April brought a new restaurant to Waverly Woods. There’s no pretension in the name: Players Bar & Grill.
And this restaurant owned by Simon Sadoun is just that, featuring a larger-than-average eat-in bar, dozens of high-definition televisions and a few video games. Nicely separated from the action at the bar are three other dining areas, including a covered patio.
The Players menu, called the “Playbook,” lists myriad pub classics, many devised by chef Doug Jones (formerly corporate chef at Liberatore’s) and general manager Sean Brown.
Certainly there’s pizza -- white, tropical Hawaiian, Margherita. But there are also the chicken spinach alfredo pizza and the Players signature pizza, featuring marinated shrimp and broccoli with lemon pepper cream. And more Italian: Create your own calzone, for instance, plus three others, with enticing names like Buffalo Bill’s and Ninth Hole ($7.99 to $10.99).
The eatery’s 11 entrees include everything from barbecue ribs to fish and chips to “pasta blackened and blue.” An intriguing option is “shrimp your way,” in which you choose the treatment for this favorite crustacean, whether as scampi, in pesto cream, done fra diavolo or as a dish of your own devising.
Entrée prices range $13.99 to $19.99.
Playing the game
Appetizers first (we’re traditionalists). Old Bay chips: so Maryland. We got a heap of them for $1.99. Clearly homemade, they were flavored with a light touch of Old Bay and a bit of peppery afterglow. Somewhat oily, just as we like ’em.
Also, a dish we haven’t seen for a while: fried ravioli ($7.99). There were eight four-cheese pasta puffs, breaded and fried. They came with a tasty dunking sauce featuring pesto and marinara.
An instant MVP is the stuffed avocado ($12.99). A bit pricey, but here was this large, silky, impeccably ripe avocado set upon a square white plate, garnished with fresh lime slices. And piled high atop that gorgeous avocado? A generous supply of cool, sweet, jumbo lump crab drizzled with honey-lime aioli.
Burgers and beyond
We ordered two items from the sandwich section. The menu basically boasts only a pair of hamburgers.
There’s the Asian burger, which is an 8-ounce beef burger topped with Asian slaw, cabbage, rice wine vinegar, sweet chili sauce and cilantro for $8.99, and a Build-a-Burger ($7.99/$8.99 with cheese; half-price on Tuesday night). Here’s where you use your imagination to let your server know what else you’d like on your ground beef patty.
Our purist got his 8-ounce all-American fix just plain, broiled. Juicy, meaty and cooked to order, served on a big, soft, fresh bun.
There is a third burger on the menu, although it goes so far beyond the classic beef patty that it bears the name “Players Signature Sandwich.” For $12.99 you get a 6-ounce burger topped with pepper jack cheese, topped with a 4-ounce grilled chicken breast, topped with Monterey Jack cheese, topped with three ounces of pulled pork barbecue, topped with lettuce, tomato and raw onions -- all sandwiched inside a bun spread with chipotle mayonnaise. It’s gloppy to be sure, but you can enjoy the flavors and textures of the individual elements, which all combine for a memorable whole. This is a sharer, except for those with exceptionally large appetites.
And speaking of hearty, among the dinner entrée offerings is an item called Baked Crab Mac and Cheese ($18.99). We’ve enjoyed lobster mac and cheese elsewhere, but we have to say that Chef Jones’s crabby version is an equal (if not even better) delight. All Maryland. Oh so comforting! And, as we found out later, the most popular dish on the menu.
We could have had dessert. We should have, too. After all, Players has an adjoining pastry shop. If you eyeball the gorgeous array of pastries before you sit down and read the menu, you might very well start with dessert and not get to the crabby mac and cheese. But we’re professionals, so we did dinner “by the book” and had no room for postprandial sweets.
Players Bar & Grill, 10795 Birmingham Way, Woodstock. 410-461-2900. www.playersbargrill.com.