BRISTOL – If you’re looking for an affordable date night with good food and an outdoor movie screening – even in the middle of a pandemic – Joe’s Bristol Tap, 46 Cannonball Trail, Bristol, has your back this summer.
I have to confess that it was a little bit jarring for me to waltz back into civilization literally a day after Illinois went into Phase 3 of its reopening plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic – and my guest expressed similar thoughts. But we were at least hungry for a burger, and we figured that it couldn’t hurt to try and dip our toes in the public outing waters, as we came donned with our own face masks and eager to watch Kevin Bacon get his dance on on the white brick screen.
At first glance, the restaurant’s surroundings resembled a tailgate, with people either sitting at tables spaced at least 6 feet apart, sitting in their own truck beds or sitting by their cars in chairs they brought to set up camp ahead of the movie screening. We got to the bar early to make sure we had enough time to eat, and had a parking spot on site ahead of the outdoor movie, and I’m glad we did come as early as we did; the parking lot filled up the closer we got to showtime.
My guest and I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and a cheeseburger, respectively, and each came with its own bag of chips and all of the burger extras on the side. You don’t like raw onions, for example? You don’t need to put them on your burger! To the staff’s credit, they did honor one of our requests in not including raw onions even on the side. You might as well not have onions or anything wasted on someone who doesn’t appreciate them or can’t eat them for whatever reason.
I personally thought the burger was delicious. It was cooked well, but wasn’t burnt to a crisp, and my guest agreed. I don’t have that sophisticated a palate to know exactly what Bristol Tap uses to season its burgers, but I really, really wish I did. It’s not unreasonable to say that this place earned their bragging rights on this one.
Dusk and nightfall ended up being chillier than I thought it would be and my silly self forgot to bring a sweatshirt, but my guest and I at least remembered to come with blankets in tow. My guest thought the drive-in feel was nice, and I agreed.
Once the movie started, the picture was large enough to see even from a distance. As an added bonus, staff distributed free popcorn toward the beginning of the film. My guest declined, but I most certainly did not – I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for popcorn and this perfectly salty and warm variety did not disappoint.
This outdoor movie night at Bristol Tap featured 1984’s “Footloose” this time around. Full disclosure, this was the first time I ever saw the film – ever. And now I’m a lot more well-versed in those pop culture references and, I feel, better off for it.
While I was a little nervous COVID-19 wise to go back out in public – and maybe still am, if I’m being honest, I would still come back for another outdoor movie night and definitely for the burger and popcorn. I just won’t forget my sweatshirt next time!