A night at the movies will usually run you the cost of a small car. For that expense, you get a shriveled hot dog, stale popcorn drenched in a dubious "butter" sauce and the sad realization that the trailer for Cop on an Exploding Bus III
was more entertaining than the film itself. Tired of feeling like suckers, we've ditched the multiplex for movie night at the corner tap, plus a buzz that's actually worth the price of admission...free.
Foreign films at Mulan
Arty foreign films complement the upscale Asian cuisine at this much-lauded Chinatown addition. Until recently BYOB, Mulan now screens subtitled features Mondays at 8 p.m. in its sleek, full-service lounge. General Manager Kelly Caldwell drops by the video store the night before and chooses titles on a whim, so expect Finnish flicks like The Man Without a Past, Iranian dramas like Kandahar or anything from any country in between. Luscious appetizers, including lump crab ravioli with a leek creme sauce, put soggy nachos to shame, while $2 bottled beers, $3 mixed drinks and $4 martinis are cheap enough to pretend you're still getting free refills at the concession counter.
Smut and eggs at the Twisted Spoke
If your tastes tend more toward stag than cinema, roll into the Twisted Spoke any Saturday night at the witching hour. Patrons at this River West "family biker bar" (and its sister location in Wrigleyville) sup on Smut and Eggs, a late-night brunch served with a side of vintage '70s porn. Though it sounds like something for swingers and creepy old men, the blue movies attract all kinds, from young punks to yuppies and, according to the bartenders, a surprising number of single gals. Soak up those $2.50 PBRs and $2 fresh-from-the-tap Jim Beam cocktails with an order of Elvis Toast, French toast packed with peanut butter and bananas, assuming you still have an appetite once the wah wah pedal kicks in.
Dinner and a movie at Minibar
Yes, it's in Boys Town, and yeah, members of the absurdly handsome staff reportedly wander around shirtless on occasion. But don't expect to find The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert playing at Minibar's Monday movie night. The teeny Lakeview hotspot, modeled as a chic hotel lounge, entertains a diverse, low-key crowd and prefers '80s fare and popcorn pics like Office Space. The show starts at 8 p.m., and dinner draws from neighboring Winebar's gourmet bruschettas and paninis. Well martinis cost just $5, though the real star here is an ensemble of freshly infused vodkas, including pomegranate, green tea and jalapeno flavors.
Cult and horror at Delilah's
Delilah's taste in movies is as varied as its clientele and legendary juke. Tuesdays you might catch punk rockers agog at a disturbing G.G. Alin biopic, while Saturdays and Sundays you're more likely to see Fellini weirdness and low-rent sci-fi classics like Godzilla or Rebirth of Mothra II. Settle in with specials from the extensive bourbon selection, including $2 shots of Old Grand Dad and Ancient Age, or $2 brews like Warsteiner and Rhinebecker. Come early on weekends as tapes roll at 6 p.m., allowing audiences to grab a seat before rock-spinning DJs draw in the late-night crowd.
Indie flicks at Hotti Biscotti
True cinephiles will appreciate Hotti Biscotti's eclectic mix of indie, foreign and experimental short films. The screenings kick off at 8 p.m. Saturdays with a home-cooked meal (a Moroccan eggplant dish when we dropped in), followed by live bands ranging from klezmer punk to electronic noise. Regulars take their films seriously, curling up in leather armchairs and loveseats with a respectful silence that made us wary of clanking our beers down too loudly on the tile bar (even the musicians loaded in on tip-toes). A lively dissection of the flick often ensues over $2 PBRs with bartender Richard Syska, a director and member of local collective Group 312 Films.