AM1: Studio Movie Grill

I’m excited to announce that starting with this post I am expanding beyond Roseville!  I’ll still keep up on new Roseville openings but in addition I will start to explore the surrounding areas.  There’s no set plan and I will be not be doing another city completely.  I wanted to keep it very casual and so I will just visit places that I’ve been hearing a lot about or have been curious about.  Anyway, on with the post!

A little while ago I was invited to come down to Studio Movie Grill in Rocklin for their opening celebration on Thursday night.  At first I declined but, after they sent me the official invite anyway, I thought it would be a good way to start venturing outside of Roseville, so here we are!  Full disclosure up front: this was all on the house, movie, food and all, but I will stay as objective as possible.

Studio Movie Grill is a new movie theater in Rocklin, with a twist.  They serve a full menu of food, including beer, wine and cocktails, right to your seat.  This is not a new concept, although we haven’t had one in our area until now.  Studio Movie Grill claims that they came up with the idea.  I’m too lazy to research that so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here.  They play first run movies, so right now they were playing Annie, The Hobbit, Night At The Museum and Exodus.

I arrived with my friend Justin at about 6PM.  It looks like a typical theater from the outside, and even as you first enter.  The ticket booth is a bit more fancy though.  A counter is front and center with big screens lying face up showing the movies that are playing.  We checked in with the people greeting invitees, so I didn’t get to experience the ticketing side of things.  Off to the left and right are self serve ticket machines.

Once you head past the ticket area, that’s when it starts to feel different.  Instead of a concessions area you are in a lounge, and a good sized one at that.  To the back is the bar, but there were servers running around with drinks and appetizers.  The party was in full swing already.  A band was playing in one of the corners.  We snagged one of the last booths and were instantly offered some complimentary cocktails.  Moments later another server came by and handed us a sample of their BBQ Chicken Nacho appetizer.

The drinks were colorful and very sweet.  We had a Caribbean Hurricane (Cruzan Silver Rum, Captain Morgan and Fruit Juices) and a Studio Blue Grande Margarita (Gold Tequila, DeKuyper Triple Sec and Blue Curacao. Served on the Rocks).  Justin commented how the Hurricane tasted like Starburst.  These were much smaller than their regularly ordered menu counterparts, and as we soon realized, less alcoholic as well.  We had a few more cocktails, including the Spiked Cherry Limeade (Sobieski Black Cherry and Dekuyper Triple Sec) and Long Island Iced Tea (Seagram’s Sweet Tea Vodka, Amsterdam Gin, and Dekuyper Triple Sec), as they were delivered whenever we had nothing in front of us.  These were all equally as sweet and tasty.  The Long Island Iced tea actually had a lot of sweet tea flavor to it.

The appetizers we tried were both good.  I had a couple pieces of the BBQ Chicken Nachos.  I’m not sure if these were different than the Chicken Nachos on the menu (Tortilla Chips, Grilled Chicken, Queso, Shredded Lettuce, Tomatoes and Sour Cream) because those ones don’t mention BBQ sauce at all, and there was very clearly BBQ sauce on these.  The round tortilla chip was very crisp, despite being loaded up with BBQ sauce and a moist chunk of chicken, which was all smothered with cheese that had been baked into place and sealed it all up.  They were really good.  The second appetizer I had was a flat-bread Margherita Pizza (Thin-crust Dough, Vine-ripened Tomato Sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese, topped with Fresh Basil).  This was pretty tasty as well and had plenty of ripe tomatoes and melted mozzarella.

The party carried on for nearly an hour in the lounge until some people gathered near the band to say a few things.  Among others, these people included the founder of the company and the Mayor of Rocklin.  After their speeches they did the ribbon-cutting ceremony and people started filtering into the theater.  We would be seeing Annie tonight.  Not exactly my kind of flick, but I was more here for the food and experience then what would be on the screen itself.

Moments earlier I had wondered into an empty theater along with movie reviewer John Meneghetti of to snoop around and take a few photos.  The theater we ended up being in was a bit larger than this one.  The seats are bigger and nicer then your typical theater.  They have a little swing out table and a cup holder in the wide armrests.  Probably the best thing about this theater, in my opinion, was that in order to allow servers to get to you, there is a ton of space between your row and the next one up, allowing practically unlimited legroom.

We settled into our theater and were told that tonight there would be no trailers as they worked to get everyone’s food ordered and start serving.  I take it on a normal night that orders wold be taken as you sit down and into the trailers, with food coming out during trailers into the start of the film.  Each seat has a little red box with a button that says “Push For Service”.  It lights up when you press it and the server turns it off when they arrive, much like the flight attendant call button on a plane.  We wondered if there was a signal being sent to a sort of master-panel somewhere in the back for the servers to see where demand was.  The little box seemed to have more electronics crammed in it than would be needed for a simple light toggle.

