Movie theaters around the country are giving their classic snack an upgrade.
The Spot: Adolfo Garcia, the chef/owner of RioMar seafood restaurant, has seriously raised the bar for movie theater fare at Gusto at The Theaters at Canal Place (333 Canal St., 504-363-1117). On the menu: Mediterranean-inspired dishes like fresh ricotta crostini, plus quintessential NOLA favorites like pecan pralines. But don't get up! The swank red leather chairs are tricked out with call buttons, so you can order right from your seat.
The Specs: The spicy-smoky popcorn ($6), with garlic, olive oil and two kinds of paprika, combines the chef's favorite flavors from his time spent cooking in Spain.
The Spot: Built in 1927 as a vaudeville theater, the art deco-style Orpheum Theatre (216 State St., 608-255-6005) has been painstakingly restored, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. It once hosted Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong; now it attracts musicians like Feist and screens indie films.
The Specs: Truffle oil and butter are infused with freshly grated horseradish, then drizzled over popcorn and topped with Carr Valley aged cheddar. (Orangecolored powder doesn't fly in Wisconsin.) The snack is served at the bar during happy hour. The best part? It's free!
MAKE IT AT HOME!
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon chopped garlic and cook until the garlic starts to brown. Remove from the heat. Add 1 teaspoon paprika, let sit for about 30 minutes, then strain. Pour the oil into a large bowl, add 8 cups popped popcorn and some smoked paprika, then give it a good toss.
ST. LOUIS PARK, MINNESOTA
The Spot: You'll want to drop the extra $5 for a VIP ticket at the ShowPlace ICON Theater (1625 West End Blvd., 612-568-0375). Your plush seat -- which you reserve online, just like for a concert -- comes with a personal table for nibbling thin-crust pizza (served on real plates!) and sipping pomegranate martinis.
The Specs: Though the choices are many (beef tenderloin sliders, house-made potato chips), the most popular order is the bacon popcorn ($5). Freshly popped corn is tossed with bacon-infused salt and clarified butter, then topped with lardon-style chunks of famous Nueske's bacon. Yeah, it's good.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The Spot: Owner Jason Stevens decorated the reRun Gastropub Theater (147 Front St., 718-766-9110) to look like a drive-in, using reclaimed auto parts found in the neighborhood. He arranged 60 car seats (some with seat belts) in front of the screen, turned a Cadillac fender into part of the bar and made chandeliers from hubcaps.
The Specs: When ordering popcorn ($5), guests choose one "grease," such as drawn butter or duck fat, and one "powder," like garlic or paprika. We went with sage-brown butter -- made by steeping butter and cream with sage -- paired with herb salt (a blend of fresh thyme, parsley, chervil and rosemary).