Five Inspiring Restaurant Films

For those of us who start the day thinking about what we’re going to eat, movies about restaurants are a great way to satiate your cravings. 

Of course, there are current ones in theatres now - The Hundred-Foot Journey, Chef, etc. - but if you want to stay in and watch something, here are my top choices:

The Big Night (1996)

First of all, before you sit down to watch this, be sure you have ingredients for a simple Italian dinner on hand or make a reservation at a nearby Italian restaurant. There is absolutely no way that you won’t want Italian food after watching this (back when The Sopranos was on the air, I used to make pasta and have a second dinner while watching). 

And it’s best not to know a thing about it, but just enjoy it purely and simply. After all, that’s how we did it back in ’96.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

This makes it onto most people’s lists and it’s easy to see why. The moving tale of 85-year-old Jiro Ono and his 10-seat sushi-only restaurant in a Tokyo subway station will have you rethinking how you feel about:

1. the quality of sushi
2. how much you’ll pay for sushi
3. popular restaurants that you line up for

Mostly Martha (2001)

This is the original German film that No Reservations (2007) with Catherine Zeta-Jones was based on. Of course, the original is much better. Both center on a woman chef at a top restaurant that suddenly has to care for her sister’s child, and work with a challenging male chef in the kitchen, but this version is sharp, warm and engaging. 

Eat This New York (2004)

This doc follows best friends Billy Phelps and John McCormick as they try to open a New York City eatery. 

While cameos and advice from folks such as Daniel Boulud, Ruth Reichl and Jean-Georges Vongerichten are a treat; the real treasure is the glaringly honest look into what it takes – financially, emotionally, physically – to open a restaurant. 

Spinning Plates (2013)

Three exceptional restaurants are showcased - Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa; Tucson, Arizona’s La Cocina de Gabby; Chicago’s Alinea, one of the most highly rated restaurants in North America. The film illustrates what each must undertake to survive. 

At times, it’s almost too heartbreaking to watch. But push on - spoiler alert – they do prevail!

It just goes to show that whether you’re serving fried chicken (Breitback’s) or Lily Bulb, Rambutan and Distillation of Caviar Lime (Alinea), it all comes back to the insane passion and drive that you have to have to own a restaurant. And the extremely important role restaurants play in our everyday lives.