It’s a breezy, sunny afternoon on Main Street, far from the noisy, congested South Philly neighborhood where Drew Renzi, an up-and-coming 26-year-old restaurateur, was raised.
As grills get fired and the wait staff readies tables, Renzi and his manager, Joe Gilligan, 31, are hard at work in Maxx's Burgers, Shakes & Ice Cream, the new fast-casual eatery that opened nearly two weeks ago.
“The first week we opened we were cooking 150 burgers a day,” says Renzi. “It was incredible.”
Adds Gilligan, “As fast as the food was being prepared, more people were walking in the door. Using numbers was a big help, instead of calling out the customers’ names.”
Every operation works out the kinks in the beginning and, it’s more than obvious, Renzi is going to maintain a high-scale venture.
Back in Philly, Renzi had a dream–he was going to open a burger joint one day. A graduate of St. John Neumann High School, Renzi enrolled in the culinary program at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. After graduation, Renzi then found himself in Florida.
For about a year, Renzi worked at Café Martorano, owned by Steve Martorano, another South Philly native, who has been in the food business for more than 26 years.
“My sole purpose in going to Ft. Lauderdale was to learn as much as I could about owning a restaurant,” says Renzi. “And I learned what it takes to run a restaurant's kitchen.”
When he returned to Philadelphia, he managed the Green Eggs Café at 13th and Dickinson streets. Relatives who live in Moorestown knew Renzi was actively scouting a spot to open a restaurant. And, he found the location, which Nellie Bly’s vacated, the perfect setting.
Renzi recruited his childhood friend, Gilligan, to supervise the daily operations.
Maxx’s reaps its name from the show Saved by the Bell, a popular sitcom in the early '90s dealing with teen issues. The characters—including one played by Mario Lopez—frequented a burger hang out called The Max.
“We all used to watch the show,” says Gilligan referring to his buddies. “And, we had a couple of places like The Max that we used to hang in.”
Think twice if you think you have found just another fast food hamburger place. The hand-crafted burgers are well-seasoned hunks of beef served with caramelized onions, peppers, bacon and choices of cheeses. Sides include Buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks and two types of freshly cut fries with secret sauces: Andy’s or sweet potato. Salads and kids’ menus are offered, too.
This unpretentious spot also serves ice cream and shakes in two comfy rooms painted red and white with tables artfully designed in decoupage with Philly sports teams and movie star memorabilia. More seating is outside in the ample front courtyard.
Most of the young workers employed at Maxx's are kids from .
And guys who are raised in South Philly didn't forget Philly’s most famous sandwich.
“We serve cheeseteaks, absolutely!” says Renzi, ”With wiz.”