Dinner and a movie

Good food and movie picks for a good night out on the town



Dinner: HalfSmoke

With milkshakes, Monopoly and “Chipotle-style” assembly line sausages, HalfSmoke takes the title for being the coolest place around the block. Though it’s an easy target for anyone’s next wannabe “cool-girl” Instagram post—as I am guilty of taking—HalfSmoke creates a vibe in its restaurant that feels welcoming and authentic.


HalfSmoke recently opened October 2016 and is located near Howard Theater on 651 Florida Ave NW in Washington, D.C. It was founded by former investment analyst and entrepreneur Andre McCain, who carefully crafted the restaurant into the smart place it is. McCain said his vision is for Halfsmoke to “stand for something good.”


Mason students who are vegetarians or vegans might find their food appealing. Half-Smoke staff offers food that are GMO, hormone, and pesticide free. Food waste is recycled and their energy comes through renewable energy, therefore, more environmentally friendly.


The restaurant caters to everyone’s indulgent tastes: it features mini-funnel cakes, tater tots, mac ‘n’ cheese balls, gourmet sausages and unlimited toppings. Their gourmet sausages include beef brat, lamb merguez, vegan falafel and the half-smoke: a spicy half-beef, half-pork sausage. Popsicles are served inside every margarita, and restaurant-goers can try the wines, four-piece sampler beers and flights of craft cocktails.


Its picturesque milkshakes, though, are what really makes HalfSmoke worth your time. Like a less-intense, cheaper version of the popular Black Tap milkshakes in New York, HalfSmoke’s milkshakes bring the boys to the yard. The Milky Cereal milkshake is beautifully decorated with Fruity Pebble dust and a Rice Krispies treat. The other two milkshakes, the Beyon-Shake and the Method, which reference famous musicians Beyonce and Method Man, are strawberry and chocolate ice cream-flavored. They’re decorated with pixie stix, rainbow sprinkles and chocolate chip cookies.


Even without the food, HalfSmoke is a genuinely fun place to bring a group of friends and hang out for the night. The staff, dubbed “Creators,” are attentive and friendly: they care about the customers they cater to. A cozy fireplace, an open patio, free Wi-Fi and flat screen televisions throughout the restaurant make it a nice place to study, watch the game or chill with friends.


There’s a foosball table, a free photobooth, Jenga, the friendship-ruining game of Monopoly and other board games hanging on a shelf waiting to be played. There’s a bar set up in the middle of the restaurant along with tables and couches to lie on, giving restaurant-goers the choice to sit anywhere for any type of mood.  


In gentrification-heavy D.C., it’s hard to find a restaurant that respects the community it resides in and that lifts that community up instead of trying to push it somewhere else. HalfSmoke is authentic because it’s made by someone who understands that fact and pushes new ideas and models in how to craft a restaurant.


Movie Review:

“Kong: Skull Island” proved to be a major hit when it opened March 10 on the 84th anniversary of the film that started it all: “King Kong.”


Despite knowing practically nothing about the legacy of “King Kong” and having not seen any “Kong” movie, I ended up liking “Kong” more than any of the other human characters in the film.


The film takes place in the 1970s during the United States’ war on Vietnam. Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) is hired by U.S. government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) to map out the unknown Skull Island. An expeditionary team of soldiers, helicopters and an anti-war journalist named Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) is assembled, and they set out to uncover the mysteries that lie within Skull Island.   


Unbeknownst to the team, Skull Island is inhabited by the enormous 100-foot tall ape King Kong. Upon arriving, the team battles Kong, resulting in the majority of their team and helicopters being crushed and Kong being slightly wounded. The survivors gather together and plan to get off the island by meeting a resupply team that is to arrive within three days.


The team finds out Kong is the protector of the island and safeguards the indigenous Iwi community. He is the last of his kind, as the pterodactyl-like “skullcrawlers” that lurk on the island killed off Kong’s ancestors. Yet to some members of the team, such as Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), Kong is a threat and is nothing compared to the greatness of man.


Once the team comes in with their helicopters and ammo, the Skull Island ecosystem is threatened as Packard and the other team members attempt to kill Kong. They also put Kong’s life in danger, as Kong’s good nature leads him to risk his life to fight off the skullcrawlers and save the expeditionary team.


On one hand, the film is about a group of Americans who come to an uninhabited island to discover what is there, which indirectly paints the film with colonial themes. Combined with Kong being the last of his kind and defender of the indigenous community, the film’s meaning  hides in murky territory.


There are a lot of characters in Kong, and many of them end up dying because of the monsters that inhabit the island. That said, the characters in Kong don’t have a strong storyline connecting them to make them compelling or interesting. Hiddleston’s character is sort of a bland hero, and there are about five or six other characters that have a couple of lines here and there but are hard to keep track of.
Visually, the movie looks incredibly stunning and vivid. But as a whole, it doesn’t flesh out a compelling enough narrative to decide what it wants to be.