Cinépolis Westlake Village: Watch Movies in Luxury

Cinépolis offers a luxurious movie-watching experience. Read to the end and enter to win free tickets!
Cinépolis Westlake ext

When Cinépolis first opened in the Westlake Village Promenade at Westlake and Thousand Oaks Boulevards, I wondered who would pay the extra money to see a movie just so they could sit in a comfy chair and have a server bring food to them during the film.

Answer: everyone. And now I understand why. Over two visits this winter I learned more about the theater and its working style, and I wish I could see a movie like this every time!

When you approach Cinépolis, you feel like you’re walking into a theater, not just going to the movies. The lobby is spacious and decorated with a classy, modern feel. The staff is well-dressed and polite and helpful – they make you feel like you are a welcome guest.

The first thing you notice when you enter is the delicious aroma of waffles. Wait, waffles? Oh, that’s just a fresh batch of their house made caramel popcorn. Refreshments are served at the snack bar but also brought right to your seat once you’re settled in, but I’ll get to that later.

Cinépolis Westlake Lobby

Across from the snack bar is a seating area with bar tables and comfy chairs for lounging under a big screen TV. Another big screen TV hovers over their full bar along the back of the lobby. The perfect place to meet your friends for a bite to eat and a drink before going in to the theater. Or for you to sneak out of a chick flick you’re not really enjoying to check the scores and grab a beer? People can come to Cinépolis just to go to the bar! There’s an adjacent outdoor seating area for those lovely SoCal nights, too.

Cinépolis Westlake Bar

So, on to the theater experience. One of the most wonderful things about Cinépolis is its reserved seating feature. When you purchase a ticket you also choose your seat. Traditional movie theaters offer this option now too but Cinépolis was one of the first to do this in my recent memory. Since you’re guaranteed your seat, there’s no anxiety about getting there early to stake your claim in the part of the theater that you like best (middle of the row, back third). Or, if you decide to go to a film on a whim, you can pop open the Cinépolis app and see what’s available, then purchase your tickets right on your phone. Show your screenshot at the entrance to the theater wing to get in. No printing necessary!

Cinépolis Westlake Auditorium

The 8 screening rooms at Cinépolis vary in size but each is populated with black leather reclining arm chairs. Little side tables with lamps are situated every two chairs, but each chair has its own retractable table for holding your snacks. And like on an airplane, each seat has a button that will summon a server to bring you snacks and drinks.

Cinépolis actually has a full menu – beverages and movie snacks like popcorn and candy, of course, but also actual meals, from appetizers all the way up to lobster rolls and gourmet pizzas. There’s also a full bar menu with signature cocktails (try the Long Island Iced Tea if you’re in the mood) and a coffee and tea bar.

Yes, you can order any of these things while you are sitting on your butt watching a movie. I wondered if this service would bother the audience so I observed the process carefully while watching The Big Short, a pretty dialogue-intense film to which you really have to pay attention to follow well. The servers are dressed head to toe in black, move silently throughout the theater, and crouch next to the seats of the guests who call for them. Since there’s plenty of space between each seat it’s not like they’re in your way. They’re in and out like dark snack angels.

If you find yourself feeling a little chilly, you can even buy a blanket and snuggle up in your comfortable armchair. Beware of reclining, though. You could get so relaxed you’ll fall asleep and miss the movie you came to see!

The Westlake Village location is doing very good business. The manager told me that over the winter holidays the theater was packed all day long for two straight weeks, with film showings ending late in the night. Granted, “packed” just means “sold out” here and with the reserved-seat model there’s no danger you’ll be stuck up under the screen or miss the show because you had to stand in line waiting to get in.

They have special events and promotions from time to time. In December they had Star Wars characters on site for photo opps, and coming up soon there is a Valentine special:

Cinépolis Valentine promotion

Prices for this package of two tickets for premium seating, a bottle of wine, a cozy blanket, and a custom chocolate bar cost around $100 (price varies by location). It’s available on Saturday, February 13 at the 7PM screening of Deadpool and on Sunday, February 14 at the 7PM screening of The Notebook. Tickets go on sale February 1 online. Considering the movie ticket cost alone is $25 each, this is a great deal and a special treat for your sweetie.

