I have just three words for The Margarita at PineCreek's dinner-and-a-movie series: Best. Idea. Ever. With a rambling, multilevel patio and consistently great food, the Margarita already has some of the best al fresco dining in the city. When you add a huge outdoor screen (built by chef and apparent handyman Eric Viedt) to Pati Davidson's northside mission-style outpost, you're quickly approaching dining deification.
A themed prix fixe menu is offered the night of the film, along with their normal prix fixe and la carte menus.
The themed fare for the showing of American Graffiti (the first major market film for George Lucas and the only one devoid of droids, Nazis or helmeted Frankensteinian amputees hollering, "Noooooo!") began, appropriately enough, with margaritas. I'm as much a sucker for those bright green brews as I am for outdoor dining, so they had me at the opening credits.
Viedt started off with crab tater tots, two pillowy, gooey concoctions atop a roasted red pepper coulis. Served with a small serving of avocado puree and a slight sliver of lime, they absolutely screamed "comfort food." (I felt sorry for the drive-in-goers on the screen who had to make do with french fries. )
The salad course was a suitably Americana-inspired wedge of iceberg lettuce with a slice each of orange and red tomato, drizzled with Gorgonzola and roasted garlic dressing. Not the most inspired salad, but thematic. The Gorgonzola was pungent and plentiful, and the tomatoes flavorful enough to make me forget I was eating iceberg.
Our main course was a mighty slab of rib eye, prepared and presented with stout-battered onion rings. Crusted with a bit of black pepper, the steak was gorgeously done, served over a small pile of potatoes and liberally doused with a whole mustard sauce that carried enough tang to nicely complement the heaviness of the meat and the rings.
For dessert, Viedt served up a cherry Coke ice cream float. No measly Sonic-style creation, the float was full of black cherry chunks and great ice cream, an unapologetically sweet but balanced dessert that hit all the right spots.
As the movie neared its end, servers brought around baskets of popcorn. I wondered why we hadn't started the movie with it until I tried the popped treat, an ass-whompingly awesome version done up with Tabasco and cheddar. Stuffing handfuls of this hugely flavorful and very spicy corn in my mouth, I realized I would have completely spoiled my appetite had it been an app.
You could go to the Margarita solely for the ambience and the food -- and because both are fantastic, I suggest you do -- but missing out on the movie series would be a grievous mistake.
During my visit, the patio flooded with migrs from other parts of the restaurant, diners who came simply for dinner but were drawn in by the film. Come for the food, stay for Richard Dreyfuss. That's the way it should be.
-- Aaron Retka
Tuesday, July 26, roughly 8:45 p.m.
The Margarita at PineCreek, 7350 Pine Creek Road
$35; call 598-8667 for reservations.