Diners of every caliber flooded the city Thursday, joining one of the three pop-up picnics organized for the evening catering to the fashionable, funky and freewheeling.
The ChicThe Avenue of the Arts became a sea of white as thousands of elegantly dressed diners assembled for Philly’s third Diner en Blanc.
They had traveled from as far away as Connecticut to participate in the self-described ‘chic picnic.’ The secret location was closely guarded until just before showtime, when diners arrived in droves, dressed in white, and took over the designated space.
The event closed South Broad Street between Chestnut and Pine streets. The Polish American String Band provided live music in dazzling white mummers’ costumes, and an artist captured the scene in oils.
Diner en Blanc originated in Paris in 1988 and has gained popularity in cities throughout the United States in recent years. As the name suggests, participants must dress in white and are also expected to provide their own table, chairs and food, and to clean up after themselves. Previous locations in Philadelphia were Logan Square and the JFK Bridge at 30th Street Station.
The CoolOver in Fishtown, the “rebellion” assembled for its inaugural feast during Diner en Nior, held on the banks of the Delaware River at Penn Treaty Park.
Guests dressed in black, toting all-black dining gear, met at one of four predetermined locations around the city, to await their final destination instructions. Those at 5th and Market waited more than an hour past the meet time, until a double-decker sightseeing tour bus finally arrived and shuttled the group to the event spot.
Though early logistics proved a challenge, guests did get settled in for a dinner under the lights, the stars and the sounds of the West Philly Orchestra and DJ Robert Drake. A handful of awards were given to those who went above and beyond, but the tone of the evening was one of cool company and camaraderie, making it a night to remember.
Diner en Noir began as a sort of anti-Diner en Blanc, by some who thought the fancy feast too precious. Its proceeds will benefit Philabundance and Penn Treaty Park.
The ComfyDiner en Sweatpants at Clark Park was a more laid-back affair. The location was never a secret, and diners were not even required to wear sweatpants (regardless of color).
Entertainment was provided by Huey West, a banjo-picking busker whose usual venues include 30th Street Station and Rittenhouse Square.
“I thought he would provide exactly the right ambiance,” said Rachel Robbins, who organized the event for TicketLeap.
Robbins said that 390 people signed up for the event.
Among them was Elizabeth Deegan, her husband, Matt and her brother-in-law Michael, visiting from Bulgaria.
Deegan unpacked a vegan feast: macaroni and vegan cheese, “chicken” with broccoli, a salad and a covert bottle of wine.
“I always wanted to go to Diner en Blanc, but my husband never wanted to go with me, so this is a nice compromise,” said Deegan, who lives two blocks from the park.