Free ThinkFest Tickets: Prove Your Genius

As we mentioned yesterday, Philadelphia magazine’s ThinkFest is coming to town on November 30 and December 1 and with it, we’re bringing together some of the finest minds in the Philly food scene to talk about the past, the present and the future of food in Philadelphia.

We’ve got Stephen Starr coming in as our keynote speaker on Friday night, offering a candid interview about his years in the restaurant industry. On Saturday, Bill Covaleski and Tom Kehoe–the owners of Victory Brewing and Yards Brewing–will be talking about beer in Philadelphia. And then, later the same day, Aimee Olexy, Michael Solomonov, Brad Spence and Marcie Turney will be sitting down to talk about Philadelphia’s evolving food scene. All of these people are innovators. All of them bring big ideas to the city. All of them put their names, their money and their reputations on the line to make Philly the food town it is.

And we want to send you to the event for free. All you have to do to score a pair of tickets? Have one really good idea for the future of food in Philly…

So here’s the deal. You think you know what Philadelphia’s food scene really needs? Now’s the time to speak up. We’re gathering some of the brightest minds in Philly food and drink together for Philadelphia magazine’s ThinkFest, and we want the smartest and most forward-thinking Foobooz readers to go for free.

In order to win the free tickets, just tell us your big food idea. And we’re not talking about something small like complaining that the city doesn’t have enough good Thai food. No, we want something broader, more fundamental. We want to know what you would do to make the city’s restaurant scene stronger, deeper, better than it is right now.

All big ideas go in the comments section below. And you’ve got until Thursday, November 15 to come up with something awesome. We’ll announce the winner (or winners) on Friday.

Got it? Good. Now let’s see what you’ve got.

ThinkFest [Philadelphia magazine]

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  • nick ciafre

    Philly needs some more down south Louisiana cajun food. Was down there the passed weekend and that food is amazing! Good cajun food is hard to come by in this area. Let’s make it happen!

  • Alimentarian

    It would be nice to have a high-end Indian restaurant, though I’m not sure if Philadelphia is quite ready for it, particularly if it were to be in a kind of out-of-the-way location.

  • Ceej

    Philly needs a lunch truck that works exclusively with bacon and vegan coconut bacon. It could be called The B.L.T. (Bacon Lunch Truck).

  • Sean

    Philly needs a big “casual” food event like other places – i.e., think the BBQ in DC, or the Garlic festival in Gilroy… Something that takes over all of Broad Street from like south to City Hall…

  • jeannette

    We need to get rid of the PLCB. It limits the selection of wine and liquor that restaurants can offer and affects the prices that restaurants charge. It definitely holds Philadelphia back from going to the next level.

  • LJG

    This may be a kind of boring suggestion, but I think would really benefit the city. We lack a quick, healthy, multi-location lunch venue, the type all over NYC. Think Hale and Hearty or Pax. We have no consistent fast, decent options in Philly.

  • In a city of Neighborhoods, everyone sticks too close to their favorites and stand-bys. In the spirit of culinary adventure, Philly should offer certificates of completion for completing self-chartered yet semi-sponsored dining excursions. Once someone has tried the top three (or five if they exist!) sushi restaurants, they vote/review and then perhaps get an incentive/kickback. They are then Philly-sushi-certified. Next they get all their Starrs in a row. Next their BBQ. And so on. Fun!

  • Janeane

    With a city full of food junkies, I think food education/smaller dining events would be a very powerful thing. Audrey Claire’s Cook is certainly at the forefront of this movement, and the city is hungryyyy for more food knowledge of this type. I think opening up access to experiences like those at Cook, or the classes at Tria/Counter Culture would go a long way in building a greater food community among us (both eaters and industry).

    On top of it all, places like Cook showcase our delicious city to all levels of talent from New York, California, Seattle and more. It boosts the city up, both in the minds of Philadelphians (literally/figuratively/etc.) and on a super national level as well.

    Livingsocial has actually done something really exciting in D.C. by opening their massive HQ at 918 F. Street where they also host events. With a stage kitchen they hold pop up restaurant events, cooking classes on another floor, and a boatload of other cool stuff I wish we had. Events include Hot Sauce Demos + Tasting, Sausage-making and beer, Kimchee + Cocktails, etc, etc, etc.