The menu is typical American cuisine, perhaps slightly nicer than what you’d see in a bar & grill.  Appetizers included the Chicken Nachos [$10], Loaded Potato Skins (Potato Shells with Garlic Sauce, Mixed Colby Cheeses, Sour Cream, Bacon and Green Onions)[$9] and Ceviche Lettuce Wraps (Jumbo Shrimp and Mahi Mahi with Citrus Marinade on Crispy Lettuce Cups with Jicama Slaw and Mango Salsa)[$11].  There are a handful of salads to choose from.  The main entrees consist of burgers, pizzas, quesadillas and other selections such as Chicken Tenders (Breaded or Grilled Tenders with Honey Mustard)[$10.50], Macaroni & Cheese (Three-cheese Cream Sauce, Cavatappi Pasta, Bacon, Green Onions)[$11] and MahiMahi Fish & Chips (Tempura-battered Mahi-Mahi, Jicama Slaw, Jalapeno Tartar Sauce)[$12.50].  If you are craving typical movie popcorn though they certainly have you covered with Orville Redenbacher Gourmet Popping Corn (with Warm Butter upon request)[$5-7] or even something a bit fancier with Popcornopolis brand [$9].

We picked out the Cheese Fries (Seasoned Fries, Queso, Green Onions, Bacon and Buttermilk Ranch Dressing)[$9] to share and then each pick out a burger.  Justin went with the Classic American (American Cheese with Ketchup)[$10.50] and I picked the MegaPlex (Applewood Bacon, Mushrooms, Red Onions, Cheddar and Pepper Jack Cheeses with Ketchup)[$12.50].  I got a soda [$3.50] and Justin got an XL Long Island Iced Tea [$10].  These came pretty quickly.  The soda was enormous, probably so they don’t have to deal with refills as often.  My iPhone 5 is in the picture for size.  Justin’s drink was also quite large.  I asked if there was any more alcohol in that one compared to the smaller ones from the lounge and he said not really.  It’s possible that’s just because they were comping everything.  For $10 any other night I would hope there would be a lot more in it.

Our food arrived shortly before the movie began, which was nice because I could get some decent photos while the lights were still on. The appetizer came at the same time as the burgers, which basically used up all the limited table space.  The cheese fries were pretty tasty with crumbled bacon and creamy queso.  Dipped in ranch took them to another level.

I was a bit disappointed in the size of the burgers.  They were maybe Big Mac sized.  I took a photo holding one to try and give it some sense of scale.  When ordering, Justin asked if it was worth asking to have his cooked medium rare and our server pretty much admitted that it’s going to be made medium anyway.  That’s definitely how they came out.  I’m glad I ordered the MegaPlex vs the Classic American because with a lot more going on in it I was less aware of the overdone patty.  The bacon was super crunchy, adding some nice texture and bacon-y flavor.  The red onions were incredibly crisp and fresh.  There was quite a bit of them too.  I think that if they would cook these to order that they would be a very solid choice.  Justin commented that his burger was “satisfactory”.  I would agree with that overall for mine as well.  Perhaps one of the non-burger choices would be more enjoyable.

The service was pretty good.  With all the room we had they were able to crouch down and not really disturb us during the movie while clearing finished dishes and checking on us in general.  I’m usually hyper-aware of people moving about in theaters, and in particular I’ve been getting really annoyed by the typical movie theater experience of being policed by a theater employee checking on the whole auditorium to make sure we aren’t filming or something.  That said, I was comfortable enough in these nice seats, and with legroom-for-days, that I was actually startled once or twice when the server came to check on us.

One thing that I had trouble un-seeing, after it being mentioned in this reddit review of the theater, was the red glow of the emergency exit sign on the movie screen itself.  They mention that usually these exits are back away from the screen enough that this is not a problem in normal theaters.  Here it seems they did not take it into consideration, and I have to admit it bugged me.  Update 1/31/15: I returned for the first time since my original visit and it looks like they fixed the exit sign problem.  It now glows around the edge, enough to be visible, but does not project onto the screen.

Price-wise the tickets seem to be in-line with normal theaters evening showtimes.  The food is a bit more than you’d pay in a restaurant, but at least it’s not hyper inflated like a typical theater, otherwise a burger would be like $20-30.  I’d say that if you’re gonna spend close to $20 on a regular movie with a popcorn and soda, it wouldn’t be so bad to kick in a bit more and get a real dinner with service instead.

