People really like to name-drop Basquiat. The painter is referenced in countless hip-hop lyrics by the likes of Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Frank Ocean; in the Reebok’s Classics Basquiat product line; and in poetry collections inspired by his work. Now, PYT Burger, a fancy new joint on Bowery in Manhattan known for its “stunt burgers,” is hoping Basquiat’s name will help sell a $64 burger. It’s enough to make a starving artist cry.
PYT, born in Philadelphia, is famous for sandwich-based gimmicks: it also sells a Deep-Fried Twinkie Burger and a Cocoa Krispies Chicken Sandwich (which even they admit is “so stupid”). Their NYC shop includes a black-lighted room and a faux arcade machine that is actually a doorway into a “pizza speakeasy” in the back.
Back to the matter at hand: What could possibly be Basquiat-like about PYT’s “Basquiat Prime Beef Burger”? Unlike most art-inspired foods, like SFMOMA’s Mondrian petit fours and Donald Judd tomato soup, this menu item (thankfully) doesn’t try to recreate Basquiat’s paintings using ketchup and ground meat. Instead, the justification is one of proximity: PYT’s partners, Japan Premium Beef Inc., are located in the nearby building where Basquiat lived and died, on the cobblestoned Great Jones Street. So the restaurant decided to pay homage to their late neighbor with their priciest burger, which is made of American Kobe beef and the ground-up soul of the Lower East Side.
“The guys at JPB made this beef especially for us,” PYT chef Kim Malcolm told Bedford and Bowery. “The meat itself costs about fifty-something dollars per pound, and the spices used on that is very high end. It’s like butter, it’s so soft.”
But who on the Bowery can afford to drop $64 for a burger? Maybe the developer who bought and renovated photographer Jay Maisel’s infamous Bowery mansion for $55 million earlier this year, or the people living in the Bowery’s $7.5 million condo, or the patrons of nearby luxury boutique John Varvatos (formerly CBGBs). With all due respect and regret to Basquiat, maybe this absurd burger is right where it belongs.