In addition to being burger connoisseurs, Chris and Neil are also music aficionados. Chris prefers traditional Maori music, while Neil favors classic calypso songs. When we saw open mic night on the calendar at the Player’s Pub we thought it was a perfect opportunity to combine our two loves. Trust us, we’re glad we went.
Located on Walnut Street near 2nd street, The Player’s Pub is a bit of a mystery to many (most? all?) students in Bloomington. It is known as a bit of a townie hangout, so we wanted to see it for ourselves. The interior is large and fairly dive-y (not necessarily a bad thing) and there are some pool tables in a room on the side. The place was almost empty when the five of us walked in, save for the handful of older bar goers and the woman strumming the guitar on stage. Our presence instantly caused a bit of a buzz, because we are probably the youngest customers they have had in some time.
It is probably best if we get to talking about the burger and come back to talk about the overall experience, because, while the burger wasn’t too bad, it was the rest of the night that made our visit unforgettable. As often seems to be the case, we both ordered the same burger: the Angus burger cooked medium with cheddar, bacon, and onion rings on the side. To be honest, our expectations were pretty low. We were both skeptical of what we might get, even though the description on the menu is pretty good: “6 oz of sizzlin’ honky-tonk Angus beef.”
But our skepticism was renewed when the burger arrived. The burger looked a bit small on the bun and the cheese was not melted (usually a bad sign). We were rewarded by biting into the burger. The bacon was very crispy and was full of flavor. Probably our crispiest bacon to date, so that was a big plus. Crispy bacon creates variation in burger texture, and here it was delightful. The seasoning on the burger itself also seemed pretty good, adding a savory taste.
There were some negatives. The burger was overcooked and on the dry side, suggesting poor or perhaps even (gasp) frozen beef. Also, the two, small rings of red onion on the burger gave off a disproportionately strong onion flavor. The onion rings were the highlight for Neil. They were crispy, had just the right amount of batter and were not too greasy. He could have eaten a barrel of them and been happy for a week.
We might not go back to The Player’s Pub if we only went to eat. However, we were also there for the tunes. We had the joy of hearing a handful of performers that night. The first performer was very enthusiastic and friendly. She also seemed to be the de facto host. She was a certified nutritionist (or perhaps she was just enthusiastic about nutrition), and she kept repeating that we were visiting The Player’s Pub on NEON, Nutrition Education Outreach Night. She had nutrition posters and quizzes and also offered nutrition facts throughout her set. We took all of her tips to heart when we ordered our burgers, onion rings and beers. The highlight of her set was her original song about the “comfort zone.” As Burger Friend Joey pointed out, the comfort zone is the opposite of the danger zone. There is no highway to the comfort zone.
The next singer was impressive and performed a wide range of original songs, including an original Christmas carol, a song called “Ode to Dr. Kevorkian” (from her original rock opera, of course), and a one titled (we think) “You’ve Got to Play With Your Dog.” She used a dog’s squeeze toy as an instrument during this song.
Finally, the last singer of the night looked a lot like a prospector from the California Gold Rush. He wore long underwear (or maybe they were just pants?) under his cargo shorts and had an amazing beard and hat. He was very energetic and also played a variety of original songs, including one about undergrad students called “Beer Goggles.” He did not seem very impressed with undergrad students.
In the end, not even the surreal atmosphere of Player’s Pub could overcome a burger with serious shortcomings. The beef quality just was not there, and although the bacon tried to make up for subpar beef, it just could not make that beef sing.
Raw Score: 2.5 / 5 burgers
Price-adjusted: 2.5 / 5 burgers
Price: $7.50 for a plain burger + ~0.90 for cheese + 2.00 for bacon
Gained points: Bacon, good seasoning
Lost points: Overcooked, too high bun to burger ratio, powerful onions
Drinks: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale for Neil, Guinness for Chris
Date of visit: 11/29/12 (Unity Day in Vanuatu)
 The Burger Boys brought along two Burger Friends and one Burger Girlfriend.
 We thought one thing we may get would be salmonella poisoning.
 Who doesn’t want “honky-tonk” beef? We love our beef to have music in its heart, right before the cow is slaughtered.