Of all the stores that Casey Patten and David Mazza have opened, none has been more challenging than Taylor Charles Steak & Ice, the Philadelphia cheesesteak shop that will mark the partners’ first eatery outside their Taylor Gourmet brand.
Originally scheduled to open last December, Taylor Charles Steak & Ice has run into more obstacles than RGIII on his way to the end zone. The principal obstruction has been the physical building at 1320 H St. NE, which was in worse shape than either Patten or Mazza expected. The partners have had to rebuild a significant portion of the space — and, of course, keep resubmitting plans to the city for approval — which pushed back the opening date by a full year.
The guys now plan to launch Taylor Charles in the first week of December, Patten tells All We Can Eat.
“We’ll probably put 15 or 16 months into this whole thing,” says Patten, a Philly native. “We’ve never done anything like that.” He says he and Mazza didn’t even spend that much time opening the original Taylor Gourmet on H Street NE, which they built out themselves.
While structural issues have been the primary reason for the delay, the partners have spent a great deal of time testing and selecting their own custom cheesesteak roll as well. After initially collaborating with Alan Hakimi , the man behind Lyon Bakery, Patten and Mazza opted to work with another area baker for their roll. Patten didn’t want to name the new supplier, but he noted that the mystery baker pretty much nailed the texture and structural integrity needed to support the good greasy ingredients of a Philly cheesesteak.
Patten says the shop will offer about 14 cheesesteaks, most of them variations on beef or chicken. The cheese-y selection is limited to four: provolone, American, Cheez Whiz and a housemade sauce. There will also be a few other dishes, including “a couple of cool odes to the ’80s,” Patten hints; “things that were cool back then.” He prefers to keep the retro-plates a surprise.
The co-owner is particularly proud of his work perfecting the chicken cheesesteak, the sandwich that’s a contradiction in terms. Patten has never been a fan of the chicken variation of the Philly cheesesteak, a fact that practically dared him to create a better one. His version is “100 percent whole breast meat,” which he marinates, layers tightly, freezes and then slices and griddles to order.
Taylor Charles will offer custards and at least four water ices, those dairy-free frozen desserts found throughout Philly. One of the flavors will rotate with the season, Patten says, and all the water ices will be made with natural ingredients.
“Our ice has no syrup, no high-fructose corn syrup, no additives, no coloring agents,” he says. “It’s water. It’s fruit. It’s some sort of acid, and it’s sugar.”
The one major change from the partners’ original vision of Taylor Charles? No asphalt floors. Apparently asphalt is tough to lay down, exudes an unpleasant tar smell and is difficult to clean. “We quickly figured out that it’s highly impractical,” Patten says.
Not to worry: Taylor Charles still plans to re-create the street-eating experience of a Philadelphia cheesesteak shop right inside its H Street store. The decor will include manhole covers, street lamps and street art/graffiti.
Patten says he’s still trying to find a good source for manhole covers.
You can follow Taylor Charles’s progress on Twitter at @steakandice .