4-star snacks at local theaters

At Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, you can

At Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, you can feast on vegan soups, salads, flat break pizzas and cupcakes in the Sky Room cafe. (Credit: Photo by Kirsten Luce)

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

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