Michael Deeds: Big Al’s, Village Cinema and Toby Keith: Ka-pow!

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comOctober 18, 2013 

When The Village at Meridian rolls out the red carpet for its grand opening today, nobody will be more thrilled than the Big Al’s crew.

The bowling alley/arcade/sports pub has been holding down the fort at 1900 N. Eagle Road for what seemed like an eternity while the rest of The Village played catch-up with jackhammers and paint brushes.

“We have been on an island here for the past year, 14 months, so we’re excited to have neighbors,” says COO Todd Moore.

With an array of restaurants and a 15-screen Village Cinema opening in the shopping and entertainment complex, Big Al’s won’t be the only game in town anymore.

That’s a good thing.

“Yes, they’re competitors,” Moore says, “but it becomes a destination then, both for entertainment and for dining. So when people want to come and do dinner and a movie, we’re one of the choices they can use. If they want to do a movie and bowling, we can do that.”

The Village at Meridian is at the corner of Fairview Avenue and N. Eagle Road, the busiest intersection in the state. If you live in or near Meridian, it suddenly makes driving to Boise for entertainment look less necessary — not to mention attractive, particularly on the parking-garage-only Downtown weekends.

Food snobs roll their eyes at The Village and the mere mention of a chain or franchise restaurant, but a couple of notable ones are dipping a toe into Idaho for the first time. Kona Grill would seem to have more culinary potential, but don’t fool yourself: Skoal-spittin’ Idaho is more excited about Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill.

“We’re excited about them, too!” Moore admits.

The country singer’s restaurant — named after his No. 1 hit “I Love This Bar” — isn’t slated to open until early next year, so we’ll have to wait and see exactly what’s in store.

Based on online reviews of other locations, it’s clear that Keith and his jingo reputation are more divisive than the food being served.

“I Tolerate This Bar and Grill” wrote one commenter on Yelp. “This place is like a liquored-up Cracker Barrel,” wrote another.

(Now that’s funny.)

I promise to reserve judgment. After all, where else are we going to be able to order an American Soldier Burger and be served by Whiskey Girls?

I Love This Bar & Grill offers live country music in other markets. If that’s the case here, it will be a positive for the Treasure Valley.

But the true 1,000-pound gorilla of The Village at Meridian is the Village Cinema, which opens today.

When Edwards Cinemas debuted in Boise, it brought the market’s first stadium seating and high-tech surround sound. Majestic Cinemas then opened with comfier seats and Digital Cinema 2K projectors, which provided a better picture.

Village Cinema will make its own latest-and-greatest-style splash. Billing itself as “a new standard in luxury entertainment,” the multiplex includes all-reserved seating, select D-Box motion seats and two 60-foot screens that feature Dolby Atmos sound.

What is a D-Box seat? It’s a special chair that jerks you all over the place during action scenes.

And what is Dolby Atmos sound? Yet another surround-sound technology from Dolby Laboratories, which feels obligated to “invent” something every few years that basically amounts to more ear-splitting speakers.

(Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely checking out D-Box and Atmos.)

Also coming soon to this theater near you — aka in November: VIP seating with in-theater dining service and a bar and restaurant inside.

Overall translation: Edwards and Majestic are suddenly the old maids of Treasure Valley multiplexes.

So bring on Village Cinema.

Bring on an order of Toby Keith’s Freedom Fries.

Bring on less dust in the air from Village at Meridian construction, which not only gets Big Al’s windows “all nasty,” Moore says, but forced nonstop cleaning of the new patio/bocce court area that opened two weeks ago outside.

“We’re stoked,” he says of The Village at Meridian’s grand opening. “This is a day we’ve been waiting for for a very long time.”

Michael Deeds’ column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts “The Other Studio” at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News.

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