    Philly, we need one of these instituties of higher eating. Cheers.

  • Drea Mare

    Soup and Grilled Cheese . . . DUH! Not just any soup and grilled cheese but delicious combinations. Create your own grilled cheese with bacon, brie, and granny smith apples. . . The possibilities are endless. It would be quick delicious and its what we need. Who doesn’t love grilled cheese and soup even in the summer.

  • Pepper Orfe

    Philly needs to institute a city-wide open BYOB (wine or beer only policy) to spur the PLCB to come up with better selections of wine!! The entire system truly needs an overhaul, but the Good-Ol’-Boy political system in Harrisburg won’t ever let that truly come to fruition, unfortunately.

  • bluehensfan

    Philadelphia needs to develop some incentives to encorage world class chefs to open restaurants in our town. While we are blessed to have people like Michael Solomonov, Steven Starr, Jose Garces, and Marcie Turney (and Valerie), we need to get the Allen Wongs and other folks like that to come to town. Hawaiian food in Philly? It’s about time!

  • Patty

    We need a FooBooz on steroids! You guys do a great job of reporting, but we need you to be more of a leader to expose more folks to the intricacies of dining in PHiladelphia. Rather than tell us that there is a great new restaurant, like the MIldred, how about organizing a dinner there and having the Chef speak? Or organizing a walking tour of Bella Vista to show foodies from other neighborhoods what great stuff there is down there? You could get the restaurants to sponsor, and be the leader in integrating food, neighborhood, community. New restaurants will take care of themselves. What we need is to get the word out. Next level….national.

  • Bix Paz

    Although the PAFA has a wonderful yearly food/wine event called the Bacchanal, the city needs a comparable event that the common folk can afford to attend. This will surely fuel the Philly food scene’s future by providing additional creative input and ideas from countless new attendees, especially lots of younger people with fresh new ideas and perspective!

  • Alimentarian

    Approve the second casino. That way, maybe Jose Garces will start opening restaurants in Philadelphia again.

  • Mark Zwick

    Eliminate our homeless sleeping near our hotels and restaurants. Eliminate the constant begging on every block in center city. That will bring more people in from the burbs for a nice night out in PHL. I bet the restaurants would like the additional of good, paying clients. That is the BIG idea.

  • Joe

    Indian food taco truck. Imagine the possibilies. Lamb vindaloo burrito. Chicken tikka masala hard tacos. You can use naan or regular torillas for the wraps. Tandoor chicken nachos. Yum…

  • Monica

    A real weekend, weekly night market with street foods from all over the world!

  • Ryan O

    Philly was a little late to the food truck scene, however it seems that our food truck proprietors are quick learners. Our food trucks are now producing some of the most inventive and delicious food in the city- only problem is tracking them down and finding consistency in their locations.

    The Philly Mobil food association was definitely a step in the right direction but there is still a lot of red tape preventing the masses from realizing what a good thing Philly has going on right now. The problem being that the trucks are segmented and splintered (love park group, Penn group, Temple group…ect) and there is no way to follow them all without following individual twitter and FB pages in addition there is no central meeting place for the masses to enjoy them on the weekend. I know some restaurant owners are not thrilled of the idea of a central gathering location, but I doubt the trucks are going to cut into the business of our awesome restaurant scene. The person dining at Vernick is typically different from the person who wants to coat his stomach with a LOS burger before a night of drinking or the girl who is looking to bring home a Pitruco pizza after spilling out of Mcgillans. So lets make it easier for this to happen!

    There are more than enough empty lots and to have a permanent place to set up shop would allow for scheduling and themed nights (burger night- spot burger, LOS, Joe’s Spuds) and everyone would know where to head to guarantee they can get a great bite for a decent price. It would also allow for late night dinning consisting of more than your standard cheese steak or slice of pizza. This would also help to bring the association closer and feed of each others business. In addition a central web site listing all trucks and their daily locations as well as who is going to be setting up shop at the “permanent” location for the week or weekend. The website would allow for promotion and menu updates all in the same place. We have only scratched the surface with the food truck scene its time to take it to the level of other major cities like NY and LA

  • Darla

    I would love to see a larger ‘Offal/Whole animal cooking’ movement in the city. Not just focusing on importance of local and organic, but showcasing it all. (To be fair, there are a few places that do this.)
    The type of cuisine should not matter, just great chefs showing us that nothing needs to be wasted.

