AMC elevates the in-theater dining experience with a thoughtfully designed menu worthy of the big screen.
Story by Kelsey Cipolla | Photos by Steve Puppe
“Food is fun. We should have fun when we’re cooking—it’s not brain surgery,” AMC’s Senior Director of Culinary Nels Storm tells me as we prepare crab and avocado sushi rolls, one of the dishes he created for the new AMC Dine-In Theatre menu.
After all, fun is what people go to the movies for. But these days at AMC’s 18 Dine-In Theatre locations across the country, including AMC Studio 28 in Olathe, moviegoers can expect something extra: topnotch restaurant-quality dishes designed for easy eating in a dark environment and delivered straight to their comfy theater seats.
During a hands-on primer to the new menu at AMC’s Test Kitchen, housed in the company’s cutting-edge headquarters in Leawood’s Park Place, Storm says that crafting the lineup of offerings was about finding the balance between dishes that were unexpected but believable.
“We knew we wanted to have sushi on the menu, and it is absolutely a surprise at a movie theater to find something like that … part of the exercise was to keep raw fish out of the equation,” he explains as I try (and marginally succeed at) rolling sushi rice, lump blue crab, cucumber, avocado and Japanese mayo, making it square for extra character.
The roll’s fresh flavors shine through, but the dish isn’t just designed to taste good: Wrapped in nori so that picking it up with your hands is easier, eliminating the need for chopsticks, the sushi is a prime example of the attention paid to the unique experience of dining in the dark.
“A big part of this menu is empathy and being empathetic to our guests when they’re eating in an environment where it can be challenging,” Storm says. “We would make a product, walk into a dark room and try to eat it. That became very much a point of development.”
Storm and co.’s careful consideration pays off in its various forms. Some dishes are reimagined with ease of eating in mind, such as a wedge salad transformed into wedge lettuce cups. Others received smart tweaks: sauces made thick enough to avoid drips, burgers swaddled in parchment paper to capture falling juices and condiments, and milkshakes with extra-wide bubble tea straws for stress-free sipping.
Learn how to make some AMC Dine-In Theatre recipes
A major draw of dine-in theaters is the convenience factor—helping people save time by combining the time-honored tradition of dinner and a movie—but the food at AMC is worth ordering for more than its accessibility. Depending on what movie you buy a ticket to see, it could easily be the part of your theater experience you leave raving about.
The full culinary lineup includes snacks to share, burgers and sandwiches, salads and bowls, baskets (from fish and chips to tacos), a variety of mac and cheeses and sweets. Classic snacks such as popcorn and candy are still on the menu, but so are healthier options, along with a few vegetarian offerings.
A quinoa bowl with caramelized onions Storm walks me through making—one of his personal menu favorites—is topped with a lemon vinaigrette, juicy herb marinated chunks of grilled chicken, roasted asparagus, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, toasted almonds and a generous sprinkling of basil. The dish would be a go-to on any restaurant’s menu and is plated so beautifully you’ll almost wish the lights weren’t turned off.
The quinoa burger, one of several non-traditional offerings featured in the burger category, along with chicken sandwiches, is equally winning and will earn a nod of approval from even the most steadfast carnivore.
As my time in the Test Kitchen draws to a close, Storm gives me what proves to be the most challenging assignment of the day: using a commercial mixer to blend Edy’s ice cream with whole milk, vanilla extract and a touch of malt powder into a vanilla milkshake, one of the theatre’s most popular sweet treats. The machine proves to be a little stronger than I am, but the process is an adventure and the end result is hard to forget: a rich, thick shake garnished with a full-sized ice cream sandwich.
Like the latest big screen blockbuster, AMC’s food leaves you wanting an encore.