Playbook maps strategy to win customers


October 25, 2006|By SLOANE BROWN

Combine sports and good food, and how can you help but hit a home run? That's what a couple of well-known Baltimore restaurateurs are hoping they've done with a new place that's just opened.

Former Bohager's owner Damian Bohager and Tony Guarino, former owner of Dooby's and Crazy Lil's, have joined forces in a restaurant consulting business. Their latest project? The Playbook, a sports bar and restaurant at German Hill Road and Dundalk Avenue, between Boston and O'Donnell streets, just east of Interstate 95.

The Playbook is owned by George Divel and his aunt and uncle, Donna and Will Matricciani.

"George grew up right across the street from this place. For years it was the Graceland Inn, an old neighborhood tavern that went downhill and was in disrepair for years," says Bohager.

Bohager says the Playbook boasts some "amazing features." There are thirty 42-inch high-definition flat screen TVs end-to-end along the walls (you'll even find two in the men's room, although Bohager says he's getting complaints from female patrons that the women's room is bereft).

The bar is a work of art, literally. Its 60-foot-long surface is painted with about 30 different sports scenes by local artist Kevin Charles. The surface is covered with resin to protect the artwork. The back of the bar is a three-dimensional diorama of the view you get of the city when you're inside Camden Yards, created by a Tennessee artist. The whole space is open, with the dining area to the right and the bar stretching along the left wall. In the back of the building is a VIP area on a raised platform with cushions, which can be curtained off. There's also a disc jockey booth and a "smallish" dance floor. And did we mention the pool table? In all, there's seating for about 70 at tables, and 50 at the bar.

As for that food ...

"We really put a lot of thought into that," Bohager says. "You really need to be a couple of steps above other people in the [sports bar] area."

So he and Guarino narrowed down the field to five chefs interested in the top job, and then held their own competition, giving each one 45 minutes to "whip up something." The winner was chef Jim Farley, formerly of the Bayou Cafe.

Appetizers (titled "Lead Off Hitters" in the menu) include crab dip ($9.99); chicken fingers ($7.99); and Southwest egg rolls, veggies rolled in an egg roll and served with salsa and sour cream ($7.99). There are several "Souper Bowls," aka soup, ($3.99-$5.99) and "Sandwedges" like Buffalo chicken ($5.99), meatball sub ($6.99) and burgers ($6.99 and up).

Entrees include crab cakes (market price), a blackened 12-ounce strip steak topped with blue cheese and onion "cloud" ($21.99) and a porterhouse pork chop ($13.99).

Bohager says a couple of early favorites are the chicken quesadilla appetizer ($7.99) and the chicken breast topped with crab imperial and sherry-cream sauce entree ($16.99).

"We're a sports bar where you can come and dine, not just get bar food," says Guarino.

The Playbook, 410-633-2665, is at 6700 German Hill Road. Its dining-room hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The bar stays open until 2 a.m., with a late-fare menu. On Fridays there also is a complimentary happy hour buffet from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Pizza in Hunt Valley

Chalk up another eatery for the Hunt Valley Towne Center. California Pizza Kitchen has just opened at 118 Shawan Road, on the upper level, right across from the movie theater. If you want to try it out and get some warm fuzzies at the same time, you might want to head there Monday, when CPK will donate 100 percent of its dine-in pizza sales to the Maryland chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

California Pizza Kitchen, 410-785-3336, will be open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

If you have information regarding a local restaurant's opening, closing or major changes, please e-mail that information to or fax it to 410-675-3451.

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