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University City gears up for 10th annual Dining Days

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By TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For 21st Century Media

Visitors to Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood can eat their way around the world at the annual Dining Days.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the event offers meals at a variety of dining destinations in the West Philly section of the city. From July 17 through 27, visitors can digest delectable dishes at 26 local eateries.
The variety of restaurants in University City includes craft beer bars, celebrity chef restaurants, BYOBs and more. Delights from India, Ethiopia, China, Vietnam, the U.S. and more can be enjoyed.
During Dining Days, each participating restaurant will offer a pre-fixe three-course dinner special. Prices are $15, $25 or $35 (check the list of participating restaurants on the event’s website to see which establishment is offering which price). Organizers believe that the discounted and varied price points “make it affordable to dine at a new location every night of the event, leaving your curiosity and taste buds replete and your wallet full.”

Han Dynasty Restaurant. University City Dining Days

Han Dynasty Restaurant. University City Dining Days

One of the event organizers, Lori Klein Brennan, of University City District, thinks the varied price points make it easy for everyone to get involved.
“We wanted to be as inclusive as possible,” she said. “People have a variety of budgets. There are lots of college students here. We thought the price tier would work out well.”
University City District, a partnership of world-renowned anchor institutions, small businesses and residents that creates opportunity, improves economic vitality and quality of life in that neighborhood, has enjoyed the collaboration with restaurateurs and community leaders for the past decade.
“We think it’s a great way to showcase dining in University City, which, when we started, we thought was cool, but it has really exploded,” Brennan said.
The vibe of University City helps bring people in from other parts of Philadelphia and from the surrounding suburbs, according to Brennan.
“It’s in the city and feels like a downtown in parts, but it also feels like a neighborhood.” she said. “The streets are two ways here and there are lots of trees. Lots of young families are moving here. It seems like people want to have a piece of the action.”
City Tap House offers its three-course meal (not including the price of alcohol) for $35. Managing partner Andy Farrell is looking forward to the event. The restaurant opened at 3924 Walnut St. in 2010 and has participated in Dining Days since then.
“It feels like the whole community is involved,” he said, “so we love to be a part of it.”

University City Dining Days. Photo courtesy of Dahlak Restaurant

University City Dining Days. Photo courtesy of Dahlak Restaurant

Farrell, who lives in the Philly’s Fairmount section, thinks that University City has a lot to offer and people who haven’t been there or don’t frequent the area should give it a chance. Some might think that the restaurants and culture are only in Center City, but University City has its own flavor.
“It’s its own little, diverse microcosm,” he said. “There are people from diverse backgrounds, various ages. There’s vibrant stuff going on here.”
Farrell hopes that people will come to University City and try a variety of the establishments that are participating. They might find new favorite restaurants and also places that give them good value for their money.
“We all work really hard in this day and age to make a dollar,” he said. “When you choose to spend it, you should spend it on something of value and at a place that’s about creating an experience.”
City Tap House is “an elevated American Pub,” he said, that features regional and craft beer. Farrell hopes that more people will learn about the various types of craft beer and how they pair with different types of food (like wine, as its popularity grew and people learned how to match various foods with certain types of vino).

Distrito Restaurant. University City Dining Days

Distrito Restaurant. University City Dining Days

“We embrace that beer is not just about crushing a six-pack or for grilling outside with your buddies,” he said.
The language surrounding craft beer may be foreign, he said, but if you like light commercial beer, there’s a craft counterpart. The same goes for those who like a stronger one as well.
People can find a beer they like, or other new cuisine favorites, as well as a new favorite part of the city. University City is less busy in the summer when the school year is through, so Farrell thinks people will be able to really enjoy their visit.
“The summer is a chance for people who don’t frequent University City to come by,” he said. “Have a good time and experience some great restaurants.”

WHAT: University City Dining Days
WHEN: July 17 through 27
WHERE: Various locations in University City, Philadelphia.
INFO: Prices are for dinner only and do not include tax, gratuity or alcohol. Reservations should be made directly through each participating restaurant.
CONNECT: www.ucdiningdays.com

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Mike Berman

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