Dinners and movies have long been staples for nights out, and there’s no shortage of great restaurants and theaters in Austin to help achieve the perfect film-and-food double feature. For those looking to consolidate the experience, Austin has it covered there, of course.
This is the city that introduced the country to the Alamo Drafthouse, the renowned theater chain that emphasizes the sanctity of the cinematic experience. In the years since the Alamo opened, the city big-little town has grown into a mecca for movie theaters that double as bars and restaurants, providing Austinites with plenty of options for the ultimate dinner and a movie outing. Read on for Eater’s guide to the best Austin area movie theater eateries, including how (and what) to order.
Flagship Location: 1120 South Lamar Boulevard, Zilker
Service Style: Write food and drink orders on a sheet of paper, and stick it in the front railing. A server will (quietly) deliver the goods right to the seat.
Best Dishes: The Alamo has weathered some criticism from longtime customers for its menu changes in recent years, but there are a few things that remain as tasty as ever, like the classic Royale with Cheese burger (a Pulp Fiction reference), which comes on a seeded and toasted bun, giving the burger a little extra crunch. The pizzas — especially the prosciutto and burrata — are solid bets. For those looking for smaller bites, go for the baked pretzel, which comes with a delicious combo of whole grain mustard and hatch green chile queso. Top it all off with a chocolate chip cookie shake (made with crumbled bits of its homemade cookies)
What Makes It So Great: The Alamo Drafthouse curates specialty food and cocktail menus for highly-anticipated new releases. Recent hits include the 5x5 burger (similar to the In-N-Out classic) for Ingrid Goes West and the return of the Butterbeer special for the Fantastic Beasts sequel (guests paid extra to top it off with booze). The Alamo is perhaps best known for its strict policies regarding talking and texting during a movie. If someone is disrupting the blissful movie experience, raise an order card and the offending party will be given one warning. If they continue causing a problem, they’ll be kicked out, without a refund. The Drafthouse also offers a variety of interactive screenings, parties, and regularly hosts actors and filmmakers for Q&As.
Best Location: All six locations of Alamo are great, but the flagship South Lamar spot (located in Lamar Union) is still the best outpost. Two of the location’s nine screens are holdovers from the last iteration of South Lamar, lending a sense of nostalgia to the experience. And after the movie, head next door to the theater’s own bar the Highball for drinks or, if you’re feeling particularly rowdy, belt out your favorite tunes in one of the bar’s themed karaoke rooms. That said, the newer Mueller location is giving the South Lamar spot a run for its money with cushy reclining seats and its circus-themed Barrel O’ Fun bar.
Violet Crown Cinema
Location: 434 West 2nd Street, Downtown
Service Style: Violet’s concession stand in the 2nd-floor lobby offers an assortment of upscale movie candies and treats, popcorn, and a full menu featuring small plates, pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. After placing orders, the cashier provides a pager that lights up when food is ready. It’s best for guests to arrive early to order food — and drinks from the full bar — before the film starts, otherwise you’ll have to duck out during the movie to pick up your food because the staff doesn’t deliver orders to the theater.
Best Dishes: The small plates are where it’s at, and the hand-cut french fries are easily some of the best in town. Go for the Crown fries, which come with finely grated parmesan and black truffle salt and choice of ketchup or lemon garlic aioli (or both). It’ll be difficult to not eating all the little crumbs of parmesan and seasoning left at the bottom of the bowl. Looking for something healthy-ish and meat-free? The Brussels sprouts and avocado spring rolls are also satisfying.
What Makes It So Great: Violet Crown offers indie features, documentaries, foreign films, and limited releases — basically all the stuff usually not available at most mega-chains.
Location: 6259 Middle Fiskville Road, Highland
Service Style: Order snacks and concessions from the bar and take them to your seat.
Best Dishes: Amid the usual concessions of popcorn and candy, there are irresistible specialty items like ice cream sandwiches from local favorite Lick Honest Ice Creams, and a rotating selection of baked goods. If there are baked pretzels, definitely grab one. In addition to snacks, there’s a full bar offering signature and classic cocktails (hello, French 75) as well as a robust beer selection featuring local breweries like Austin Beerworks, Blue Owl Brewing, and Live Oak Brewing.
What Makes It So Great: Co-founded in 1985 by acclaimed Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater, the Austin Film Society is dedicated to inspiring local cinephiles — be it through their filmmaker funding initiative or screenings of hidden gems, indies, and forgotten favorites. It also recently received a major upgrade with an additional screen and the aforementioned full bar.
Location: 13201 Highway 290, Dripping Springs
Service Style: Order food and drinks from the concessions counter and a server will bring them to your seat.
