One of Us: Burger Guru Tommy Up


Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Tommy Up. My real last name is Updegrove, but it’s really difficult for people to spell for some reason. So to eliminate thousands of wasted hours of my life, it’s just Tommy Up.

I was born in … Fishtown, way before it was cool. At Montgomery and Girard, which is about 10 blocks from where PYT is now.

The most famous person I’ve ever met … is Jay Z. I was standing on a chair in the front row at his concert, and he stopped and said, “Insurance requirements for this building say that no one can stand on a chair.” I took out dollar bills and started throwing them at him. He told me to save it for a cab. That is a 100 percent true story.

The last book I read cover to cover was … a classic from the ’90s, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy: Creating Disruption for Fun and Profit.

The thing most people get wrong about me … is that they think I can’t be serious. I do joke around a lot. But I like that. Being taken seriously all the time must be incredibly boring.

Ten years from now, I will be … on my yacht. I will name it The Yachtsman, which is the name of my tiki bar that will open this month.

For my last vacation, I went to … Costa Rica. I went by myself, lost my cell phone on the first day and learned how to surf.

I got my first tattoo … from a Japanese-speaking gentleman who does tattoos for the yakuza. He drew me a very special dragon on my arm, back and shoulder.

The biggest problem with Philadelphia … is that we don’t believe in ourselves enough. We always look to see what New York and other places are doing, but the reality is that we’re influencing the culture of food and drink more than New York is. We’re taking more chances. We don’t have to play it so safe because we’re not as “important.”

The first concert I ever went to … was on the beach in Atlantic City with New Kids on the Block and Debbie Gibson, back when Donnie was the dominant Wahlberg.

The second-best burger in Philadelphia … is at PYT. The first is at Village Whiskey.

My favorite Philadelphian of all time … is Ben Franklin. A classic. He did it all. He was the first American Renaissance man.

When I want to relax … I … oh, I can’t tell you. No comment.

My most prized material possession … is a fine screen print of Biggie Smalls that Shepard Fairey did. An ex-girlfriend left it with me. She didn’t know what it was.

The thing most people don’t understand about this business is … that it’s 99 percent work and no play. But if you’re lucky, sometimes the work can resemble play.

If I were mayor of Philadelphia … I would probably shoot myself.

Emmanuelle, New Cocktail Bar for Northern Liberties

Sylvia Kristel starred in Emmanuelle, a 1974 erotic French film

Northern Liberties and the Piazza at Schmidt’s are getting a new bar. Tommy Up is opening Emmanuelle, a craft cocktail bar located on the Piazza but facing Hancock Street behind PYT. Author and bartender Katie Loeb has designed the drink menu and  Phoebe Esmon (Farmers’ Cabinet, Kennett, Chick’s) will be behind the bar.

The name Emmanuelle is inspired by French soft-porn films of the 70s. The bar will open to the public on Wednesday, November 22nd.

Emmanuelle’s drink menu will feature a wide selection of aperitifs, sparkling cocktails, French cocktail classics and new twists featuring French spirits. A curated selection of wines and beers will also be available.

The details »

Introducing the Chick-Phil-Gay at PYT: “Now With 100% Less Hatred”

That whole Chick-fil-A/gay marriage controversy? It’s never going to go away. Over on the Philly Post, Victor Fiorillo reports on the era of the “Protest Sandwich”–which begins with the new Chick-Phil-Gay being done by (who else?) Tommy Up from PYT.

Unsurprisingly, Tommy has a few things to say about it:

It’s a boneless breast of chicken seasoned to perfection, hand-breaded, cooked in peanut oil and served on a toasted, buttered bun with dill pickle chips. Served with waffle fries, it’s oddly familiar, but with 100% less hatred. For every Chick-Phil-Gay we sell, we’ll donate $1 to the Mazzoni Center, an organization that provides counseling and health services for LGBTQ Philadelphians. Oh, and while you’re here, try one of our famous hand-spun adultshakes. They’re the gayest shakes in town.

Check out the full Chick-Phil-Gay story over on the Philly Post. And then show your support for free speech, gay rights, delicious chicken sandwiches and an end to idiocy by running on down to PYT to try one for yourself.

PYT Introduces Chick-Phil-Gay Sandwich [Philly Post]

PYT [Facebook]

Joey Vento: A Tribute In Meat (And Irony)

Never one to shy away from controversy, Tommy Up from PYT has a new Burger of the Week special running: A tribute (kinda) to another controversial Philadelphian–Joey Vento of Geno’s who died last week at 71. For those of you who, like Vento, are not exactly fluent en Espanol, the “burger” is chopped steak, fried onions, roasted peppers and melted provolone on a kaiser roll with a side of fries with Wiz and fried onions, all served “In honor of the founder of Geno’s Steaks.”

PYT [official website]

Rick Nichols on Vento and his legacy []