Surprises at the movies (Thrills! Spills! Chills!) are common, but perhaps the biggest surprise at The Flicks--Boise's independent and award-winning cinema--isn't on the big screen. It's back in the theater's tiny kitchen, where nearly every food item is made from scratch.
"The secret for great hummus? It's sriracha and the perfect amount of oil. That's the difference between good and great," said Erik Butterworth, stepping gingerly around his compact kitchen a couple of hours before moviegoers walked through the doors of The Flicks for that day's matinee screenings.
Butterworth was simultaneously stirring a big pot of soup, washing fresh greens and keeping an eye on a big pan of lasagna baking in the oven.
"We sell a lot of lasagna, so we're making a new batch every day," said Flicks owner Carole Skinner, who opened the doors of the downtown Boise cinema more than 30 years ago. "And from the very first day, we always had a cafe. We just didn't want to have a typical experience where, if you're hungry, you have to eat nachos with that horrible fake cheese or a hot dog that has been spinning around on a countertop for several hours."
When Skinner opened The Flicks in 1984, she said it had to include some special things on the menu. Thus began "Rick's Cafe Americain" at The Flicks, the namesake of Humphrey Bogart's restaurant in the film Casablanca. More important, Skinner said, was that the menu at Rick's Cafe had to feature freshly-cooked selections.
"We've always made everything from scratch," she said, "but it had to be fresh, tasty and quick to get people into the movie."
Back in the kitchen, Butterworth, who needs an extra set of hands on Friday and Saturday nights, was considering his next soup selection.
"When there's a chill in the air, people love our Indian curry stew, Cuban black bean soup and, of course, chili," he said. "But year-round? Our Tomato basil is probably the top seller."
The menu also includes paninis, beef-, salmon- and garden burgers, chicken breast sandwiches, baked brie with sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, and four types of salads.
"And fresh-baked cookies: chocolate, oatmeal raisin and on weekends, we make fudgy oat bars," said Skinner. "And who doesn't love a chocolate chip cookie with a glass of red wine?"
About the wine--and the beer.
The issue of beer and wine sales at The Flicks and two other Idaho cinemas moved to the front burner this year when the Idaho Legislature took up the debate over serving alcohol at theaters that screen R-rated films. Idaho statute shackles the beer and wine licenses at The Flicks, Ketchum's The Magic Lantern and The Village at Meridian cinemas to anti-obscenity laws.
"When we had Oscar-nominated movies like Carol or The Danish Girl [both rated R] this past December, we got nervous. But we've been nervous about a whole list of movies over the years," said Skinner. "But now, it looks like things are finally about to change."
Both the Idaho House and Senate voted overwhelmingly in March 2016 to amend Idaho law, thus untying the obscenity laws to beer and wine licenses at cinemas.
The Flicks sells no less than two dozen types of beers and more than a dozen varieties of wines.
"For goodness sakes, the Idaho State Police have better things to do than to worry about somebody drinking a beer at The Flicks," said Skinner.
As Boise Weekly was visiting, a number of customers stepped up to the counter and ordered an adult beverage and some food.
"We need two tickets to the next show, but I definitely want some lasagna," said one patron. "And I'll have a chicken Caesar salad," said her companion.
"We haven't changed the menu for a while," said Skinner as her staff rushed the food order back to Butterworth's kitchen. "Everything sells."