Mad Rex: The post-apocalypse, as a restaurant

A suited torso hangs over the seating at Mad Rex, 1000 Frankford Ave.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but — well — at least there’s food and entertainment.

Mad Rex — billed as the world’s first post-apocalyptic-themed restaurant and virtual-reality lounge — has soft-opened at Frankford Avenue and Laurel Street in Fishtown, across from SugarHouse Casino and around the corner from the Fillmore. You can’t miss it, given the hulking battle truck parked out front that soon will be hoisted 14 feet up the building’s facade, and the graffitoed helicopter, visible through the windows, suspended over the DJ booth in one of the lounges. Official opening is Friday, Oct. 6.

Let Hard Rock Cafe celebrate music and Rainforest Cafe re-create the jungle. Mad Rex, tapping into our Great National Funk, pays homage to a wasteland world of the future you’d find in Terminator, 12 MonkeysMad Max, and The Walking Dead.

Camera icon MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Black rock steak, plus setups, is cooked at the table at Mad Rex.

It’s like a Halloween party with costumed staff, thumping rock-and-roll, entrees you cook at the table on black lava rock, a two- sided bar serving drinks with such cheery names as Scorched Earth.

Part of a 17-foot airplane, which appears to have crashed through the dining room ceiling, puffs smoke. Wall cases display primitive weapons, tools, and masks. Survivor-costumed heads and torsos hang over booths. And in a private chamber off the virtual-reality lounge, “lab techs” hook up patrons in a old-fashioned physician’s chair and offer them drinks served in a IV bag with a straw.

Gimmickry? Sure, but as a friend pointed out, isn’t that the reason you’d go in the first place?

Camera icon MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Bar scene at Mad Rex, 1000 Frankford Ave.

Mad Rex — short for Restaurant Entertainment Xperience and unrelated to the Mad Mex chain of cantinas — is the creation of a two Floridians: Pavel Rathousky, who owns construction companies and was a butcher back home in Prague, and Michael Johnigean, a real estate investor and creator, years ago, of a natural-foods cafe. They said they sensed opportunity in the area, now a full-fledged entertainment district, which also includes Revolutions, Philadelphia Distilling, and Punchline. Goose Island will open a brewpub across the way next year.

Camera icon MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
A charred and graffitoed helicopter hangs over a lounge at Mad Rex, 1000 Frankford Ave.

They’ve hired locals, including executive chef Peter Rule (formerly of Brigantessa, Fork, and Avance), who is running a scratch kitchen featuring meats sourced from George L. Wells Meat Co. across the street. Centerpiece of the menu is the black lava rock cooking, for which patrons get a slab heated to 500 degrees and ingredients (such as 14-ounce New York strip for $28 and 7-ounce salmon for $20). Spear your protein, drop it on the rock, and in moments, you serve yourself.

Ice cream is served in bowls made of Himalayan salt, and the idea is to pick up a faint saltiness to counter the sweetness.

Menu includes items prepared in the kitchen — including salads, flatbreads, kebabs, a burger, and main dishes including grilled kale pappardelle, grilled pork chop, and scallops. There are vegetarian options.

Mad Rex opening hours are 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. An “Hour After”-themed happy hour, late-night bar menu, children’s menu, and weekend brunch are on the way.

More photos are here.

Camera icon MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
A customer does virtual reality at Mad Rex, 1000 Frankford Ave.