  • Michael Massimino

    Seasonal cooking is all the rage, chefs are reaching back to the roots of cooking which was to take what was available today and elevate it to something tasty.

    What if you took that concept to its logical end? Sort of an evolution of the pop-up. Every three months, renew everything; the executive chef, menu, signage, paint the walls a different color to reflect the season. It will always be exciting and new because it’s exciting and new. And if it’s a clunker, well it’s only around long enough to renew itself again with the next guy.

  • More- lots more open farmers markets to buy fresh produce, cheeses,meats and baked goods. . And not just something that happens every second Saturday. We lack this big time. It brings communities together and puts the joy back in cooking at home. And in return really appreciating the meals that are made for us at our favorite resturants.

  • Underground supper clubs

  • lynn

    New idea for casual ’round town’ eatery. HUMMUS “R” US
    Theme is hummus sandwiches with topping(s) and/or spreads. Spreads/toppings including pesto, peanut butter, cheese,nuts, seeds, veggies, mac and cheese, tofu, etc. Platters availabile as well. Other options also available, but theme is on different types of hummus. Fruit or tortilla chips served alongside. Bottled drinks and maybe smoothies too!

    Philly craves a hummus joint!

  • Barbara E. Turner

    Make downtown Philly safe for locals and tourists to walk at night and it will become a much more inviting hospitality venue! For example, get more police presence and install brighter street and public transportation lighting. Perhaps restaurants could pool resources and pay for police overtime hours or create their own “hospitality protection service” that walks the highly-patronized restaurant neighborhoods in clearly identifiable uniforms and with direct communication access to Philly Police.

  • Ben

    Big Idea: Gardens in the parks. This city has many medium sized parks which we are all very proud of, but if we could set aside 10% of each park to actually grow our own produce we would have something no one else is doing right now. Imagine having chefs in a lottery to buy the fresh crop of Rittenhouse eggplant, or Washington Square kale. As each season passes we can spotlight a different local food and focus on the benefit of ‘locally grown’ in a new and innovative way. The gardens can be run by the city and the sale of the crops can benefit city programs for our many at risk youth and we can all work as a better community.

    We should also be utilizing our Roof-Top spaces for this project, but lets start with the places that already have the dirt in them for our new “CityFarmer” project.

  • kevinp

    Philly needs shola to open a restaurant.

  • stuart

    The more community / communal dining events we have the better.

    Another thought is to adopt a food theme for a weekend, a week, a month that every restaurant in the city could participate in. Perhaps the theme could be a particular item like hot dogs or hamburgers or eggs. Or the theme could be a particular dish like spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna, etc.

  • Jaya

    Philly has a reputation for being a great food city (as noted in Food and Wine magazine, the New York Times, Travel and Leisure – the list goes on) – and I think everyone here can agree that our beloved city deserves that reputation. Our city also happens to be poised to really take the lead on providing healthy, nutritious food in underserved areas – and has been noted as being one of the more progressive cities in the nation when it comes to this issue (thank you, New York Times: What I’d like to see is for restauranteurs and public health advocates to collaborate to find ways to further bring healthful, delicious food into the neighborhoods that most need it. Why not take innovators in public health, like the Food Trust, who have already earned federal money to promote initiatives like the Healthy Corner Store Initiative and the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, and bring them into conversation with innovators in Philly’s restaurant scene to bring the best of what Philly offers, foodwise, together? Think about what a city, famous for its food trucks, could do if they were willing and able to take that kind of mobility and bring healthy, delicious food not only to people who already seek it out but to those who really and truly need it.

  • Pam

    Less expensive restaurant for a family to eat out, a kids menu without chicken fingers and mac and cheese on it and southern cooking!

  • Nisha

    I think Philadelphia needs a cooking school for children – there are places that do cupcake and cookie decorating parties, but nothing that really gets children involved in appreciating foods. I think it would help get chicken fingers off the menus on restaurants. If you treat kids like kids instead of small people then they stay stuck in that mold.

