Oxford Circle Flavor Festival to kick off with concert

The Oxford Circle Flavor Festival aims to celebrate area’s culture through music, art and, most especially, food.

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Oxford Circle’s version of restaurant week will kick off Saturday with a free performance by a Ukrainian singer and an art exhibition made by local refugees.

This is the second edition of the Oxford Circle Flavor Festival, but this year’s event is taking on a different format. Instead of specials at different shops and various events throughout the neighborhood, there will be a concert and several restaurants will be offering special discounted menus.

“This year, we kind of narrowed the focus a little bit,” said Andrea Hodge, economic development coordinator at the Oxford Circle Christian Community Development Association, which organizes the festival.

“It’s called a flavor festival because we have so many great restaurants in the area, but, really, the overall goal is to celebrate the culture in the neighborhood,” she added. “We just happen to have an incredible food culture in the neighborhood.” 

The kickoff event, dubbed the Exhibition of the Arts, will be held Saturday at 6 p.m. at Oxford Circle Mennonite Church, 900 Howell St. 

Singer Lena Shtefan will be performing. After studying opera in Ukraine, she fell in love with Whitney Houston, according to Mikhail Zorich, project coordinator for the Multicultural Arts Exchange.

“(Houston) became her idol, and she decided to learn how to sing pop,” he said.

Zorich said Shtefan was on her way to becoming a star in Ukraine when unrest in that country forced her to flee. She settled in Northeast Philadelphia a few years ago.

MAE, which is based at Congregations of Shaare Shamayim synagogue in Bustleton, is partnering with OCCCDA on the concert. The nonprofit promotes artists and organizes performances in the Northeast.

Zorich said MAE has built relationships in Somerton, Bustleton, Mayfair and some other neighborhoods, and is excited to be venturing into Oxford Circle.

“Our goal is to make Northeast Philadelphia a cultural destination,” he said.

In addition, OCCCDA is working with Mural Arts Philadelphia and Swarthmore College’s Friends, Peace and Sanctuary Program to exhibit artwork at Saturday’s event from a group of refugee women who live in the Northeast.

Free tickets for the Exhibition of the Arts can be reserved at www.oxfordcirclefest.blogspot.com. Light refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served.

As for the restaurant week portion of Flavor Festival, at least six restaurants in the area will be offering special $15 three-course menus from Friday, Sept. 13, to Monday, Sept. 23.

The participating restaurants include Al-Sham Restaurant, 6738 Bustleton Ave.; Bisho’s Middle Eastern Cuisine, 2329 Cottman Ave.; New Asaad Indian Cuisine, 6443 Castor Ave.; Nick’s Roast Beef, 2210 Cottman Ave.; On Charcoal Colombian Restaurant, 6516 Castor Ave.; and Pho Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant, 6842 Bustleton Ave.

For menu options and more information, visit www.oxfordcirclefest.blogspot.com. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com.