Studio Movie Grill vs. Gold Class Cinemas: The Slider Skirmish

If we were to mention a duo named Anderson-Ingram from the 1920s it might invoke thoughts of a Scandinavian vaudeville act. You may be more familiar, however, with this team's accomplishments than you might think.

It was 1921 when restaurateur Walter Anderson met Billy Ingrim from Wichita, Kansas, and expanded the concept of the nickel sandwich into the smallish hamburger. It was the birth of the restaurant chain called White Castle and what we know today as the slider.

White Castle changed the way the world dines by selling sack-loads of these tiny burgers to an eager public, expanding across the country at light speed.

Can any social good come from ordering a small burger which can only fill to capacity when eaten en masse? Perhaps it's the ability to share, a dining habit that has become the latest phenomenon in the vein of tapas, as the tiny burger adorns many upscale small plates restaurants.

Locally the slider has taken on many variations, including Blackfinn's, which offers four varieties, The Porch's celebrated slaw-laden brisket slider and a version we enjoyed recently -- the pork confit slider at Holy Grail. You will even find these beauties at Dish at Ilume, which made its way to City of Ate's Top 100 Favorite Dishes list recently.

As with any food trend you will find a bad version or two lurking behind menus.

Today we explore a few options of the tiny burger in our dinner and a movie version of the Toque to Toque challenge, Studio Movie Grill vs. Gold Class Cinemas: The Slider Skirmish.

In recent years we have seen movie theaters upgrade their efforts in quality, not only with regard to their presentation of films with better sound systems and high definition screens, but also with meal offerings that far exceed the soda and popcorn option.

Brian Schultz, founder, co-owner and president of Studio Movie Grill, has witnessed an alteration in the hybrid movie theater market as of late. In the early days of theater-restaurants, you would find mostly lower quality meals such as chicken fingers and frozen pizzas. Today these theaters offer full bars and attempt quality meals that appeal to the changing palates of their clientele. "In the past it was frozen food, draft beer and chips," Schultz said. "It was low-end, low-quality. Now we'll serve 1,500 made-to-order fresh meals in a one-and-a-half-hour period."

The trend of these hybrid theaters is definitely a win for the movie-going public since it is a one-stop shop, saving gas, time and effort.

Our first visit was to the Studio Movie Grill, where the concept allows you to select your specific seat online. Upon arrival you are handed a menu and the food is delivered directly to you inside the theater. No lines and a minimal wait make this an attractive option.

For the Toque challenge, we were focusing on sliders so we placed our order and waited. A few minutes later they arrived hot and steaming. The sliders at Studio Movie Grill were served in a metal pie plate with a foil lining. The sliders themselves had a unique bun option, as they use King's Hawaiian dinner rolls. And instead of the small individual meat patties the theater opts for one large hamburger slab cut into quarters and snuggled between the dinner rolls.

I have to admit, when I was presented the mini burgers, which is sold as an appetizer on the theater's menu for just over $8, I giggled a bit. Visions of a dorm-made hotplate concoction filled my head, and this is exactly what you get with these sliders. The Studio Movie Grill makes no pretense about creating any sort of cuisine other than what their frozen-food purveyor provides as a low-end option to ensure high-end profits.

I took a single bite of the burger, paid the tab and left with a large question mark.

Feeling a bit put off by the experience I heading north to Fairview, the city adjacent to Allen, home of the latest addition to the hybrid theater scene -- Gold Class Cinemas.

Gold Class lives up to its name by offering a smaller theater than its counterparts, providing amenities such as valet parking, concierge-level service and 40-seat, full-screen theaters with large leather recliners that give La-Z-Boy a run for their money.

The Gold Class menu offers a small selection of craft beers, an extensive wine list, and full food options. The staff seemed excited about the newly opened theater, and was trained well enough to offer food selections and wine pairings.

We decided to forgo the movie, and headed for their bar to place our order. We found sliders on the appetizer menu that was equal in price to Studio Movie Grill, but Gold Class was hooking us up with fresh Niman Ranch beef, applewood bacon and light brioche burger buns. As if that wasn't enough, Gold Class fries their own potato chips and tosses a few onion rings into the mix for a complete meal.

We ordered our sliders, passing on the lobster rolls and Cuban sandwiches, and waited a few minutes until our dish came.The burgers vanished almost as fast as they arrived. The burger had that fresh-grilled flavor and was seared to a perfect medium rare as the quality beef would dictate. The chips were crisp, hot and fresh, but could use a bit of salt. The onion rings were a surprise added bonus and vanished equally as fast.

It is good to see in these difficult financial times that we can get a quality meal for the price most movie theaters charge for popcorn.

For their detail to quality, fresh ingredients (and tour of the theater), we award today's Toque to Toque victory to Gold Class Cinemas. We look forward to our return to cozy up to a lobster roll in one of those over-stuffed leather recliners.

Studio Movie Grill 11170 N. Central Expressway 214-361-2966

Gold Class Cinemas 321 Town Place, Fairview 972-549-4200

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