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Marc Summers Talks Dunkel Dare,Stephen Starr, and Christmas Time with Marc Vetri

Marc Summers returns to host Dunkel Dare
Marc Summers returns to host Dunkel Dare
Photo: Drink Philly

One of Philly Beer Week's most anticipated events is the second annual Dunkel Dare competition at Frankford Hall, hosted by none other than the iconic Nickelodeon Double Dare MC Marc Summers on June 5-6. Last year's event got a lot of national attention due to Mr. Summers' hilarious reprimanding outburst to the audience.

In between hosting Unwrapped on the Food Network and executive-producing Restaurant:Impossible, Summers makes plenty of time to enjoy the Philadelphia food scene, in his mind the best in the nation.

Eater caught up with him to chat about what attendees can expect for the second edition of Dunkel Dare, his favorite chef in town, and what he thinks of Stephen Starr.

Philly Beer Week is one of Philly food lovers' favorite events of the year, and everyone's especially excited for your second annual Dunkel Dare. What was your favorite part of hosting last year's event?
It was just amazing, the reaction that that thing got. It sort of blew my head open because I just in a million years never thought that anybody really cared anymore. And I guess if you take green slime and whipped cream and combine it with beer, things happen. It was good, I had a great time.

It was definitely very memorable! So for people that attended last year, what can they expect this year that will be different?
First thing is, we're bringing back our announcer Harvey as well as Robin, who was our original assistant [on Double Dare]. So that's darn exciting. Also, they decided to add an obstacle this year, so who knows what that's going to bring? I'm very excited to see where that whole thing goes. So, you know, we're just trying to make it a little bigger, a little better. The other thing is, we had such a huge crowd last year that a lot of people didn't get in, so they're going to be showing the event on large screen TVs all over the place, which is fantastic, and also there's going to be room for the overflow crowd at Fette Sau right next door.

Have you had a chance to eat at Fette Sau yet?
It was great! I've been there several times, I really like it. It's one of my favorite restaurants in town right now, I gotta tell you -- it's fantastic.

What are some other favorite food spots of yours right now in Philly?
Philly's so tough because there's, like, a bazillion of them. Osteria is one of our stomping grounds; anything Marc Vetri does is amazing. Amada is great. We like Sbraga. We live at Parc. I love Butcher & Singer. And then we have this little place called La Viola on 16th Street that we go to on Sunday nights for linguini and clams. Endless supply of phenomenal food in this town.

Is that something that you notice as setting Philly apart, in all the travel that you do from coast to coast?
Oh yeah, it's the best-kept secret in the United States. There's such a great variety and it's such a walking city, in 20 minutes you can walk from Rittenhouse to Washington Square and pass so many phenomenal restaurants. When I first lived here from '86 to '90, there was nothing. There was Le Bec Fin, and a few other fancy places that were on South Street, Italian-wise, but there was nothing. And now -- think about it -- there's 15 to 75 amazing places in town.

Definitely. Keeps us in business as food writers!
I gotta tell you, there's a great spirit in this town, full of beer, full of food, and just for life. And that's what I love about this city.

My favorite day of the year is Christmas Eve, and as a Jew, that's hard to say. But, every year Marc Vetri invites me to his house and we pig out with his family and friends. For the last 3 or 4 years we've been doing that. And it's just like the best night ever. As good as the food is in his restaurants, it's better at his house. I can't tell you how amazing it is. And he works on it for like 3 or 4 days, making these great swordfish meatballs -- the whole thing's ridiculous, it is so good. So that's like dying and going to heaven.

Does he play guitar for his guests?
He does! Every year, we have a concert after dinner and he sings and plays guitar and it's just a super-mellow evening. Last year, we walked out and it was snowing. It was like something out of a movie, it was so amazing.

That does sound amazing. So, what advice would you give to people planning on hitting Dunkel Dare hard this year?
You gotta get there early. So you can get the best seats up front. But as opposed to last year, where if you weren't in that one patio area, you were pretty much out of the picture, you'll be able to see it everywhere, next door as well. I think that energy will be even stronger. So there really won't be a bad seat in the house. Just come to have fun, you know?

Totally. Anything you recommend people order while they're at Frankford Hall?
You know, they have perhaps the best selection of beers in town, so if you're a beer aficionado... a lot of the guys I work with go up there specifically for that, because of the choices they have. Food-wise, actually after the second show last year, I had a huge table of friends and they literally brought one out of everything from the menu. And it was fantastic. It's what Stephen does best, which is that he's a showman. It's a great restaurant, and he always has great food, and that's why he's stayed in business as long as he has, and why he has so many successful restaurants. He knows what the hell he's doing. He's fantastic. I just admire the hell out of Stephen Starr, and what he's managed to do.

I have to confess, it was always my dream to compete on Double Dare. And that show is obviously one of your biggest claims to fame. What was one of your favorite moments of the gig?
Yeah, it put me on the map and put Nickelodeon on the map, no question about it. When we started the darn thing, nobody knew what Nickelodeon was. Cable was in its infancy. So we were just out there playing and having fun, and it became this cult hit, and now grownups anywhere from 25 to 40 have watched the thing and some of their kids would be old enough to play on the show now. So I love hearing the stories, and what it was they liked about it, whether it was the relationship that Harvey and I had, or Robin and I had. You know, we always were respectful of the kids, we never talked down to them. We never said, you know, [in a high-pitched voice] "Hey Bobby, you have a girlfriend?" We always just treated them like adults. And I think they appreciated that. It was ridiculous. Here were these grown people throwing green liquids at 11-year-olds. The whole thing, when you think about it, was just right time, right place. Trying to duplicate that today would be virtually impossible.

When you sign autographs for people, what do you usually write?
Generally, "Thanks for watching" or "Take the physical challenge." And I always ask, "What was your favorite show: was it Double Dare, What Would You Do, or Unwrapped?" And depending on what it is, I'll try to personalize it. So I've been lucky enough to have a couple of hits and some people have following me since they were little, and they followed me right over to the Food Network. Unwrapped is now the longest running show in the history of the channel. So I've had some good success over there as well.

Last question: how do you take your cheesesteak?
Always provolone, onions, that's it. Nothing else. I see people do whiz, I don't get the whiz thing, I see people do mayonnaise, that makes me puke. I like to taste the meat and the cheese and the onions with very little enhancements. My number 1 go-to place is Tony Luke's. I love Tony's steaks, I love his bread. Jim's is good, Pat's and Geno's do a great job. There are so many great places to get steaks, but if I had to pick one it would be Tony Luke's.

-- Allison Stadd

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Frankford Hall

1210 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA