On the Town

Old Movies at the Castro Theatre

San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre may not be as awe-inspiring as Oakland’s Paramount Theatre (which seems to have sadly stopped its monthly film classics screenings since earlier last year)… but it is still San Francisco’s shining jewel of movie palaces since 1922, harkening back to the old days with classic (and new) films accompanied by live pre-film organ medleys played by local organists.

old-movieThe Castro has an intriguing line-up which varies greatly week to week.  My favorites include Chaplin shorts and films during the annual Silent Film Festival, their famed, rowdy sing-a-longs, such as the annual “Sound of Music” Thanksgiving weekend screening, Hitchcock marathons, and “Dueling Divas” week with films of Bette Davis (love her!) and Joan Crawford.  It’s an encounter to share with an avid (or yet to be) classic film lover, or for locals craving a quintessential San Francisco experience.

January 2008 highlights include a week of films from Japan’s great director, Kurosawa; the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival; a documentary on musician Chet Baker (not on DVD); and a special night of live commentary from the Mystery Science Theatercast (of which I am a fan) watching Ed Wood’s infamous “Plan 9 From Outer Space”.

And now… as you naturally must eat before, after or during (sneak it in) your films, here are some of my preferred options close by:

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A.G. Ferrari: Yes, it’s a chain, but it’s directly across the street from the theater, is open all day (every day), and their sandwiches, loaded with imported Italian cheeses and salumi encased in fresh bread, are tasty and easy to slip into a purse for film snacking.

Blue: On a chilly night when nothing will comfort like mom-style cooking, head to Blue, a diner with a gourmet sensibility to their chili, Sloppy Joes, meatloaf, tuna casserole or mac ‘n cheese. Most entrees are around $9-$13 (steaks and pork chops hover around the $15-18 mark), and come in huge, delicious portions (enough to share).

Frisee: A brand new spot around the corner from the theater on Market Street, this elegant, narrow restaurant presents searingly fresh, ingredient-loaded salads and complex entrees with a very “now”, California sensibility. Dinner entrees are $15-$21 (salads and appetizers in the $8-$13 range) and they recently began serving lunch daily so you can make it stop before or after a matinee.

Hot Cookie: 407 Castro (between 17th & 18th), 415-621-2350) – Despite its racy persona (and certain cookies), they simply serve some of the best cookies around. My personal favorite is Mocha Cayenne (a subtle kick to it), the Oatmeal White Chocolate Cranberry being a close second. The Renaissance Man is partial to the Snickerdoodles. Being almost next door to the theater, how can you resist sneaking cookies in?

Lime: The hot pink, lime green, plastic white décor can be off-putting, depending on what you like (and I don’t!), but with a tasty and fun American small plates menu (ranging from $5-$11), it’s worth a stop. Wedges of grilled cheese sandwiches come with a cup of tomato soup for dipping. There are also savory mini-burgers (three to an order) and small halibut tacos, dusted with cornmeal. Drinks are of the Appletini, Mojito kind, adding to the playful (at times obnoxious) mood of the place.

Zadin: For fresh Vietnamese within two blocks of the theater, Zadin is run by a local Vietnamese family, offering tasty fare in a soothing, modern dining room.