Guide To: Dinner and a Movie

Memories of my first party at AU: "Hey, what's your major?" "Are you a freshman?" "I've got some great Dave bootlegs up in my room." There are better ways to spend your evenings with that cute new classmate you're looking to impress than at the party those weird dudes are offering you a ride to. Dinner and a movie may be outdated, but here are some fresh (and cheap) combinations that will take you out of Tenleytown and into the heart of your latest crush.

Uptown Theater and Nam-Viet Pho-79 3426 Connecticut Ave. N.W. and 3419 Connecticut Ave. N.W. Metro: Cleveland Park (red line) Cost for one: $23 for an entr?e and a movie

Just two stops away on the Metro is Cleveland Park, a bustling portion of Connecticut Avenue home to the historic Uptown Theater. The 1933 movie house was home to the world premier of "2001: A Space Odyssey," and is home to D.C.'s largest screen- a 32- by 70-foot curved monstrosity. These days it is owned by AMC Theatres, so expect generic Hollywood fare.

Just across the street is Nam-Viet Pho-79, one of D.C.'s many Vietnamese establishments. Vegetarian and carnivorous choices abound, and the dessert menu's highlight is caramel custard, a Vietnamese version of flan. And who knows? Maybe that picture you take together in front of the Uptown's old-timey marquee could become a Facebook picture if the date goes well.

E Street Cinema and Ollie's Trolley 555 11th St. N.W. and 425 12th St. N.W. Metro: Metro Center (red line) Cost for one: $15 for a burger and a movie

Ben's Chili Bowl is the most-discussed D.C. eatery, but Ollie's Trolley gives the U Street landmark a run for its money. French fries are something that a fast food establishment can pride itself on, something that will keep people coming back even if the burgers taste like horsemeat. Luckily for Ollie's, both the burgers and the fries are delicious. A secret spice blend of paprika, lemon pepper, caraway seeds and more blankets the fries in a tasty shield. The Ollieburger combo gets you fries and a drink for under $7.

Down the street, buried deep below the Earth's crust is E Street Cinema. Offering the latest and greatest independent releases from Landmark distribution, this indie multiplex has student pricing and that fa?ade of emotional depth every date needs. Remember- subtitles and making out don't mix.

Bethesda Row Cinema and Haandi Indian Cuisine 7235 Woodmont Ave. and 4904 Fairmont Ave. Metro: Bethesda (red line) Cost for one: $20 for dinner and a movie

In the other direction on the Metro is the bustling Maryland suburb of Bethesda. This place is a cultural wasteland (besides the Bethesda Flea Market, featured on page INSERT HERE), but the Bethesda Row Cinema does give a touch of class to the otherwise Stepford-like community. Try Haandi Indian Cuisine for dinner and endless naan. Catch the lunch buffet if you're headed to a matinee and cross your fingers that the Sterno isn't heating yesterday's curry!

A short walk to burn off your meal brings you to Bethesda Row Cinema, an independent multiplex owned by the same company that operates E Street. And with all that endless naan, grab a basket on your way out and avoid the popcorn expenses.

AFI Silver and Tastee Diner 8633 Colesville Road and 8601 Cameron St. Metro Stop: Silver Spring (red line) Cost for one: $15 for a BLT and a movie

Silver Spring is a haul on the Metro, but the commute should give you and your date a chance to get to know one another before this particularly awesome dinner-and-a-movie pairing. Grab some BLTs at the Tastee Diner, a 1946 relic from Georgia Avenue relocated to utterly gentrified downtown Silver Spring. The diner is a true blast from the past, an aluminum artifact in the traditional railroad-car style of the diners of yore. If your date is from Jersey (this is AU, after all), prepare yourself for a lecture on how this diner is nothing like "their" diner back home.

Keeping with the retro theme, head on over to AFI Silver to catch one of the last screenings of their "Totally Awesome: Films of the 1980s" festival. The end of August offers such pickings as "Coming to America," "Pretty in Pink" and "Porky's." Even if you can't make it to one of these screenings, keep the AFI in mind. Run by the American Film Institute, the theater offers some top notch screenings, like this summer's retrospective "John Huston: American Maverick."

Regal Gallery Place and Tony Cheng's Mongolian Restaurant 701 Seventh St. N.W. and 619 H St. N.W. Metro Stop: Gallery Place-Chinatown (green line) Cost for one: $20 for the barbeque and a movie

"Chinatown" is usually a misleading name here in D.C. Visitors to the neighborhood will find a Hooter's, Potbelly's and Fuddruckers - but all of them have Chinese characters spelling their names out. It's kind of like if Disney World built a Chinatown but decommissioned all the rides. One of the few ethnic eateries in this neighborhood is Tony Cheng's, the precursor to the chain restaurant Mongolian Barbeque. At Tony's, diners choose from an assortment of vegetables and one meat (don't try to take more than one; those guys have big knives) and watch the chefs stir-fry the dish on the large barbeque griddle in the center of the restaurant.

Just around the corner is the stadium seating of Regal Gallery Place, a run-of-the-mill chain theater where you two can digest your meal. Something to impress your date while eating- Mongolian barbeque is in fact not Mongolian at all in origin, but derives from the Japanese-style teppanyaki. Mongolian is just a euphemism for cooking on a large, open surface (read: barbarism).

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