Howard Hughes with capped milk being left at the door. My first sip of the cocktail put me into a rough take off in a commuter plane with a pilot at the wheel that was still getting his wings, thus somewhat of a disappointment. Not being a big gin drinker I’ll likely continue to waive off any sort of approach to the Aviation, or if pushed order the drink sans its iconic resting cherry after this cocktail spends some time in the garage getting some attention.
The Chesterfield is open Tuesday through Sunday from 5PM – 3AM. All of the food and cocktails mentioned here are available at the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet dine-in theaters as well. But hurry, their specialty menus change every month!
by John Coovert