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Fun food in the light of the silver screen

151 Coliseum Ave., Nashua, N.H.

One of the more pleasant aspects of our Teenage Bottomless Pit's recently concluded Christmas break was the opportunity to catch a few movies with the big lug. When we found ourselves at Chunky's Cinema Pub for the second time in a little over a week, it dawned on your humble reviewer that I ought to write about it.

Because I was skeptical of the concept, it took me a long time to get around to seeing a movie at Chunky's. I figured in an industry where food service is synonymous with popcorn and heat-lamp hot dogs, the idea of full-menu food service by the light of the silver screen was a bit of a stretch.

Then I went — and I realized that once again, my assumptions were wrong. That first visit was some years ago, when the Bottomless Pit was a pre-teen whose appetite could actually be sated without costing us an arm and a leg. We've been back many times since, drawn by the tasty, practical and economical attraction of combining dinner and a movie at the same time and place.

To be sure, Chunky's is not haute cuisine. It's pub food, pure and simple: appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, a handful of entrees, and desserts. The food is good, on par with what you might find at a chain pub-style restaurant, with the main difference being a more limited menu with fun, somewhat corny movie names for the dishes.

Pricing is comparable to those chain restaurants, but what makes Chunky's a good deal for dinner and a movie is the ticket prices: Chunky's regular admission for first-run movies is $7.50, which puts you $2.50 ahead of most theaters before you even get to the table.

As at any good pub, adult beverages are available: Chunky's serves beer, wine and a number of specialty cocktails — another advantage over the traditional cinemas.

We grazed around the menu on our recent visits (two with TBP, one with The Dining Companion).

We've tried three of the four regular-menu salads plus the January special. The basic house salad, “Field of Dreams” ($8.19), features mixed greens, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and shredded cheese. The special salad, “Austin Powers”($8.99), is similar, but with the addition of bacon and croutons. Both were ample servings for a main course, though TBP thought he could have used more dressing on his Austin Powers.

The “Cesar Romero” ($7.99) is a dinner-size Caesar salad. Ours was slightly dry, not so much for lack of dressing but because there was an overabundance of grated cheese (the powdered type).

All these salads can be augmented with grilled chicken ($2.50), marinated steak tips ($5.99), or BBQ turkey tips ($3.99). We tried the grilled chicken once, and found it slightly overcooked. We had the steak tips twice; they were tender and juicy, though the marinade is a little too heavy on the bourbon-like flavoring for our taste.

We only tried one appetizer in our recent visits — “Zohan's Hummus Platter” ($7.99), a generous cup of homemade hummus, served with fresh veggies and either tortilla chips or grilled flatbread. TDC ordered it, but I helped polish it off, and I thought the hummus needed a little more seasoning and/or lemon juice to be interesting.

Chunky's features several burger choices, ranging from basic to loaded. TBP's favorite is the “Kevin Bacon Burger” ($9.49), a 6-ounce Angus burger on a toasted bun, topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese and bacon — substantial and juicy without going overboard.

I picked another of the monthly specials for an entree one night: The “Heat of the Night Wrap” ($9.99) is a generous sandwich filled with juicy shaved steak, sauteed jalapenos and onions. (I thought I detected cheese in there too, but it's not listed.) Not too spicy, despite the name, and a very tasty, satisfying steak sub in a flour tortilla wrapper.

Uncharacteristically for us, we only sampled one dessert, but if this one is indicative of the others, one is plenty for two people. Our “Gryffindor House Special” brownie sundae ($5.99) featured a large cake-style brownie cut in half, with three scoops of ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. It was just right for TBP and me, and it could have been dangerous for one person.

There's not a lot we can say about presentation of the dishes — it is, after all, pretty dark when the food is served, unless you come early enough to be seated and served before the show. (Chunky's recommends arriving an hour before showtime. We haven't yet.)

On entry, you're given a light-up pager which you use to summon your server. We've found the service to be a bit slow — understandable, though, since most of it is accomplished in virtual darkness — but the servers are consistently polite, friendly and helpful.

You typically have a chance for a follow-up order if you want dessert or another beverage. Your bill arrives and you pay the server before the end of the movie.

Reservations are accepted. The theaters are standard size, though the floors are basically flat. Tables are arranged perpendicular to the screen, each with eight leather seats, which recline and roll and are said to have been made for Lincoln Town Cars.

Chunky's has become a favorite for us, particularly on evenings when time is tight for dinner at a separate location. And we should note that ordering food is not a requirement: Popcorn and soda is available just like a regular movie theater — except that the tickets are less expensive.

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