Years ago, before movie theaters began to realize that people like to eat real food while they watch movies, I was the world champion of smuggling food into a theater. While it’s difficult for me to admit my illicit past, I can’t help but boast just a little about the time I stashed a full meal and two large blended coffee drinks into my huge purse so my husband and I could dine while we watched a film. Yeah, that’s right. You can call us Bonnie and Clyde.

Luckily for hardened criminals like myself, I was able to turn away from smuggling food right around the time movie theaters began offering more than just popcorn and candy. Now don’t get me wrong; I love popcorn and candy, but if a movie just so happens to show around a meal time, popcorn and candy just aren’t going to do the trick. And if you’re wondering why I didn’t just eat one of those ersatz hot dogs that perpetually roll back and forth on the Processed Meat Roller of Doom at movie theaters, then I’m afraid you and I can’t be friends.

Aksarben Cinema

2110 South 67th Street

You can get the standard movie theater fare here –popcorn, candy, and cups of soda that are bigger than your head- but you can also get hummus and pretzel cups, flatbread sandwiches, salads and Otis Spunkmeyer cookies. The Aksarben Café isn’t huge, but it does have an interesting variety of offerings. Shredded beef sandwiches with French fries, fruit cups, pizza and fried green beans are also on the menu.

I asked the employee working at the counter what his favorite menu item is and he replied that the Loaded Nachos are his personal favorite. “We make our own queso sauce!” he boasted, and then went on to explain that customers can choose chicken or beef for their nachos along with some other toppings.

All in all, the offerings at the Aksarben Café are a step up from standard movie theater food, and make it a lot easier to go see a movie around meal time without having to pack a purse or backpack with a full-course meal.

CineDine at Midtown

3201 Farnam Street

If you’re really serious about having a meal while watching a movie, you’ll want to head to the Marcus Midtown Theater where they offer the full restaurant experience throughout the movie. I’m talking appetizers, main course, dessert – the whole shebang. The food is served to you and you can hit a button to summon your server, which means you don’t even have to get out of your chair and do the awkward “Excuse me, excuse me, sorry, excuse me” shuffle across the darkened aisle if you want a refill on your drink or have a question about your food.

The food offered here is fairly comparable to a typical eatery. Pizzas, salads, wraps, tacos and even entrees like Parmesan Crusted Chicken & Pasta are all available. You can even finish up your meal with a chocolate chip cookie sundae or banana bread pudding, among other dessert offerings.

Don’t expect to experience the best food you’ve ever tasted here, but it isn’t bad at all. Plus, there’s just something fun about eating a full meal while watching a movie – it’s as though two delightful worlds collide.

Marcus Twin Creek

3909 Raynor Parkway, Bellevue

This Bellevue movie theater is a great example of theaters that still just offer the basic popcorn-candy-soda fare with a few little extras. You can get Uno pizza here and Whitecastle sliders, and manager Brian Shander referred to the hot dogs as “gourmet hot dogs” when I spoke with him, although I didn’t ask him what makes the hot dogs gourmet.

Shander did tell me that while they do only offer a limited menu right now, sometime around May they will offer things like handmade pizza, sandwiches and other café-type foods. It’s all part of a renovation the theater has planned to stay up on the trend of serving restaurant-style food at the movies.

For now, though, Shander is darn proud of the popcorn they offer. “Our claim to fame is our popcorn,” he says. “We have the best popcorn in town; I’m confident in saying that. People stop in to buy it without seeing a movie.” He offered me a complimentary bag of popcorn as I left and I have to admit, it’s some darn good popcorn. That’s important, after all.

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