I have to say, an indulgence at Cinépolis is pretty awesome. If you’re not used to being pampered, treat yourself to a Cinépolis outing. Yes, it’s more expensive than going to a traditional theater chain, but it’s worth a splurge once in a while, especially for a movie you are really excited about seeing. If you’re used to the finer things in life and you don’t have your own home theater, this is the place for you. In fact, even people who probably do have their own home theaters come here. Celebrity sightings are regular occurrences!

You’ll be the celebrity among your friends and family if you win this set of two tickets up for grabs! Just leave a comment here on this post between now and Thursday, February 4, at 11:59pm. The winner chosen at random from qualifying entries will receive two tickets to a movie of your choosing. Thanks for reading!

Cinépolis
180 Promenade Way
Westlake Village, CA 91362

Photos courtesy of Cinépolis. I received two complimentary tickets from Cinépolis USA. All opinions are my own. P.S. We loved the movie. The Big Short is entertaining yet sobering. Recommend.

Casual Elegance at Luke Bar & Restaurant in Woodland Hills

  luke bar & restaurant ext nightPhoto courtesy of Luke Bar & Restaurant

Ever since moving to The Bubble over five years ago, I have been on the lookout for places to meet my friends from the Valley and beyond. Places that have easy freeway access, plenty of parking, a lively atmosphere but not too loud for talking, and oh yeah, great food and drinks too. I have my hot spots in Sherman Oaks and Studio City, but Woodland Hills has been kind of a dead zone for me.

Until now.

Luke Bar & Restaurant opened just a few months ago in the space formerly occupied by La Frite. That good old standby for folks who’ve lived here for decades doesn’t look the same at all. And while La Frite was beloved by many, I am here to tell you that its new occupant is welcome, dazzling in its food and drink offerings, and relaxing enough that catching up with a dear friend, or watching the game with your pals, or dressing up for a fancy date can all be done here to much satisfaction.

luke bar & restaurantPhoto courtesy of Luke Bar & Restaurant

I visited Luke with my friend Jennifer on a Tuesday evening during dinner hour. We had just missed Luke’s “Cocktail Hour,” which is better than happy hour, obvs. Much more refined, with classed-up appetizers and a drink menu that includes a flight of mini cocktails for $12. This happens Tuesdays through Thursdays from 5pm to 7pm. Needless to say, I’ll be back for that alone.

We settled into to our big round booth facing the bar, all smooth dark wood and exposed beam ceilings. The space was dimly lit and the noise among diners and bar patrons alike was at comfortable conversation level. We felt like we were in a casual pub, but looking up to the crystal chandeliers, we were both happy that we dressed up just a little. It didn’t matter that it was only for each other. The setting welcomed but didn’t require it. We would have been just as comfortable in jeans and Chuck Taylors.

basil collinsthe Basil Collins

The full cocktail menu is filled with inspired recipes. My favorite title is Writer’s Elixir, but that seemed more hardcore than I was in the mood for that night, so I tried the Cranberry Lime Caipirinha in a brown-sugar-rimmed glass, which went down nice and easy. Jen ordered the Cafe’ Castillo, a blend of altos reposado, Kahlua, and almond milk horchata, garnished with a cinnamon stick. A sweet winter treat. Let’s just say that went down easy too. The star of the drinks course was the Basil Collins, even though this tall green concoction is garnished with a sliver of star anise. It looks groovy, but neither of us like the taste of black licorice, and we were happy to find that removing it quickly (after snapping a photo) meant the refreshing tart drink wasn’t marred by that wicked flavor. (But if you like black licorice, Tito’s vodka, St. Germaine, lemon, and basil, well, you have a winner.)

Okay, so, already we have a great meeting place for drinks. Luke is right off the 101 – exit Topanga and then keep heading east. Stop when you see the lighted sign and the pretty red twinkle lights in the bushes. There’s parking in the lot, on the street, and available by valet.

