Is there a better time in history for a post-apocalyptic-themed restaurant than now?
The newly opened Mad Rex in Fishtown definitely steps up to the plate with an aesthetic that includes salvaged airplane and helicopter chassis, fantasy art, flat-screen TVs playing sports and “Mad Max” films, mannequins decked out in wild scrap metal and a virtual-reality lounge.
All those visual bells and whistles are just a bonus, because the food is amazing. (No, you won’t be chowing down on MRE rations and beef jerky.)
There are a variety of dishes that make good use of fresh, local ingredients, ranging from flatbreads and salads to kabobs. A prime example of this is the rock-charred octopus and fennel salad ($11). The octopus is perfectly grilled and dressed in a lively citrus vinaigrette.
But you absolutely, positively have to order from the survivor menu: You are brought a tray of your choice of protein (beef, seafood or chicken) prepared rare and sliced with a hot lava rock, butter, lemon and seasonings for you to finish cooking at the table. It fits into the restaurant’s theme, as diners gather to cook food in the most primal and primitive form. We tried the culotte beef ($24) and the tuna steak ($23) and both were excellent fresh off the rock. There are a number of sides available (each $5), but the rice and beans are a great choice with any meal as you can toss them on the lava rock and crisp them up even more. You can also bump up the seasoning with a selection of dips, rubs and sauces ($3 for three), the best of which is the well-rounded and spicy hot-pepper relish.
Desserts at Mad Rex are a simple but effective affair, and most come in the form of shooters, ranging from the classic cannoli ($5) to the more-refined goat cheesecake ($5).
After dinner, make a digital escape from the wasteland in the virtual-reality lounge. For $2 per minute, you can strap on VR goggles, order up a camelback pouch of a cocktail (we recommend the spicy and citrusy Hunter cocktail) and order from a menu of VR experiences, ranging from space exploration to a haunted house full of monsters.
With a unique vision and hands-on dining experience, Mad Rex is an excellent and captivating addition to the restaurant scene in Philly. If society has to collapse into oblivion, we can’t think of a better place to ride out the apocalypse.