While Historic Five Points’ Sun-Ray Cinema has served as a film lover’s dream palace for more than seven years, the theater’s trojan horse is its concession stand’s far-out menu. The concept of small theaters serving food beyond the typical popcorn and candy isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon. But in recent years vintage-y cinemas have revamped their spaces and beefed up their menus, creating a delicious movie-going experience.
At Sun-Ray, people come for the hottest blockbusters and oddest indie flicks, but they return over and over again for the food. Co-owner and menu mastermind Shana David-Massett explains that as the business grew, the menu expanded. “We have definitely added categories that we didn’t have the customer level to support at first,” David-Massett says, citing salads as one example.
One of the biggest draws of Sun-Ray’s food menu is that it’s welcomingly vegan-friendly (and award winning, to boot; among other honors Sun-Ray was named #1 theater for vegans by animal rights group, PETA) . All of the pizzas, milkshakes, hot dogs, and even the nachos can be made vegan. And as someone who has tasted all of those vegan items, I can attest to the fact that flavor is not a casualty. With funky kimchi-topped items like the ever-popular Swamp Fries, Zaat Pizza, and humble hot dog, Sun-Ray’s menu is inventive, while remaining approachable. If you prefer something sweet with your cinema experience, they have a fantastic selection of vegan, housemade pastries, including the “twankie”, a wholesome take on the atomic age treat the Twinkie, but without the added preservatives that make the pre-packaged version able to withstand a nuclear holocaust. There’s even a beer milkshake on the menu, made with a rotating selection of craft stout and locally sourced vegan ice cream.
With a menu so amazing, it’s not uncommon to see folks just popping into Sun-Ray for a snack in between screenings. Here’s but a sampling of the theater’s bold offerings (some vegan, some not).
Swamp Fries: This big bed of fried taters, topped with a swampy combination of melted cheese, kimchi, marinara sauce, and a fried egg, and then sprinkled with algae-green spirulina may be the absolute messiest food you could attempt to consume while sitting in a dark theater. Yet, these seemingly incompatible flavors come together to create mouthwatering magic, an experience that’s arguably more entertaining than the latest Marvel flick.
Zaat Pizza: Basically the sophisticated older brother of the Swamp Fries, the Zaat captures the same essence with kimchi, marinara, and spirulina, but on a delicious handmade, vegan pizza crust. You can try not to eat the whole pie, but it’s doubtful that you’ll succeed.
Royal Tennenbar:This huge square of gooey goodness is a thick layer of granola mixed with peanut butter and topped with chocolate ganache. It’s so rich, you’ll definitely want to share it with your date, or maybe just save half of it in your pocket for later.
This feature originally appeared under the headline “Let’s All Go to the Lobby: And get ourselves a (vegan-friendly) treat” in Void Magazine Vol. 9, Issue 11, Bold Bites.