Appetizers can be the main event of your meal if you want – we tried the black tiger shrimp served with chickpea fritters, harissa aioli and micro bulls blood, a delicate pink edible flower. We also had the tuna Napoleon, a tartare that was a fresh rendition of the old-school favorite. In fact, many of the items on Chef Thomas Deville’s menu are nods to classic dishes but with updated twists – like the Italienne chopped salad with its not-too-many cannelini beans (one of my favorite dishes of the evening), and the gastropub-type burger, to which you can add a slice of foie gras.

saladshouse salad and Italienne chopped salad

For the entree I switched to red wine, because I ordered the steak, naturally. All that dark wood and candlelight, how could I do otherwise? The wine list at Luke is just as unique and classy as everything else, meaning I didn’t recognize any of the names on it, but the ones I tasted were delicious. Jen’s glass of Habit, a Gruner out of Santa Ynez, was refreshing and smooth, and my Stolpman Estate Syrah from Santa Barbara paired excellently with a cut of steak I’ve also never tried before.

manhattan steaktwenty eight day dry aged Manhattan

The 28-day Dry Aged Manhattan is a ball of meat that’s basically a NY strip that tastes like filet mignon, flavored with a salty-savory rub created by the eponymous Luke himself. (That’s Luke Hartzog, former Wall Street wiz who simply loves food. And it shows.)  I’ve been doing restaurant features and reviews for over a decade now, and I’ve learned to eat and drink just enough of each dish to get the true flavor of it and the sense of what my host is trying to accomplish. But at Luke I ate the whole thing. I couldn’t help it.

Like good friends (and dinner companions who know I’ll be writing about this later) do, Jen ordered something pretty different. The short rib Bolognese is served with house-made tagliatelle, using ribs that have been smoked on site all day. The smoky flavor and the rich homemade pasta were a perfect blend.

bread puddingBread Pudding

Luckily Jen and I both had room for dessert. Luke has a few signature dishes: the apple pie nachos, which are great for sharing with a group, and the bread pudding, which is…great for fighting everyone else off and keeping for yourself.

Here’s a fun little thing they do at Luke. We did have some leftovers to take with us, but after our server took them away to be boxed up, she never brought them back. Instead, at Luke they send your leftovers to the door, guarded by the host, so you don’t forget them when you leave.

As if we could. It was such a lovely discovery, this place where you can pause and enjoy yourself along busy Ventura Boulevard, that I would actually go to Luke on purpose, not just to find a halfway point to meet a friend. But it’s nice to have both reasons.

So. Who’s ready for cocktails?

Luke Bar & Restaurant
22616 Ventura Boulevard
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
(818) 876-6000
LukeLA.com

My friend and I dined at Luke as guests of the restaurant to facilitate this review. All opinions and pining to return are my own.

Burgers in the Bubble: Stacked and The Melt

Last month was National Burger Month, and if I hadn’t been busy helping run a PFA, parenting some children, hosting family in town for a First Communion, working at a freelance gig, and oh, being a wife and the CEO of our house, I would have posted these stories then. But, this is how it goes.

stacked and the melt burgersBurgers at Stacked and The Melt

Even though it’s no longer the official time of the burger, you can still enjoy one or three at one of these places near you.

New: The Melt at Westlake Promenade

This new burger joint just opened a few weeks ago in the Westlake Promenade on the far side toward the movie theater. They cleverly invited locals to come in and sample the food for free, and everyone knows the deep pockets in this town love freebies, so the line was out the door and down the patio, undoubtedly creating some buzz for the opening.

exterior of The Melt Westlake Village

The Melt is the latest in a healthy-leaning fast casual trend. A rep from the restaurant told us that all ingredients are natural – they don’t even serve diet soda because that shizz is bad for you, yo. Cane cola, root beer, lemon-lime, and brewed iced tea and water are your choices. Here’s the company line:

THE MELT is committed to bringing fresh, 100% all-natural, real ingredients to everyday American classics.  Their made-to-order menu of ‘real happy food’ includes hot-n-crispy grilled cheese melts, juicy burger melts, fresh chicken melts, fries, salads, hand crafted soups, mac & cheese and deliciously refreshing soft serve ice cream.

IMG_9501The Melt SignageSounds great, but what’s it like? Well, from the moment you enter, you can grab a menu at the door and decide while you’re waiting. You order at the counter and wait for your initials to be called. What’s different here is that there is a real-time message board on the wall that shows you where your order is in the lineup so you know how close yours is to being ready. Pretty cool.

The Melt Food

The food itself was delicious and tasted fresh. In my party we sampled a burger, a chicken sandwich, the truffle mac ‘n’ cheese, a field greens salad that is served with goat cheese, green apple, toasted sunflowers seeds, and white balsamic dressing, and of course, sweet potato fries. We also tried the two soups that are always on the menu: tomato basil and sweet corn tortilla.

