4-star snacks at local theaters
Popcorn, soda, candy bars the size of floor tiles - is that all your local movie theater has to offer?
If so, consider broadening your horizons. While most movie houses stick to the usual goodies, some are taking a more creative approach, offering fresh pastries, locally made biscotti and cafe-style cappuccinos. One multiplex will even deliver an entire dinner to your seat.
And while theaters generally live and die by their concession sales - conventional wisdom says they can account for more than 40 percent of a large chain's profits - you can still find prices that reflect these lean times. Would you believe a fresh-baked apple turnover for around $2? Or a Black Angus burger with bacon and real Cheddar cheese for less than $10?
Cinema Arts Centre: 423 Park Ave., Huntington, 631-423-7611
The place: This funky, friendly, not-for-profit venue focuses on art-house and foreign fare.
The food: In the Sky Room cafe, you could assemble an entire meal from the vegan soups, spinach pies, veggie burgers and salads. For dessert, try the newest addition: cupcakes.
The cost: $4 to $5 for most items, including those cupcakes, priced at $4.25 a pop.
Island 16: Cinema De Lux: LIE Exit 62 and Route 97, Holtsville, 631-758-4300
The place: Easily the most elaborate movie-and-a-meal spot on Long Island, this multiplex features a full-service restaurant called Chatters. The bar serves a nightclub-worthy range of drinks, but sneaking them into the movie is a no-no.
The food: You'll find gourmet-style offerings such as coconut shrimp appetizers, roast beef panini and chicken Florentine. Pay an additional $2.50 (or $3 on weekends) to sit in a Director's Hall theater and the staff will deliver your order to your seat.
The cost: Appetizers run about $9, and domestic beer is a reasonable $4. Entrees can be much higher: The "Signature" steak, with sides, is $17.99.
PJ Cinemas: 1068 Rte. 112, Port Jefferson Station, 631-928-3456
The place: A seven-screen venue owned by Phil Solomon, who puts his personal stamp on nearly everything here. In fact, that might be him behind the concession counter.
The food: The specialty here is biscotti, but not the stale, plastic-wrapped kind. These dense, buttery treats come from Sapienza Pastry in Elmont. They also go well with the theater's staff-made cappuccino.
The cost: Three biscotti for $1.75, but you might as well upgrade to a chocolate-dipped trio for $2.
Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas: 1001 Broad Hollow Rd., 631-777-8080
The place: This sprawling venue has a corporate feel (like the Island 16, it's owned by National Amusements), but it's bright, spacious and in good shape, despite 12 years of use.
The food: Nathan's and Sbarro stands offer a break from the usual sugary stuff, and the tables and chairs throughout the lobby are a thoughtful addition.
The cost: Pizza slices, hot dogs and fries run $4 to $5. Big spenders can get a Philly cheesesteak for $7.25.
Manhasset Cinemas: 430 Plandome Rd., 888-258-9849
The place: According to concession manager Robert Nilsen, this venue dates to the 1930s - look for the vintage drinking fountain with painted tile work and a wooden ticket booth in the lobby. The lineup leans toward highbrow dramas and foreign films.
The food: Those pastries at the counter come fresh from Steiner's Pastry Shop, a neighborhood fixture that's literally next door. You'll find brownies, cookies and apple turnovers, depending on the day's selection.
The cost: $2 to $2.50. Or a combo: Coffee and pastry for $3.50.
Reader pick: AMC Loews Roosevelt Field: Garden City, 516-741-4008
Why: Loews Roosevelt Field has the best concession stand. My boyfriend and I go there specifically for the chicken tenders and fries. It's dinner and a movie in one! --Submitted by Joanna Naughton, Long Beach