  • Kevin

    With the possibility of food trucks becoming more prominent in the city due to new legislation, Philly can take advantage of this. Having something like a weekly food truck challenge would not only get the name of newer trucks out, but also give recognition to those that deserve it. There could be a different kind of cuisine featured every weekend and begin as an open invitation for all kinds of trucks to participate. There could be some kind of point system or ranking, leading up to the vendy’s and inviting some of the leaders to that. It could also possibly weed out the weaker food trucks.

  • Philly needs a vegan/GF/food-allergy-sensitive brunch spot. Us GF/DF folks still crave pancakes and a good cappuccino — one with our choice of milk be it rice, soy, almond or coconut. The place would have to be good enough for “regular” people, too, with locally sourced, seasonal food, i.e, pumpkin pancakes, peach waffles, quinoa porridge with maple syrup and apples, tofu scramble with jersey tomatoes & vegan bacon…

    Sure, now in Philly you can get a soy latte one place, and a dry, crumbly GF muffin somewhere else, but I want my FULL breakfast in ONE spot. Ideally, it should also be a “green” restaurant with all compostable utensils and take-out containers.

  • Jackie

    It would be great if Philly can organize, in a more holistic way, farm to table working kitchen restaurants / program. There is so much interest in knowing where our food comes from, perferably local, as seen in all the posts for more farmers markets, and working gardens in our parks. At the end of the day, the food gets put on the table. It would be great to have different restaurants be a display of this process. It can branch out to being a classroom kitchen, where the diner becomes the chef, the gardner, the farmer, maybe the butcher, but ultimately getting the experience of the many hands that are integral for creating a wonderful meal.

  • Josh

    Philadelphia should have a “Cafeteria” to make its great restaurants and chefs more accessible. The cafeteria concept could allow a rotating cast of chefs each to design a single dish per day, and patrons could choose their dish from among the various selections. Both the chefs and the dishes could change daily, so that it would not be too big a burden on any one chef’s day job.

  • Heidi

    Create Philly interactive food/drink/walking trail maps based on different neighborhoods & topics like: Belgian beer bars, Italian bakeries, places for small plates. Each map would highlight about 5 places within the topic. Great to highlight neighborhood gems as well as more established places.

  • Adrienne

    Philly needs a food and wine festival. Atlantic City has one, NYC has one, Miami has one, Austin has one, etc etc. A food and wine fest is a great way to showcase the city as a culinary destination.

  • rory

    A restaurant space that provides two things:

    1. A rotating opportunity for non-executive chefs to try their hand at running a space. Something where there’s a standard menu based off of favorites from the experimental menus, but every week or two a separate space in the back (or tasting menu, if you don’t want to split spaces) allows someone to go crazy with their menu. Menus would be voted on in advance by eaters. So 3 or 4 chefs would submit menus, people who eat there would vote, and the winning menu would take over next month at a set price. Oh, and the winning chef would make a good chunk of money/share the profits for winning, instead of just the “honor” of having more cooking to do. Any chef would be welcome to participate. Names would not be associated with menus submitted.

    2. Along with that menu, the winning chef would have to host one class at the space on how they came up with the menu, a trick for how to make something, etc. Said class would be free–or at least cheap–to attend and short (an hour or less). Maybe late at night instead of normal hours. Preferably over drinks :)

    and blogs without agendas/favorites. or that at least acknowledge said favoritism more. not just foobooz, though y’all do it too and you know my thoughts on that.

  • Adam

    Philadelphia needs a restaurant workers union. People that are full time and dedicated workers to the food industry need rights and representation just like any other group of employees in other industries.

    This general union could be broken down into even more specific sub unions that are more focused on the different restaurant workers (bus boys, cooks, servers, etc). The overall union and/or sub unions would be able to fight for decent wages, fair working hours, health benefits, etc.

  • Alimentarian

    @38, why, so the restaurant workers too can picket along with the other union members while they’re trying to impede progress?

