Has everyone been to PYT, the burger bar in the Piazza at Schmitd's, yet? It seems like it. And everyone has an opinion about PYT's West Coast-style burgers, and those opinions seem to swing far to the left and far to the right, due to what I have gathered to be an inconsistent kitchen and waitstaff. One night your burger is awesome, the next night not so much. Service is only OK when it's not busy, and, when it is busy, gets worse.
During a September Philly Burger Club "meating," I had the chance to sample the two veggie burgers on PYT's menu, which might be a little more stable from visit to visit than meat burgers. There are no degree-of-doneness or seasoning-of-meat quibbles when you go veggie!
Everyone can agree that the alcohol-spiked adult shakes are great, with flavors like Jack Rabbit Slim, a vanilla or chocolate milkshake spiked with Makers Mark; and The Jon Valdez, an espresso ice cream milkshake spiked with Kahlua and Patron. Virgins are also available.
I do like getting tipsy, and I do like milkshakes, but one adult milkshake doesn't quite get me to that happy place, and there's no way I could down more than one milkshake and still have room for food. Asking for a double shot of liquor might be the way to go.
Or you could just throw back PYT's signature shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice. It's an ingenious way to get rid of all the pickle juice at the bottom of the pickle containers (a pickle comes with every burger, so they're burning through the pickles). Sounds gross, but it works, although I don't know if I would make this my regular drink; it's more of a "why the hell not" drink.
The onion rings are covered in a thick and sweet beer batter that's crispy and not greasy. These puppies are great, but, with about five rings in a tray, are not enough to share.
Beef, chicken, and veggie burgers are on the menu, and all burgers come with lettuce, tomato, and choice of cheese and condiments. For $1 or $2 each, depending on the item, toppings like mushrooms, sauteed onions, jalapenos, bacon, avocado, or a fried egg can be added to any burger. Kettle chips are strewn across the burger and plate, and a long dill pickle accompanies.
Being the tail end of Summer and tomatoes still in season when I dined, the tomato slices were fresh and tasted like a tomato should. And, be sure to get hooked up with the oniony mayo-based special sauce if you're into special sauces.
The Shroom Burger has two beer battered and fried portabello mushrooms sandwiching shredded Cheddar cheese. The heft from the mushrooms satisfies, and the crunch from the batter pleases. The squishy Martin's Potato Roll gives no fight and lets the portabellos shine. There's a backyard comfort from the potato roll, but the battered and fried portabellos are an extra step not seen at most backyards parties.
The Calibunga Burger is a thick seared white bean, garlic, basil, and breadcrumb patty. Even with crisp edges, the mushiness of the patty was too much — like eating a mound of heavy mashed potatoes. The pungent basil taste was also unpleasant, mostly because I don't expect basil in a burger. I ended up eating the Calibunga burger without the white bean patty.
I do appreciate the veggie love of putting not one, but two kinds of veggie burgers on the menu, but the Calibunga's pasty bean patty needs to be sent back to the drawing board. Maybe some other texture should be thrown in there?
And, wouldn't you know it! My visit swung far to the left and far to the right, but more so in the direction of delicious.
In the Piazza at Schmidt's
1050 N. Hancock St., Philadelphia, PA 19123
Sat and Sun, noon-2am
Kitchen open until 1am