Overall I mostly enjoyed the movie experience.  There is certainly some room for improvement.  It’s nice to have this option in the area though for sure.  Honestly, I might be tempted to come here just for the leg and elbowroom, or maybe just to stick it to the major chains for caving to terrorist threats.  At the very least, I bet this will be a popular date destination.


#215: Blaze Pizza

Last night I was invited to join my friends Anne & Justin at Blaze Pizza, a new fast-pizza joint on Fairway next to In’n’Out.  I didn’t realize they had already opened but I was game.  This one is unlike the two other fast-pizza places we have in Roseville in that they are much larger.  The have about 70 locations now.  This made me consider if I should cover them or not.  Since I’m such a big fan of this type of pizza I decided I wanted to compare them to Trademark and Blast 825º.

I Arrived just after 6PM and headed in.  Justin was already in line while Anne watched the children.  She said the line was moving quickly so I jumped in at the end.  The place is BIG.  I was impressed by the size of Blast in comparison to Trademark, but Blaze blows them both out of the water in terms of dining room size.  After a few minutes Justin came up, his pizza now in the oven, to say hi and talk a bit.  This is when I discovered that for the day (and today, Saturday the 13th, as well.  Check the flyer at the end of this post) they are giving away a free pizza to basically everyone.  According to the flyer, you just need to follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and you get one free pizza, though they didn’t seem to be asking anyone for proof and were just handing out pies to everyone.  Certainly it’s a very nice promo to get their name (and food) out to the community.

After Justin sat down someone else came up to me and asked me about my photos.  This person turned out to be the executive chef of Blaze, Bradford Kent, who was in town from their headquarters in Pasadena for the opening.  Super nice guy.  He told me a bit about their locally sourced ingredients and how on his previous visit he went to a farm and met the cows responsible for some of their cheeses.  We were cut short as I was up next in line.

Back behind the counter there were a ton of employees, all very busy.  I was greeted and got my Build Your Own started.  The crust looks to be the same size as Trademark’s, somewhere around 10″.  They do a little roll here around the edge which I like, gives you something more to hold onto and more to crunch on when you get to it.  As with my visit to Blast, I basically created the same pizza I usually get at Trademark to compare.  This was white sauce to start.  The cheese is a bit different here as they didn’t have a blend like the others.  Instead I went with the shredded Mozzarella and then added a bit a Parmesan and also goat (I had a ridiculously good goat cheese and mushroom quesadilla at Dos Coyotes for lunch and was still craving that flavor I guess).

Moving around the corner all the toppings I wanted were available.  For the veggies: spinach, mushrooms, onions, garlic and olives.  For meats: chicken, bacon and sausage.  It was perfect.  There was a good selection overall, equalling and perhaps slightly surpassing Blast and Trademark.  I was happy to see that, like Trademark, their create your own was a truly unlimited topping pizza.  I didn’t indulge in getting extra everything like I do at Trademark this time, but it’s good to know for the future (but bad for my waistline).

They moved quick as I went down the line.  Instead of the personal maker approach that Trademark or Freebirds World Burrito uses, they had one person handling sauce, one handling cheese, and then around the corner I recall the same person doing all my toppings. Payment was quick and my pizza was put into the hot oven, tended to several guys who were constantly rotating pies around as new ones went in and cooked ones came out.  Here they do about 3 minutes.  That was enough time to fill my soda and meet the manager for a minute.  My name was called up at the counter so I grabbed my pie and headed to our table.

The pizza looked just as good as the others.  Justin commented on the strong garlic.  I didn’t notice it, must have been up-wind of it.  They didn’t put a ton of garlic on it so I was surprised that he noticed.  Once I started eating though, I definitely agreed.  It was pretty potent (which I like).  Everything was delicious from the creamy sauce and rich bits of goat cheese to the juicy chicken and fresh veggies.  The crust is very, very thin, like Trademark, but here it was not quite as crisp on the bottom.  I might ask for a smidge more time in the oven to give it more support next time.

Overall I was quite pleased, the quality and service were excellent.  Even more impressive was Justin’s praise which, believe me, is very rare.  It’s yet another competitor (albeit a much larger one) in the fast pizza space here in Roseville.  I found out from Brad that they also opened a location in Gold River, which is dangerously close to work, and a comment on the Eating Through Roseville Facebook page mentioned that they will have a location in Rocklin opening in about a week with the same free pizza promo going on.  They’re making a big push for sure.  Trademark will probably always be my favorite, but all of these are exceptional so far and more is usually better!