  • Naren

    Build a warehouse (heated during the winter, air-conditioned during the summer) with picnic tables where food (and beverage) trucks can drive in and out, maybe during the evening after they’ve served lunch at their respective spots around town. Provide individual sealed venting for trucks as well as good parking for customers and access via public transit.

  • Bill

    Let’s assemble a dream team, or a few dream teams, of Philly chefs, (there are certainly enough here) and have a an iron-chef / top chef style showdown vs teams of chefs from other cities. First on the list of cities to take down, NYC, since that is the only other comparable food city on the east coast. And have it someplace big, where a lot of people could partake in the event. After the likes of Vetri and Garses and Solomonov and Sabatino take down the chefs of New York, we can demolish the cuisine from Chicago, San Francisco and so on.

    Think Rocky, but culinary fisticuffs and no Mr T.

    To make it sweeter, let’s do something good for each city that takes part in the process. Proceeds from the dinner can go towards a charity chosen by the winning team, like Vetri’s foundation for school nutrition.

  • Brian

    1. guerilla potluck picnics in city parks. @guerillapicnic

  • Mackie

    I would like to see a Nordic Food Movement in Philadelphia that is NOT IKEA. I would like to see someone really push the envelope and take that cuisine to another level in the city.

    In addition, I think if we modernized the drive-in move experience with a 50/60’s style bar & restaurant (as Stephen Starr had discussed doing) it would really take off.

    I agree with 37. I have had a similar idea for at least two years.

  • Jodie

    I have two thoughts.

    1. It would be great to incorporate more entertainment into the food scene. Live music plus great food is a win for me.

    2. It would be great to see a place that had a garden/farm where you can pick/choose the foods they will use in your meal. You could really make a day of it. It would give people a chance to learn about sustainable agriculture as well as teaching unique ways to use local ingredients.

  • Diane

    A BBQ place that offers the different styles of BBQ (Memphis, Tex-Mex, Carolina, etc) with a variety of sides that match the styles. Pair the BBQs with the appropriate beer, beverage.

  • Laura

    More mom and pop type restaurants, where someone (who is actually present) really cares and appreciates that you are there.

  • Susan Finkelstein

    Everywhere I look in Philly are community gardens, pocket gardens, school gardening teaching lots, etc. It would be great to encourage local restaurants to purchase produce grown by these amateur farmers — the profits of which would go into transforming more blighted lots/neighborhoods into green space. I love the way that the Philly Mural Arts Project was such a huge success: bring color and vibrancy and art to often-blighted areas and dilapidated buildings. Why not do the same with a Garden Project? Plus, a big incentive for restaurants to use Philly-grown food would be a tax break, since it would be a charitable contribution.

  • Sandra T.

    I think that Philly needs more authentic ethnical restaurant, the kind that serves food like it is eaten by the locals back at their country of origin.
    Take Chifa and Garces’s restaurants for example, they take the root concept (Ecuatorian, Peruvian, Spanish food) and “americanize” it , in order to make it more palatable. They are great concepts but we have that type of restaurant already.
    Philly needs more of the real thing, no more of the “Americanized” version of it.
    We could start with having Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken Restaurant, it is a fast food type of meal (back in Peru is served with salad and French fries, with some hot sauce on the side. It is not like the rotisserie chicken that you buy in the grocery store, but way more juicy and tasty!). Rotisserie Chicken like that could be made into a nice dinner experience, not expensive, and could be family inclusive. I have only seem some few of these type of restaurants in the suburbs, but none in the Center City area.
    More real ethnical restaurants. That is what Philly food scene needs!

  • Mark

    Despite the cold winters Philly needs more street food. So while there is the Reading Terminal Market it would be great to have an outdoor street market based on the Asian street markets eg Hawker stalls in Singapore ( ).. doesn’t have to be Asian food in fact the more eclectic the better!

  • Sue H

    Restaurants continue to contribute to the great vibe in Philadelphia. But how about doing more to pair restaurants with other great cultural happenings in the city such as theatre, museum exhibits, and concert?
    We would be promoting more of what’s great about our city and helping to support restaurants and the arts!

  • locustst

    I’d love to see the Eataly-style project planned for the old Strawbridge’s take advantage of the city’s fantastic tradition of department store restaurants. I’m advocating for this in part because it would be awesome, but also because it would contribute to the rebirth of Market East.

