Eating Out at the Movies

With many restaurants and bars closed permanently, let’s live our day vicariously through these classic scenes

The COVID lockdowns shuttered a lot of restaurants and bars, some of them permanently, putting on indefinite hold our national obsession with hip gourmandizing. It’s not always the healthiest or most economically fortuitous decision to get your meals outside the home, but it’s definitely more fun. And, unless you live in Florida, you probably miss eating out.

So let’s live vicariously. The following list provides a day-long buffet of some of the tastiest and subtly distinctive meals available via cinema, served up around the clock, from early morning to late at night, while sneaking a few snacks and coffee breaks in between the main courses.

 Reservoir Dogs–Breakfast 

Before the unseen but clearly chaotic and deadly jewel heist, Tarantino introduces us to the boys in Joe Cabot’s crew by way of some breakfast banter. We don’t know yet who these guys really are, and we haven’t seen them hilariously bicker over their nicknames (“Why do I have to be Mr. Pink?”). But Tarantino provides us with some interesting information about how they see the world, some foreshadowing of the plot, and a debate about tipping. Unfortunately, it was apparently Tarantino’s own attitude at the time, which doesn’t speak well for him.

Groundhog Day–Second Breakfast

“My years are not advancing as fast as you might think.” Bill Murray is caught in the eternal return, doomed to revisit the same Groundhog Day all over again. So why not go all out for the most important meal of his perpetually restarting day? Many of us are stuck in the same perpetual cycle these days, though unlike Murray’s character time is still marching on even if we aren’t–and we still have to worry about cholesterol, love handles, and flossing.

Coffee & Cigarettes–Coffee Break

Let’s visit Jack and Meg White, who chill out with some smokes and a couple of cups of coffee, a classic Stooges throbbing on the juke. Jack ponders his homemade Tesla coil, and while it doesn’t seem to work it does lead to a poetic meditation on acoustical resonance. Just the kind of hazy thinking that works best in a mid-morning smoke break.

Five Easy Pieces–Brunch

I guess things were pretty dismal back in the 70s, because Jack Nicholson’s groupies really admire his dickish treatment of the diner waitress. It sounded like a Rebellion Against The Man, or something. We all like having things the way we like them, but demanding toast with your plain old omelet and totally losing your shit when it’s not officially on the menu isn’t badass. Mostly he just sounds like a petulant, entitled, spoiled brat. His clearing of the table with one hand only reinforces how much of a creep he is.

The Trip–Liquid Lunch

After that depressing diner episode, it might behoove us to knock back some vino with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on one of their many trips around Europe. They’ve already knocked around rural England, Italy, Greece, and Spain getting schnockered, eating at the finest restaurants, and cracking each other up in a cutting contest of impressions and passive-aggressive one liners. Who knows what the waiter’s saying, as long as they keep bringing the good stuff.

My Dinner With Andre–supper 

There really should be a late-day equivalent to brunch, for those of us who tend to dine at more nocturnal hours. What should we call it? Linner? Drunch? Neither of those names sound appetizing. Sitting with a meal for hours, talking, and making the food the least of the experience is one of life’s pleasures. Wallace (“inconceivable!”) Shawn and esteemed theatre director Andre Gregory have a meal in New York City where the food isn’t the point at all. They hardly even eat anything in the hours they spend together. Instead, they talk about everything and nothing. Gregory’s philosophy is a little overdone at times—New York is a prison camp? Really, buddy?—but his worldly adventures do sound fun and the vibe between the two is almost erotic. I caught myself wondering if one of them was going to flip the table over and tumble into each other’s arms.

Babette’s Feast–Dinner

There’s nothing like a real multicourse French meal, served with Veuve Clicquot and escargot, to fantasize about in this long, boring winter. Babette is a sophisticated French lady amid a small group of dour Puritans and after she wins the lottery she chooses to repay them for their kindness by preparing an elaborate and exquisite meal. Old friends come together and even though they don’t really know what they’re eating, they do know it’s delicious. This Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film might be where the whole food porn genre started.

Diner–Late Night

Nothing like coming around to the local diner to grab a bite and shoot the breeze with your pals. These jamokes are nice enough but don’t want to grow up and are on the cusp of turning into the townies in the next booth. That’s why they head over to the spot where they know the waitresses by name and can argue about the ideal make out music. Mostly, they bicker about who’s going to finish the other guy’s roast beef sandwich, a fitting way to conclude a night that wasn’t going anywhere anyway.



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Matt Hanson

Matt Hanson is a contributing editor at The Arts Fuse. His writing has appeared in The Baffler, The Guardian, The Millions, The New Yorker, and elsewhere.

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