As a result of last week’s L.A. County shutdown of outdoor dining, the Cloverfield’s General Manager Mary Thompson spent the Wednesday before and Friday after Thanksgiving calling 80 percent of her staff, tearfully letting them go. If it wasn’t for a last minute partnership with the Rooftop Cinema Club at the Santa Monica Airport, the popular neighborhood spot may have closed until restrictions are relaxed again.
“To be completely honest, this last shutdown was devastating for us,” Thompson tells L.A. Weekly from the restaurant’s large patio at the Santa Monica Airport that has seen steady traffic during the pandemic. “As a new business, opening during Covid and having never really used any of these to-go platforms or ways and means to sell the business, we were relying strictly on people coming in to support us. Without this theater we would have had to shut down completely until things officially open back up whenever that ends up being. For us, this is a lifeline and we were able to save some jobs.”
The process for dinner and a movie is seamless and contactless. There’s a QR code when you book your ticket that links directly to the food menu that can be ordered and paid for ahead of time. The kitchen cooks everything from scratch to order. It gets boxed up and sent over hot in warming bags on scooters to a kiosk at the drive-in.
They text you when the food is ready and you scoop it up at the kiosk where there are additional condiments, napkins and eating utensils. The menu is updated weekly and currently includes Blockbuster barbacoa tacos, the Drama chicken sandwich, the Take One Cloverfield hamburger as well as the Plot Twist market chicken sandwich, pizzas and salads. If the city of Santa Monica allows, there will be beer and wine to follow. The special drive-in menu will also be available for regular pickup and delivery through Postmates this weekend.
“We sat down and said, what would we crave at a movie theater as a foodie?” says Thompson. “What would you want to eat in your car? This is our initial menu that we will use as a jumping off point. This menu is by no means done. Next we’re launching churros and chocolate and other dessert items. We’re going to come up with more and more until the wheels fall off the bus.”
In other Cloverfield news, Santa Monica’s prodigal chef Luigi Fineo returns after a four-month sabbatical, eager to get his fingers back into the organic semolina. A good friend and neighbor of the restaurant, he will launch Pasta To Go with Luigi Fineo tonight. It’s a sustainable program that requires a bit of heating up at home that can be picked up at the restaurant after 5 p.m. To start, Fineo is making the fettuccine daily which just needs to be dropped into hot water for a few minutes with a choice of pesto, tomato and beef Bolognese sauces and focaccia made in the Cloverfield kitchen.
The Rooftop Cinema’s We Love L.A. series kicks off with a holiday program this month with 100% of community screening proceeds going to Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. For now, and pending any other looming shutdowns, the drive-in will continue through the end of January.
“Our on-site partnership with the Cloverfield is a wonderful way for us to work with local businesses, especially as they opened in 2020 and have had to navigate operating a new restaurant during Covid-19,” says Gerry Cottle Jr., Rooftop Cinema Club Founder. “We always aim to support local food partners at our venues, so with their restaurant also on the airport grounds and a contact-free order and pickup system that fits perfectly into our contactless cinema experience, it was a no-brainer.”