If you’ve ever found yourself wishing for the best of the best of local restaurants, all in one meal, you’re in luck.
About 75 restaurants, caterers, breweries and wineries will showcase their fare at the first Philadelphia Restaurant Festival, to be held March 31 at Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy.
Among the lengthy list of participants are venues from Center City, South Philly, Northeast Philly and everywhere in between. The type of offerings is equally diverse, said Ray Sheehan, partner for organizer UpcomingEvents.com.
“It’s really A-Z,” Sheehan said. “You have some really foodie-inspired restaurants and then Chickie’s and Pete’s serving crab fries. The festival speaks to everyone from the foodie consumer with a more refined palate to someone who just enjoys going out for a very classic meal.”
UpcomingEvents.com has been involved in other food events in the past, such as this past fall’s Taste of Philadelphia with Philly Weekly. Sheehan said the success of such efforts, coupled with his organization’s ongoing evolution, served as the impetus for the festival.
“UpcomingEvents is 16 years old now and, dare I say, our consumer is getting older so we’ve graduated from the two-hour open-bar parties we did 10 or 15 years ago. We now have a broader audience who is interested in all of the amazing things our city offers, especially the restaurants.”
That those offerings will be set against the backdrop of the Academy of Natural Sciences is a bonus, Sheehan said.
“It’s going to be stimulation overdrive,” he laughed. “You can go to a great food event, but it might just be in a nice room with four walls. But in this case, you have the museum backdrop, so there’s a T-Rex in one room and live butterflies floating in the next. The space lends itself really well to a food event because there are all these really cool, stimulating things around you as you walk around and enjoy amazing cocktails and food. It’s an unbelievable backdrop.”
Organizers are aiming for the event to have an impact that goes beyond that one night, Sheehan said.
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the hunger-relief efforts of several local organizations: The Food Trust, Philabundance, St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, Farm to City, Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, the SHARE Food Program and Fair Food Philly.
“We have this amazing event based all around food, but then there are so many food-related issues in the city,” Sheehan said. “There are a lot of people in Philadelphia who aren’t as fortunate as those who will be out celebrating the city’s food and restaurants; for them, it may be challenging to have a hot meal every day. So we wanted to do our part to help these amazing charities who work every day to solve the city’s food-related issues.”
For more information or tickets, visit www.restaurantfestival.com/philadelphia/tickets.