Updated: Wednesday, October 4, 2017, 10:48 AM
We have seen the post-apocalypse, folks, and at least the food and drinks are good. Mad Rex, certainly the oddest restaurant concept in town, is about to open in Fishtown. Also this week, I found snack-worthy shrimp rolls in Chinatown, a surefire hangover cure on South Street West, and an elegant dining experience in a Exton beer garden — as well as a pumpkin spice latte actually worth drinking. If a regular diet of food news is what you’re after, click here and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Email your tips, suggestions, and questions here. If someone forwarded you this free newsletter and you like what you’re reading, sign up here to get it free every week.
MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff A charred and graffitoed helicopter hangs over a lounge at Mad Rex, 1000 Frankford Ave. Mad Rex: The post-apocalypse, as a night out
Let Hard Rock Cafe celebrate music, Planet Hollywood honor cinema, and Rainforest Cafe re-create the jungle. Mad Rex, now soft-open across from SugarHouse Casino in Fishtown, pays homage to an urban-wasteland future. Post-Apocalypse now. Gimmicky? Of course. But if you just smile and embrace the kitsch, you’ll groove to the cocktail tumblers embedded with bullets, the shell of a helicopter hanging over a lounge, the tabletop cooking of fish and beef on hot rocks (tasty and priced right), the puffs of steam coming from the plane that crashed through the ceiling, and the overall party atmosphere (thumping rock music, costumed staff). Oh, and the virtual-reality chamber, where customers sit in a chair and sip drinks out of a straw hooked up to an IV bag. Sample cocktail: the Scorched Earth. Here’s further elaboration.
What we’re drinking MICHAEL KLEIN / STAFF Pumpkin draft latte by La Colombe.
PSL is generally ICK to me, and the cloying combo of sugar, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice is the single worst aspect of fall. La Colombe boss Todd Carmichael, also a PSL phobe, urged me to try La Colombe’s pumpkin draft latte, made with the same patented process as the rest of LaC’s line of cold draft lattes. Well? Oh, my gourd! It’s the great pumpkin drink. There’s precious little sugar, allowing the pumpkin to shine. LaC also is about to ship more seasonals, including chai tea, peppermint mocha, and dairy-free coconut mocha and coconut. At Whole Foods and Wegmans.
Where we’re eating: QT Vietnamese Hoagies, Little Spoon Cafe, Suburban Restaurant
Well before banh mi became A Thing, fans of the Viet hoagies packed QT Vietnamese Sandwich (48 N. 10th St.), a Chinatown hole-in-the-wall. Since you’re probably taking out, you’ll need a snack to hold you till you’re destinated. Tip: the shrimp rolls (4 for $3) — simply jumbo shrimp, dusted with onion, wrapped in spring-roll wrappers, and deep-fried to a crunch. Get napkins and spare your poor steering wheel. (Want more Chinatown food advice? Check Craig LaBan’s insider’s guide.)
Notice that brunch is where chefs get to trot out their most substantial dishes these days? Logical. They help to soak up any excess from the night before. At South Street West’s cute and winsome Little Spoon Cafe (1500 South St.), you cannot go wrong with the Reuben hash (pastrami over red cabbage and Havartri cheese and potatoes with a sunny-side-up egg) to return you to a semihuman state. Second choice: shakshouka, the zesty poached eggs-in-tomato-sauce combo.
Chef/owner Eric Yost is changing up things at Suburban Restaurant, his progressive-American destination in Exton’s Wellington Square. On Wednesdays through Sundays, he’s offering three-course tasting menus ($40) in the elegant Farmer’s Room. October’s menu includes spicy lamb Bolognese with spinach, Jersey tomatoes, and ricotta over rigatoni. Suburban’s beer-garden side is much less fancy-pants, with small and large bites and a great list of Pennsylvania beers.
If you’re quick, snag a comp soft taco starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, at Andalé Latino Grill, 144 E. Street Road in Feasterville. It’s National Taco Day.
Also happening “now”: The former Union Taco location at 4229 Main St. in Manayunk reopens Wednesday, Oct. 4, as Napoleon Burger with a burger giveaway to the first 100 customers beginning at noon.
Midtown Village Fall Festival is Saturday, Oct. 7, with food, drinks, and general excitement epicentered at 13th and Sansom Streets from noon to 8 p.m.
This week’s openings
Moustaki Authentic Gyros | Logan Square
Gyros and other Greek specialties are on the menu at this cute shop off the Parkway, at 161 N. 21st St.
Napoleon Burger | Manayunk
Burgers sizzle in the former Union Taco at 4229 Main St.
SuVege | Audubon, Montgomery County
“A healthful Honeygrow” is the line on this stir-fry/salad/smoothie specialist in the Trooper area, at 615 S. Trooper Rd.
Trattoria Carina | Rittenhouse
“Neighborhood Italian” is now the theme at 2201 Spruce St., from the owners of predecessor Fitler Dining Room.
This week’s closing
Capogiro | University City
The gelato giant has shut its branch in the Radian at 3925 Walnut St. as the company redoubles its focus on the Italian experience.
Craig LaBan’s Q&A returns next week
Read full story: Let's Eat: The last restaurant on earth