Everything was delicious and for me the standouts were the soups, probably because it was a drizzly day. The sandwiches were smaller than I’ve seen in other burger places lately, but I didn’t mind that. I finished the whole thing and enjoyed every bite, but I didn’t feel overly full at the end, which was nice.

Children’s meals include burgers, grilled cheese, mac ‘n’ cheese (but for kids it’s not as fancy – I brought home a sample for my boys and they fought over it, which is a good seal of approval), and Caesar salad. Desserts include soft serve ice cream and a variety of tasty-sounding shakes.

The prices here are reasonable – a combo meal of burger, fries, and drink is $8.95. Knowing that the founders of the restaurant created it because they wanted a healthy alternative to crappy fast food, the price seems worth it. NB for PFA/PFC’ers in town: they give 25% to your school on Restaurant Night.

Tech-Savvy: Stacked at The Oaks Mall

Stacked is a robot-serviced restaurant in The Oaks Mall across from The Cheesecake Factory where Buddha’s Belly used to be.

stacked at the oaks mall thousand oaks

This place has been here for a while now but on this occasion I got the pleasure of watching my kids, my dad, and my husband all try to figure out how to order. Okay, it’s not robots, it’s iPads. And human people bring out your food and drinks. But it sounds cool to say it’s robots, who I’m sure can’t be far behind.

The gimmick here is that there’s an iPad at every table at Stacked and you can flip through the menu and add anything you want. You can build your own burger or mac ‘n’ cheese or even cocktail, or you can choose from one of Stacked’s many pre-designed dishes and drinks. Then you press “send” and your order is in. Once you get the hang of it, the process is pretty easy, and can be faster than having to catch the eye of your server as he or she flies by on the way to someone else’s table. Of course my children caught on much more quickly than the adults did, and once I convinced my son that he couldn’t build a burger with 100 slices of tomato, our order was in.

stacked food

My dad ordered the lobster mac ‘n’ cheese and he was pretty pleased with it. In fact, he’s had mac ‘n’ cheese all over America and he said this was a favorite. My husband had the jalapeno bacon burger which was impressive and tasty but a little clumsy to eat since it was so…stacked. The kids ate plain cheeseburgers (boring) but they loved them. We sampled a serving of plain mac ‘n’ cheese, because we are on a search for the perfect one, but this one has pepperjack cheese in the sauce. While I like that favor, the kids do not. They are cheese purists. (The kids’ menu mac ‘n’ cheese is Kraft, which I find curious. I mean, why do restaurants do this? I can make this for them at home for less than a dollar.) That said, everyone loved the fries. We sort of fought over them.

I had the Cow in the Garden salad topped with flat iron steak, which I devoured. The star of my meal was the strawberry basil cocktail – shaken up with gin it was a nice refreshing counterpoint to the rich beef on my salad.

IMG_9617

Nobody really had room for dessert, but a meal just isn’t complete without some chocolate in the mix, right? My older son ordered a build-your-own ice cream sandwich that he designed on the iPad: chocolate cookies, chocolate ice cream, and chocolate and peanut butter sauces on the side. The younger one designed his own milkshake: some chocolate and some more chocolate in a glass. All were delicious. Just look at my son’s expression:

stacked ice cream sandwichTo end your meal at Stacked you just tell the iPad you want to pay, swipe your card on the side, add a tip to the total, and you’re done. Your receipt will be emailed to you. Pretty cool, huh? Aside from the novelty of the iPad ordering, the food at Stacked does measure up, so it’s worth it to visit for the food, too.

Just for kicks, since I knew I was doing this post last month, or eventually, I tasted my pal’s veggie burger at Veggie Grill in Westlake Village.

veggie grill burger

It tasted burgerish. I mean it gives you the experience of eating a burger without actually having the meat. But as a meat lover, I prefer…meat. Better option is the carrot cake that comes with the kid’s meal pictured above.

What’s YOUR favorite burger in town? Now that I’m on this kick, I’d like to try it. Please let me know in the comments and if we’re not already following each other on instagram, ping me at @agourahillsmom. Thanks!

My companions and I dined as guests of The Melt and Stacked. All opinions in this article are my own.