Ask Tommy Up for the real meaning behind the initials in P.Y.T., his new burger joint at The Piazza, and you won’t get a straight answer. Most will immediately make a connection to the song by the late King of Pop, but Up won’t admit where it’s from, sarcastically offering suggestions like: Pad Your Tummy and Pick Your Toppings. Still, after one look of the sleek space and its pale wood bar, retro green vinyl stools. and crowd of tenants from the apartments that surround, you’ll realize that it all feels pretty and young. Since becoming Philadelphia’s most well known party promoter in recent years through his company PaperStreet, opening a lounge was a logical next step for Up. It was his love for California style burgers that led him to develop the space as not just a bar and dance floor, but a full fledged restaurant.
During his most recent tenure throwing parties at the upstairs lounge of Time Restaurant, Up became friendly with Chef Josh McCullough. After casually pitching the idea of P.Y.T., they started working on a menu of a variety of sandwiches and desserts. The pair did research by eating some of the best burgers in America, citing New York, Miami, and Los Angeles as especially inspiring. Eventually Up and McCullough settled on a menu composed of a variety of sandwiches, hand cut fries, beer battered onion rings, lobster fishsticks, and milkshakes – both virgin and alcoholic.
The namesake P.Y.T. Burger is a five ounce proprietary Ashley Foods patty topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, onions, kettle chips and a house made garlic mayo on a Martin’s potato roll. Even with the overwhelming crowd, McCullough’s kitchen staff was sending out expertly cooked burgers; ours, ordered medium, was the perfect combination of a crispy exterior and juicy, pink middle. Chef McCullough attributes this killer grill job to a very hot griddle and a well-trained staff that’s been instructed to treat the burgers as they would a steak – by probing each one for exact temperature.
Burgers are also offered with more patties: the Royale With Cheese topped with two is for the Jules Winnfield in you and for those with an even large appetite, The Big Mic offers a towering three. One can also customize their burger to taste, with a variety of cheeses including goat, blue and Boursin toppings like a fried egg, jalapeños, avocado and more. The TLC Burger, does indeed taste like chicken, because it is: lean chicken breasts are ground and formed into a patty. The consistency gives that perfect burger bite, with a peppery seasoning and unmistakably grilled chicken taste.
Vegetarian offerings are aptly named “Bogus Burgers” but are delicious none the less. The Calibunga Burger is a patty formed from white beans, basil, tomatoes and garlic held together by garlic bread crumbs. The refreshing departure from the typical black bean burger and fresh flavors impressed us. For those shy to meat and not necessarily focused on health concerns will love the Shroom Burger. Shredded cheddar cheese is sandwiched between two Portobello mushrooms which are beer battered then fried and topped with special sauce. Never before have we encountered a mushroom burger that was such an artery clogger, but damn was it good.
For the kid in you, the menu offers the P.Y.T. Dog, a Hebrew National jumbo beef frank topped with homemade chili, diced onions and blanketed in cheddar cheese. There’s also no fooling around with the Pretty Serious Grilled Cheese, a smathering of Boursin, mushrooms and tomatoes that can be ordered with or without bacon. We can’t say we tried the Peanut Butter Jelly Time but there’s no going wrong with a grilled PB&J with bananas. An ice cream sandwich is still being toyed around with, but we did get to sample the current incarnation of vanilla ice cream dotted with chocolate chips, sandwiched between chocolate peanut butter cookies from Brown Betty Desserts and sprinkled with ground coffee beans.
This past weekend, P.Y.T. launched to much fanfare, with hordes of people coming out to taste free burgers offered by Tommy Up on Twitter. It’s a realization of what he does best, bring the people to the party. Now that he can feed, intoxicate and entertain his guests, Up is going to find himself with a new problem: getting them to leave when it’s closing time.
1050 N Hancock Street Philadelphia, PA 19123 (Google Map)