Thursday, February 16, 2012

Great Burger Challenge - Round 5: PYT

The Great Burger Challenge soldiers on. I swear, we'll finish this before summer. Well, maybe before the end of summer. It'll definitely be this year. Promise. This installment features local hotspot PYT. Although I wrote this joint up a while back, it was time to bring in the professionals for a proper tasting, calculating and ranking of the burgers here. 

Service is always predictable, which generally involves waiting for whatever random hipster with gauged ears that has been assigned our section to bring out our drinks while they apologize for being new. Like the Dalai Lama says, "If you have no expectations, you'll never be disappointed." I have next to zero expectations for the servers here. The food however is a completely different story. A testament to how PYT can be successful with such an abysmal weight staff. I have never been disappointed with anything I've been served here. Not sure what his Holiness would make of a Philly Pretzel burger with a 1/2 lb. of cheesesteak meat on it, what with the vegetarianism and all, but I'm pretty sure he could come up with some new inspiration quotes for that piece of nirvana on a roll. 

pretzel nuggets with cheese dipping sauce
Appetizers. Ambitious, I know. With the amount of beef and carbs about to be laid before us, we're just getting greedy. Had to give the pretzel nuggets a try though. Served with a queso dipping sauce and a scoop of salsa floating on top, they were filling but not memorable. The pretzels themselves were not cooked all the way through, and still doughy in the center. The dipping sauce was about the equivalent of the nacho cheese you get at the Riverview movie theatre. One of the few dishes at PYT that has not impressed me. You can skip these. 

the Korean short rib burger
Contestant #1's Korean short rib burger, topped with some kimchi and an asian spicy mayo. The ground short rib is marinated in Korean bbq sauce, then formed into a patty and fried into deliciousness. I stand by my belief that bacon, goat cheese, and kimchi make everything better. This is no exception. 

the single - with bacon, fried onions and cheese. mind the onion rings. 
Contestant #2 went with the classic PYT single. More than enough for a normal human being, you're also entitled to a side of their crispy fries and healthy green pickle, so you can get your vegetables. She brought the A game with the addition of bacon and caramelized onions. Even cooked well-done (as requested - don't get me started on that burger faux pas) the flavor of the beef shines through. The soft potato roll, grilled ever so slightly, is the blank canvas for the artist in the kitchen. 

peek-a-boo - i see onion rings...
Let's not forget to mention the onion rings. Worthy of a write up all their own, they are the best in the city. Wishing Well puts up a serious contender, but I'm reminded again just how good these are. Huge rings of tender onion, cooked to a sweet, nearly caramelized consistency inside an oh-so-crunchy crust based on a Kenzinger beer batter. They are light and crispy, moist and delicious. Never will the onion betray it's crust and leave you with an empty batter ring. You can rely on these to be there for you, in good times and in bad, thru Swift Half and Gunners Run, Apollonaire and King's Oak.

the double, with all the fixins. tater tots, with chili & cheese.
Contestant# 4 - I'll let you guess who that was - was feeling saucy this night. Deciding that I needed to get the full weight and magnitude of the PYT experience, along with a proper food baby to report, I ordered the double with all the accouterments - lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and the house made secret sauce. Oh, and a side of tater tots smothered Waffle House style with cheese and chili. And a pickle. There are families in rural China that don't consume this many calories in a day. God bless America.  

the double, fully assembled and ready for ingestion. 
Get your papaya pills ready for the post game after this one. You're going to need help with all the digestion that is about to take place. It's a challenge just getting a bite out of this thing. Luckily the soft potato roll lets you squish it down to make it a reasonable affair. On the downside, after about 3 bites, the bottom roll is soaked thru with burger juices and soggy in the middle. I eat fast enough that it's not an issue for me, but the slower members of the party made a note of it on their score sheets. I love this burger. It's the closest thing I've had to an In-N-Out burger anywhere outside of California - and that alone is a worthy accolade. The beef is terrific - sweet and juicy, full of flavor. Toppings and cheese are nothing fancy, but there's no need for shenanigans when the base is done this well.

It's a blessing and a curse to live within walking distance of burgers this good. Knowing that we can always get consistently excellent food and cheap High Lifes on draft can be tempting. And of course there are the adult milk shakes with shots of brandy, bourbon and/or kahula for something special. There's a reason PYT has quietly become the anchor that Bart Blatstein has been trying (unsuccessfully) to create for the Piazza on his own. Weekends and warm summer nights mean a wait for a table here - that's always a good sign for a restaurant.  Great food, cheap beers, and a very cool scene lend PYT an air of superiority over it's neighbors. In spite of the apathetic servers, it's completely justified.


Food Baby Rating - Triplets

1050 North Hancock Street 
The Piazza at Schmidts
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 964-9009

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