The gas masks are lined up on the shelves and the banged-up helicopter sits waiting to be mounted to the ceiling as post-apocalyptic theme restaurant Mad Rex gets closer to its opening in Fishtown. The restaurant, located next to the Fillmore at Frankford and Delaware Avenues, is shooting for the first week of September. Michael Johnigean, who owns Mad Rex with partners including Pavel Rathousky, a master butcher from Prague, promises Philly is getting something that’s “the first in the world like this.”
The first thing people will likely notice is the truck set on 14-foot-high pilings outside the restaurant shooting flames and smoke. “It will have machine guns on the back, with ‘Mad Rex’ lit up on the side,” describes Johnigean. “It’s right on the corner where all the traffic comes in from SugarHouse Casino and the Fillmore, so people are going to drive by and say, ‘What is that? A truck on fire?’ People are going to be inquisitive.”
A plane inside the restaurant won’t be on fire, but it will look like it crashed through the roof. Patrons can simulate crashing a plane, and hundreds of other scenarios, in Mad Rex’s virtual reality room. No need to finish your drink first: The VR host, dressed as a nurse, will pour it into an IV bag, to be sipped through the IV tube (because you can’t see a drink with VR goggles on, Johnigean explains).
It’s a big venue, with seats for about 225, lots of bar space, outdoor tables, and spots set aside for selfies — because who can come to a restaurant decorated as a wasteland and not snap a photo? Servers will be in “rugged” uniforms, Johnigean says, with “post-apocalyptic accessories.” Delicious Boutique, also in Fishtown, is supplying parts of the outfits.
Mad Rex’s glassed-in kitchen gives diners more than the usual glimpse into the action. A meat-carving butcher, also dressed post-apocalyptically (which sounds terrifying), will be positioned prominently.
But don’t think the restaurant is all style, no substance, says Johnigean. Chef Peter Rule, whose résumé includes Brigantessa, Fork, and Avance, will be running the kitchen. The meat that on-display butcher will be carving comes from George L Wells Meat Co., located across the street. The pastries will be made in-house. “Everything will be made from scratch,” Johnigean says. “It’s five-star dining. It doesn’t get any better quality than this.”
And, of course, since this is a post-apocalyptic restaurant, diners can grill their own food. Go for the “black rock dining” option to get a hot black rock, a slab of Himalayan salt, seasonings and sauces, and a choice of meat. Then put them together. “You can be a survivor,” Johnigean says, “cooking your own food on a rock.”
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