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  • Alanna Salussolia

Sun Ray Theater - First Date with My Future Husband

Not every place you discover in a new city is a bar or restaurant. Sure, they might serve food or drinks, but that might not be the foot they lead with. I discovered a new unique site and flavor during my first year in Jacksonville: The Sun-Ray Theater.

This old timey theater is in the middle of 5 Points, in Riverside, one of my favorite weekend hangouts. The location is home to Hoptinger, and there was this adorable place I wanted visit called the Derby. The Derby’s bar retro bar stools call my name and suggest spiked milkshakes every time I walk by. The theater is also by Wallstreet, a dive of a bar, and Birdies, which is akin to Orlando’s Eye-spy (or Old 64 I think it’s called now). The dancing at Birdies is always a blast.

Let's Go to the Movies

The first time at the Sun Ray was to see The Big Sick with a friend. The movie (with a guy from the show Silicon Valley) was excellent, which probably helped me like this location more. But I would still like to think that the venue was part of it.

We were in a cozy little theater with comfy chairs. To give you an idea of how little it is, my friend and I purchased the last tickets for this movie, which hasn’t been out too long and isn’t that popular. The chairs have a long thin bar in front, so movie-goers can set down food and drinks – which there is quite a selection of.

Eats, Drinks, and Cult Classics

When you walk in, you might enjoy how vintage and full of character the place is. The thick walls of the old building must certainly be full of stories. Or you might feel a little cramped and surprised that the air has a faint bit of mustiness to it. There are steps up to the concession area. The menu has a nice assortment of candy, snacks (fries, nachos, pitas and hummus!), and meals. There’s a variety of sandwiches to choose from and even hot dogs.

The theater has pitchers and buckets of beer as well as wine offerings. Grown-up movie fun!

I ordered the fancy grilled cheese that has swiss cheese, hummus and roasted tomatoes. The bread was super tasty and some artisan home-madey flavor. It could have used more cheese though. My friend had cheese fries which were super yummy. They give you buzzers and bring your food into the theater, so you can get right to the show.

This was definitely a one-of-a-kind theater going experience. This seems like the perfect place for a throwback showing of Jaws. The theater only has a few showings, but I think they might be selective about what they choose. Next time I’m eager for nostalgia and a cozy experience I will head back here!

Take Me to The Derby

Skip forward a couples years to when I met my husband at work. We both worked on the marketing team for Holmes Custom. After weeks of "accidentally" having our lunch break at the same time, exchanging popcorn puns, and walk-by-desk flirting, he asked me to go to a movie. Intrigued by this strapping young man, I agreed to see "Isle of Dogs." I was also thrilled to find a Wes Anderson fan in the wild.

The week of the movie, Michael took the gambit further and said oh-so-casually, "maybe we should get dinner, too." I said, sure, "we can meet up after my Never Quit 10k that day." (The only 10k I have and run in my life). It was date.

While the Derby in 5 Points is shut down now, my heart will go on whenever I think of it. I remember walking down blank street and seeing my coworker transformed. He had a button down shirt, maroon v-neck sweater, crisp jeans and nice brown dress shoes. After a litany of disappointing online dates prior to this, I finally saw what I had hoped for. He had a serious look on his face, slightly furrowed brow and looked like, maybe, he'd been waiting his whole life for me too.

We had messy, spicy wings that were delicious, though a bit of a challenge for keeping first date clean. I think I had a salad. I don't remember what he ordered, but I do remember that he said his nana would me. We walked across the street to the theater and got cozy in our seats to watch this animated movie about a motley crew of pups in Japan. Michael walked me to my car afterwards, regaling me with behind-the-scenes factoids about filming the movie. In a rush of crush induced fervor, I nearly sprinted to my car rather than stay and chat.

And that was the last first date of my life. ❤️

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