Best Dishes: In addition to classic concessions like popcorn, the Dripping Springs theater from the team behind Violet Crown Cinema boasts a full kitchen featuring fresh, farm-to-table ingredients. Go for the classic burger and fries combo, or, for a meatless option, try the cauliflower nuggets and green bean fries. The theater also has an impressive selection of beer and wine, with 24 rotating taps featuring Hill Country breweries.
What Makes It So Great: A somewhat recent addition to Austin’s theater scene, Sky has 14 auditoriums equipped with wall-to-wall screens and 7.1 surround sound. Each theater is furnished with reclining seats, and there’s a handsome beer garden where guests can hang out before and after shows. When the weather’s nice, Sky has free live music performances in the beer garden.
Austin Location: 3225 Amy Donovan Plaza, Domain
Service Style: Guests order food and drinks (including beer and wine) from the concession stand and take them to their seats. Premium Plus members can have orders delivered to their seats in the theater.
Best Dishes: Premium seats come with unlimited popcorn (ask for butter). For an actual meal, the substantial menu features everything from shareable dishes to mains and desserts. Forgo the pizza and try the Buffalo chicken spring rolls or the filet sliders. The sweet potato fries are also a must.
What Makes It So Great: Yes, it’s a bit more pricey than similar theaters around town, so cinephiles who live nearby should sign up for a membership to save some cash. In addition to popcorn, Premium seats come with a complimentary pillow and blanket — movie theaters can get chilly sometimes too.
Moviehouse & Eatery
Original Austin Location: 8300 North Farm to Market Road 620, Far Northwest Austin
Service Style: After browsing the menu, guests order from their seats. If anything else is needed, just use the call button located on the seat and a server will be right over.
Best Dishes: If you miss how the Drafthouse used to serve salsa with its chips and queso, then Moviehouse has it covered. Skip the bottomless popcorn (popped in coconut oil) and go for the chips and dip, or try one of the plates, like the quesadillas. There is also brunch service all day, featuring a variety of sweet and savory options and mimosas. The bread pudding French toast is the clear winner here.
What Makes It So Great: Reclining seats, a great cocktail menu, bottomless popcorn, and a call button to grab the server’s attention so you don’t have to whisper-shout in the middle of the movie.
Best Location: The second location recently opened in southwest Austin, but the original is still the way to go if you’re in the area.
Austin-Area Location: 2200 South Interstate 35, Round Rock
Service Style: Grab a beer from the bar in the lobby, or head into the theater and order food and drinks from a designated server. Alamo Drafthouse vets will find the experience pretty similar.
Best Dishes: With an in-house brewery, the beer is where it’s at. The 10 Day Scottish Ale is a local favorite, but hop heads should make a beeline for the Lupulus IPA. As with the service, the menu is also similar to the Alamo Drafthouse — snacks, burgers, pizzas, brunch, and desserts are all well-represented, but regulars swear by the loaded fries.
What Makes It So Great: Flix has a leg-up on the Drafthouse when it comes to the ordering system. If you need anything during the movie, just use the call button at the seat — no more waiting around.
Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In
Austin Location: 2103 E M Franklin Avenue, East MLK
Service Style: Order snacks and treats from the concession trailer and take them to your car.
Best Dishes: Blue Starlite is an old school experience, meaning there are lots of classic movie concessions like boxes of candy and popcorn. For those looking for something a little more adventurous, buy a DIY s’mores kit (yes, really).
What Makes It So Great: Blue Starlite describes themselves as “sort of like BOB FM,” the commercial radio station that plays a variety of genres and artists from just about every decade. The drive-in similarly plays anything they feel like — usually films released from the 1940s through the 1980s, during the drive-in heyday. While the theater accepts walk-ins (or drive-ins), it’s best to buy tickets and reserve car spots in advance because it can only accommodate about 40 to 50 guests a night. And yes, the ticket comes with a radio so you can tune in to the show. The original location closed and Blue Starlite relocated to its current address. The previous iteration featured on-site food trucks (including Austin fave Stubb’s BBQ), which is in the works on coming back.
Galaxy Theatres Highland
Austin Location: 6700 Middle Fiskville Road, Highland
Service Style: Order snacks, hot appetizers, beer or wine, and sodas from the concession stand in the lobby and take them to your seat.
Best Dishes: Galaxy Highland probably won’t win any awards for its chicken wings or pizzas, but the real draw here is the beer, which comes in 16- or 22-ounce pours. Compared to other movie eateries, the price is pretty low, especially for how much you get.
What Makes It So Great: Located near AFS Cinema, Galaxy Highland is the neighborhood go-to for wide releases and bigger studio movies. The theater also offers a great discount every Tuesday.