    Philly has a great history in this area–e.g. Horn and Hardart, the Crystal Teal Room at Wanamaker’s–that the developers would work from. Of course, the most exciting possibility is the resurrection of the automat. Additionally, however, I can easily imagine a contemporary version of tea time that suits the tourists and conventioneers who need a snack at 3 or 4:00.

    Market East has to change, but it would be a real shame if it didn’t retain any sense of it’s rich history while doing so.

  • Philly doesn’t need more or more varied restaurants, the scene is just fine as is and natural selection, evolution, will take care of the inevitable and necessary pruning. What the city needs is access and awareness. Advertising is usually an individual, restaurant-specific exercise except for the rare festival when chefs or neighborhoods or styles merge to create a go-to event. There needs to be more of this group recognition and attraction. Then, we must make it easier for the customer, once they know what’s happening and where to go, to get there—efficiently, inexpensively and safely. Clean, fast and safe ways to explore, sample and come back, that’s what’s lacking. Welcome them, make it easy and they will come, everybody wins.

  • Deb C.

    Philadelphia needs more cooking classes available (especially to those of us who work 9-5). We have some, but they are limited in time and place (and sometimes space). We also should have a cooking show on cable TV with step by step instructions (along the lines of Martha Stewart’s cooking school on PBS) and showcase a different restaurant each week. Also, our own “Philadelphia Cooking” magazine, highlighting recipes from our area (one week Italian recipes from South Philly, one week German recipes, one week Chinese recipes from Chinatown, etc.).

  • Grace

    I think what could make Philadelphia really special is a rotating chef/host collaboration of the supper club variety. A “host” is a Philadelphian who’s willing and able to comfortably seat a small party (and have work-able kitchens). People who want to be hosts and chefs nominate themselves or a friend to a S.C. committee who selects the host and chef for a once a month event. People who want to be guests can see online who the pool of chefs are for that month, pay a maximum anticipated ticket price which can later be adjusted, and only on their dining date will they know who their chef is and the menu. (Surprise!) Or maybe they can choose their chef, I haven’t decided if that would be a deal breaker. Being a host would be a particular honor because you can choose the first two (or four?) guests for free. Over time, bartenders can submit themselves to the committee as well for coursed cocktails.

    This might be a great opportunity for emerging culinary talent in the city, and develop a stronger sense of community and spirit among guests who get to know would-be strangers. Creating more “secret” or limited food events for the adventurous breaks people out of the restaurant mold and gives people something different and unexpected to look forward to.

    Laying out all the details and how to’s here would be annoying, but you get the idea.

  • jonny

    Late Night Salads! healthy, delicious, crunchy, late night fare please

  • jonny

    Sour brew pub! a funky little spot dedicated to capturing and utilizing local wild yeast strains to create beer, cheese, wine, chacuterrie, kombucha, and other fermentables…

  • DM

    With the city’s penchant for affordable dining ie BYOBs, the idea of a Supper club/Underground dining seems like it would catch on very quickly. The idea is to create mystery/excitement, make dining more exclusive and to have strangers connect over food.

  • jonny

    a killer high volume juice shop that could keep prices low, and act as a center for all those folks interested in juice cleansing and such. they could also sell fresh juice to all the bars and restaurants

  • Lord Chesterfried

    Abolish yelp.

  • Fred

    Immigration is a driver of innovation in food, and Philly does not appear to be attracting the same immigration that helps drive food culture forward so much in other great food culture cities. More could be done to tap the immigrant food cultures that are scattered round Philly neighborhoods and pull their ideas and people into the centre city mix. Schemes lalong the lines of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurants could be used to tap the talent and provide opportunities for young people in money poor but culture rich neighborhoods to bring their ideas and hopes to Philly’s scene.

  • Myra Anne

    Food trucks (THE BEST) need to go to events. They need to be available strategically after performing arts events and places to go visit between bar scenes. Take them to the river or take them to First Fridays. Art and food trucks.

  • Guest

    Philly needs more late night eating joints. All there is right now are cheesesteaks and pizza. What about an upscale french fry bar with all sorts of dipping sauces. Who doesn’t love a good french fry.