Surpise! Twas a Family Feast at James
What guy (or girl for that matter) doesn’t look forward to their 21st birthday? It’s almost like a right of passage to have a super fun celebration. The question though is HOW do you celebrate in the best way possible? Look no further than the restaurant, JAMES.
To be fair, the James shouldn’t only be praised for an amazing 21st birthday venue — the private room & vault could work for a lot of small yet special gatherings! An engagement party, birthday parties, fun family dinners (aka hosting a #FamilyFeastatJames), corporate luncheons, etc.
So let me take you back to the start so you can really understand what this surprise consisted of.
Step 1 - Find the Perfect Venue
This may sound silly, but you can’t host a special occasion for 10 just anywhere! The vibe has to be just right along with the food being delectable. What I loved and still treasure most about James is the vault in their private room. It was built in 1925 and is still standing as one of the the OG vaults in Philly!
Step 2 - Review the Menu
No brainer. Good food means I’m there. After speaking with one of the owners about alllll the items on the Family Feast menu I was sold instantly. I had already been to James once before for brunch and that was awesome so I trusted dinner would be just as great. Turns out it wasn’t….. it was even BETTER! The Family Feast is a brand new concept the restaurant is rolling out. It seats up to 10 people in the private room/vault where trays and trays keep coming out of the kitchen. There are 4 appetizers, 3 entrees, 5 sides, and the most scrumptious desserts I’ve ever had. The birthday boy and some of his guests had a couple dietary restrictions and the restaurant was extremely accommodating which was awesome. Our favorite apps were the sweet potato hummus (SO good) and everyone loved the shellfish pot (I personally didn’t try it because #KosherProbs) but it smelled wonderful! For the main course there were pounds of chargrilled ribeye steak, bourbon glazed salmon, and linguine provencal for the vegetarians :) I was obsessed with the salmon — cooked wonderfully and had a very smokey taste. My brother and his friends devoured the steak! The sides felt endless…. and maybe that’s because we were all so full we HAD to take some home. It was impossible to finish with such hearty appetizers + entrees. For the sides there were: Baked rigatoni Mac-n-Cheese with silky seven cheese sauce and pretzel crumb topping + Charred Brussels Sprouts with garlic & lemon + Crab & Tomato Risotto + Lobster Laced Mashed Potatoes + Grilled Asparagus. I went in on the cheese Mac-n-cheese along with the asparagus - it was cooked perfectly!
Step 3 - Invite All of My Brother’s Friends
Not complicated, but surely still part of the process! Got numbers from two of his friends that I’m closest with and rounded up the whole gang in a massive iMessage chat. Not gonna lie though, getting them to keep it a secret was one of the most stressful parts! I did make a super cute invite on Canva though. I’m still proud of it so I’ll show it off yet again below :)
Step 4 - Plan + Order Decorations
Time for the fun! I wanted to make the event as manly as possible while it still being exciting. So I searched and searched on Amazon for the most perfect decor. Turns out decorations for a dude’s 21st are limited — balloons, streamers, and some shot glasses with (sorry mom…) boobs. All of the balloons + signage came in the mail, I walked to my neighborhood Paper Source to have the “2” “1” and champagne bottle balloon blown up and then was off to the restaurant to hang it all up! (This part was actually hard because I didn’t have the proper tape and I was too short to reach the balloons on the ceiling that kept floating up due to helium! Good thing Daniel and the waiter were so helpful!!!)
Step 5 - Trick My Brother
Easy shmeasy this kid is the sweetest, go-with-the-flow kind of person you’ll find. I could tell him we’re going to Micky D’s to get sandwiches & fries and ya know what? He wouldn’t even care. For this celebration I told him we’re gonna go to a place called “Misconduct” to get burgers. What’s funny about this is that I don’t even eat burgers out #KosherProbs. So the fact that he didn’t even question me makes me L O L. Anyway, I insisted on calling him an Uber from his apartment at Temple to center city as a treat! I called it two blocks from James and met him there. I said Misconduct is around the corner, but can you come with me to grab my wallet first? I left it at this restaurant I was at for lunch. We walked in, I asked the hostess if I could check the back room for my wallet (I had already clued her in on the surprise so she played along). and then as we were just 15 feet away from the curtains leading into the room Max goes “Oh Gd. Did you throw a surprise party for me?” I couldn’t even look him in the eye so I just shouted loud enough for him to hear, “Awww no, but that would’ve been fun!” 30 seconds later, we’re in the room everyone yelled “SURPRISE!” and voilà the night was about to begin!
Step 6 - EAT!!
I cannot thank James enough. The food was never ending and goooooood. The service was personable and organized. The ambiance itself was unforgettable and SO unique. What else could you ask for when hosting a very special evening? Superb food, service, and ambiance all around! The dinner ended with the most fabulous dessert, everrrrr. I need to know the recipes for their double chocolate cake & OG cheesecake because both blew my socks off. Every single person there commented how unbelievably good the cakes were — even Daniel who normally passes on sweets went IN on the cheesecake.
Step 7 - Drink, Obviously!
Huge round of applause to Fox & Hound on the corner of 15th & Locust for hosting our post dinner pre-game! The bar-tender Craig hooked us UP! Shots for the birthday boy, tequila sodas for the birthday boy’s sister :), and lots of beers for the boys. I never realized how wonderful their space is for a party - big or small! The staff was very kind and generous, the drinks were strong in a good way, and our whole group had such a blast!
All in all, Max’s 21st surprise birthday celebration was a HUGE success. I’m grateful for each person who played a part in putting it together — especially James and Fox & Hound.