Drive In, Eat Out

Vali-Hi Drive-In Theatre
11260 Hudson Boulevard, Lake Elmo; (651) 436-7464
Cost: $6; 12 and under free. Movie starts after dusk.

65 Hi Drive-In Theatre
10100 Central Ave. NE, Blaine; (612) 780-3063
Cost: $6; 11 and under free. Movie starts after dusk.

United Noodles
2015 E. 24th St., Mpls.; (612) 721-6677
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m.; Sunday 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Craig Lassig

Location Info

Map

Vali-Hi Drive-In

11260 Hudson Blvd.
Lake Elmo, MN 55042

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Lake Elmo

United Noodles

2015 E. 24th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Category: Restaurant > Noodle Shop

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Coastal Seafoods

2330 Minnehaha Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Coastal Seafoods
2330 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls; (612) 724-7425
74 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul; (651) 698-4888
Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.; Saturday 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.

 

Isn't it kind of early for a drive-in movie? Maybe just a tad, says 65-Hi owner Irving Braverman; normally he wouldn't open his Blaine theater until mid-April, but he has moved the schedule up because of the warm weather. Over at the Vali-Hi in Lake Elmo, manager Joe Murr says his hardy patrons are usually ready for outdoor cinema by the first weekend in April. In any event, here it is: drive-in season. Six full months of opportunities to sit in a car and watch the big screen. Or, in my case, to sit far from the car, in front of the screen, and have a picnic. On a blanket, or in chairs, with a good radio to pick up the sound as the enormous Minnesota sky arches overhead in a dappled dome.

I think drive-ins are one of the greatest treats available in the Twin Cities, and if I don't take the turnpikes to the outdoor screens at least a dozen times before Halloween rolls around, I'll count this a wasted summer. Murr points out that had I gotten to town a few decades earlier I wouldn't have had to take any turnpikes. When he started managing the Vali-Hi 22 years ago, he almost never saw patrons from Minneapolis or St. Paul, since the metropolis was amply supplied with theaters: The Corral in West St. Paul, the Minnehaha off Minnehaha Avenue in St. Paul, the Rose Drive-In in Roseville, the Mann France on France Avenue, the Hilltop in Columbia Heights, the Colonial off Highway 55, the Hundred Twin off Highway 100, the Lucky Twin down in Burnsville, and the Flying Cloud in Eden Prairie--to name but a few.

Which made me sad. Because I think if there were that many drive-ins today I could set up a tent, run a laptop cord from the popcorn stand, and be happy, outside, for the whole summer. And I don't know what movies are coming this year, and frankly, I don't even care: I'll see anything at the drive-in. I mean, I saw Wild Wild West at the drive-in last year. I saw Bowfinger. Twice. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. You know how fishermen or hunters will go on and on about how their pursuit gives them an excuse to be alone and meditate in nature? Well, to me the drive-in is a city kid's answer to a duck blind, the opportunity to examine the ever-changing night sky without the pressures of the world. Better yet, it's a chance to sit outside and do nothing, with snacks.

As a drive-in pro, I'm happy to tell you that if you've got a grill and some organizational skills, there is a plethora of perfect drive-in prep pads hereabouts: Buon Giorno (Italian sausage, fine cheeses, crackers, beer, wine, bread, amaretti!); Cossetta's (ditto, save the beer, add cannoli, and they're open late in the summer); Kramarczuk (Eastern European sausages and sweet rolls; Surdyk's virtually next door); and any of the co-ops. But, being perpetually unsatisfied, I thought I'd kick off the season with a search for something different. What if, I thought, you wanted Asian? Or fish? Or some sort of Asian fish thing?

So I motored down to Coastal Seafoods, and it all fell into place. There they were, the thick, substantial fish steaks and fillets you need for confident grilling under the stars: tuna, sea bass, sturgeon, maybe even a whole, cleaned rainbow trout. And for those scared of whole fish, the freezer holds seasoned salmon burgers ($3.49 each). As I stood contemplating the selection, the rest of the meal came into focus: There's a big basket of Alice Factor bread on Coastal's counter, the walls are lined with every sort of spice powder and marinade you could imagine, and in the corner sit big bags of honest-to-goodness hardwood charcoal ($7.99 for 8.8 pounds). Now that's living. That's eating. In fact, grilled sturgeon with baguette is probably even better eating than you could have wrangled at the Corral Drive-In, lo those many years ago.

Then, coming out of Coastal, I spied United Noodles across the street, and the vision of it caused me to feel as a panda must, charging for spring's tender bamboo shoots: Eureka! The finishing details to the feast of feasts. Parsley, cilantro, basil, chives, garlic, shallots, and lime to perfect your fish, and then on through the aisles for snacks, treats, and beverages of every dimension.

Especially the poetic dimension. I am quite fond of the cayenne-crusted peanuts called crackernuts ($1.29)--you'd be amazed at how often you can work the name into a conversation: "So, this total crackernut calls me up and wants to know if I can crackernut everything I'm doing and rush right over and I'm like: 'Crackernuts to you, buddy.'" Crackernuts!

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