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Eat Like an Insider: Michael Johnigean of Mad Rex

Find out where to get the best nachos in the city.
 Michael Johnigean of Mad Rex tells us his favorite places to eat in Philadelphia. | Provided
Michael Johnigean of Mad Rex tells us his favorite places to eat in Philadelphia. Provided

Any visit to Fishtown’s Mad Rex is an unforgettable one. With its post-apocalyptic theme, impeccable menu of nutritious yet decadent eats and virtual reality lounge, there’s plenty to taste, sip and experience. Mad Rex partner Michael Johnigean has always had a passion for healthy food, which is what inspired him to get into the restaurant industry in the first place.

“I wasn't pleased with the selections that normal restaurants carry, so I decided to create my own,” he says.

The 55-year-old hails from Jacksonville, Florida and has only been living in Philadelphia for the past year, but has already gotten to know a fair bit of our food scene.

Here are a few of his picks on the best places to eat in Philadelphia, which include everything from nachos to butter peach tarts.

Best late night meal?
Silk City (435 Spring Garden St.)  because it reminds me of the food that my friends and I would cook late at night for each other. The meatloaf is my favorite dish.

Best meal under $10?
The best meal under $10 would be the veggie pizza at SliCE Fishtown (431 E. Girard Ave.) because it is a thinner crust, healthier, authentic version of real Italian pizza. I try to eat healthy and get in as many vegetables as I can and this does the trick with some of my favorites like eggplant, roasted peppers and portobello mushrooms.

Best hidden food gem?
It would have to be a tie between Helm (1303 N. 5th St.) and Jaxon (701 N. 3rd St.) because they're small BYOBs in Northern Liberties that make outstanding food from scratch, fresh from the kitchen and take amazing care of their customers. Favorite dish from Helm is the butter peach tart and my favorite dish from Jackson their housemade fettuccine.

Best place to dine alone?
Definitely, North 3rd (3rd & Brown Sts.) because it has dive type of feel with great food, service and atmosphere. I always have a great experience here.

Place you always take or recommend for out-of-towners?
Parc (227 S. 18th St.) because it feels like you're in France and the food is incredibly consistent and decadent. My favorite dish is the 1/2 roast chicken.

Go-to date spot?
Double Knot (120 S. 13th St.) because the atmosphere is romantic and interesting. My favorite dish is the broiled sea bass.

Best place to catch up with friends?
El Vez (121 S. 13th St.) because of the atmosphere is warm and friendly and the food is healthy. The have the best nachos in the city, hands down.

Most Instagrammable restaurant?
I might be biased, but Mad Rex (1000 Frankford Ave.) because of the many art exhibits, artwork from across the globe and theatrical menu items. Plus the food literally screams out to be photographed for Instagram. My favorite dish to put on 'Gram is the filet on the lava black rock. The black rock process catches your eye and makes for unique video and stories.