Novemburger: Players

Because 50 Burgers, 50 Days wasn’t enough, I’ll write about a new burger every day this month. And next. We’ll call that Decemburger.
Day 3: Players
300 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 478-9299,
Hours: 10:45 a.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday-Thursday. 10:45 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.03.11
Note: Players will close by the end of November 2014, swallowed up by the manifest destiny of UT. As nostalgia builds toward that day, I'm reminded that nostalgia has a short memory.
Walking along the silver handrail to the wooden counter at Players, I realized I hadn’t been there since the ‘80s, when I was a UT student too stupid to go home and sleep. Players was open 24 hours, the sign said. Now the “24” is covered up, and the sign just says “Open ... hours.” Weaponized fryer grease still hangs in the neon air and clings to the shiny paneled walls. One table was filled with Japanese men in fully amped joviality mode, lubricated by a couple of mostly empty $8.50 pitchers of beer. On a school night. I can almost imagine the torrid mix of hangover and crushing academic stress of the morning.
The keening whine of a hoodied girl in flip-flops reminded me that I’m sitting right next to a hive of people living on their own for the first time, still not 100 percent sure how to deal with this whole dressing-for-public thing. Players is a good seat for university life’s rich pageant.
The burger: This used to be a destination burger, proof that the grills all get prettier at closing time. But now this big flat, gray patty is showing its true colors under the beer-sign lights. It doesn’t help that it sits on a bun squashed to the thickness of a drink lid, like toasted bread with all the air vacuumed from it for more efficient storage. It’s like chewing on a burger-flavored Hot Pocket with the vegetables microwaved right in. In the harsh light of morning, you’ll question your judgment from last night, even if it was fun while it lasted. ($4.15 with cheese, $6.75 as a combo with fries and a drink. Ask for lemonade.)
Fries or rings? The freezer cabinet is right next to the deep fryer. Let's just leave it at that. Fries are $1.62/small, and onion rings are $2.54 for six. We’ll call them the wingmen for your late-night burger hookup. Or for the “Jersey Shore” crowd, grenades.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)