Dinner and a movie has always been a combination that I’ve enjoyed raising my son Quinn on in Encinitas. Especially when they could both be done in a downtown area at a vintage, single-screen theater that let us avoid the suburban multiplexes and the chain restaurants that surround them.
I’m not dissing the luxury experience of the Cinepolis or anything similar, but I tend to save those for movies that need lend themselves to that high-tech experience.
Before I go much further, I should mention that I do have somewhat of an emotional connection to the La Paloma, as I got married there. It was a heck of a wedding with “Boylan – Mills Wedding” sharing marque space with the movie “Chicago.”
We played a video prior to the movie that featured old clips of both our families plus some random movie scenes I fancied.
Next up was a local all-star music revue positioned behind the screen that played half a dozen of our mutual favorites … after the screen was pulled up by hand of course.
The wedding march was played on an early 1960s electric Wurlitzer piano by the talented David Paul Windham and all the wedding photos looked like a stage production because of the lighting. Between that and countless concerts, surf movies, poetry slams hosted by the late Bob Naninga, and being one of the few men at a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” (thanks Allen for letting me sit in the balcony), I have a personal relationship with the place.
It’s never been a theater to see the most the most technically advanced movies; it’s more suited to Wes Anderson, Christopher Guest or Woody Allen-type stuff. La Paloma is more of a venue for the storyteller filmmakers than the special effects gurus.
Some of the killer concerts I’ve seen there have included Dick Dale, where I won a skateboard at intermission, the annual Ralph Stanley bluegrass show and a surf movie that had a band playing along with it.
Owner Allen Largent also has a knack for bringing back classics for a limited screening and of course the weekly “Rocky Horror Picture show.”
Until the past few years, pre-movie dinner options within a few blocks of La Paloma were fairly simple. Leucadia Pizzeria, El Callejon, Martini Ranch, Vigilucci’s, Roxy, Siamese Basil, Encinitas Café, Q’ero, Manhattan Giant, Kealani’s, Filiberto’s or Raul’s.
When it was just Quinn and myself, we usually kept it simple and quick, hitting up the Encinitas Café or Manhattan Giant and saved the others for date night.
Flash forward to the current restaurant scene surrounding the La Paloma the plethora of choices in the immediate area can be a bit overwhelming.
That said, there are a few that open up the after movie dining options and that’s always a good thing. The Patio has brought coastal chic to the El Callejon space, Maurizio took over for Vigilucci’s, and we now have a healthy option in Eve and the trendy DXT serving up modern Baja cuisine. The Roxy can also be considered a new addition with its recent makeover that makes it feel like a completely different restaurant. D Street has been around for a while so it’s hardly a newcomer and if we are going on closeness, it’s right next-door and they make a solid burger.
And these options are just in the couple of blocks surrounding the La Paloma. Head further north or south and the options continue.
My point is, an early dinner followed by a movie at this classic theater in a walkable beach town is an experience worth savoring.
And make sure to save room for dessert and load up on some old school movie theater candy and popcorn or an ice cream sandwich that has been my go-to snack there for years.
For those of you who have only been to the upscale multiplexes, keep in mind that the La Paloma was built in 1928 and lacks a few of the comforts you may be accustomed to.
That said, its charm, history and proximity to such a variety of dining options should make it a part of your movie and concert venue mix.
Keep an eye on their website or Facebook page to stay in the loop. www.lapalomatheatre.com.
Lick the Plate has interviewed over 700 chefs, restaurateurs, growers, brewers and culinary personalities over the past 10 years as a column in The Coast News and in Edible San Diego. He can be heard on KSON, FM94/9 and Sunny98.1. More at www.lick-the-plate.com