I've already mentioned that I like wings. For this battle, I decided to pit two twists on the "buffalo chicken" combo. I suspect I should go into an analysis of the (surprisingly contested) history of "buffalo chicken," but I'm simply going to say the combination of hot sauce (+butter) and bleu cheese is excellent. So, like I did with each of the dishes below... I'm just going to dive in! (hocofood@@@)
Contender #1: Buffalo Bills calzone from Players Bar and Grill in Woodstock.
Players Bar and Grille is a fairly new restaurant in Woodstock (about a 20 minute drive from Columbia) - they just had their official "grand opening" last night. The restaurant (very sports-bar) is huge, with a nice enclosed patio and a big bar. It was quiet the afternoon we stopped by, although I suspect business will pick up (I didn't realize how new it was). Players is located at 10795 Birmingham Way, Woodstock, MD.
A calzone might seem like an unorthodox treatment of buffalo chicken (or unorthodox for a sports bar, but Players seems to be a mash-up of sports bar and italian restaurant - we entered through a door that was (at that time) beneath and "Italian" sign. Plus, it reminded me of how plenty of foods can (and, dare I say it, should?) come in calzone form - something I learned ordering from DP Dough (aka, the American Calzone Company) in college. Service was a little slow, but good, and the staff was friendly.
|Buffalo Bills Calzone from Players Bar and Grill.|
First off, the meal was huge. I
Was I left wishing for more? A little bit. I couldn't really taste the blue cheese in the calzone itself, except for in a few spots. I would have liked some mozzarella inside the calzone as well, to make it a little cheesier. Overall, though, this was a pretty delicious lunch, and could easily have been two meals for me.
Fortunately, my buffalo chicken craving was not quenched and I was able to handle....
Contender #2: Buffalo Chicken Club from Baldwin's Station in Sykesville.
To be fair, Baldwin's Station is not in the HoCo. It's right on the line between Howard and Carroll counties (about a 25 minute drive from Columbia). HOWEVER, from where we were sitting, I literally could have thrown my fork and hit Howard County (which would have been pretty rude, so I did not) - I've decided it's eligible for FvF.
Baldwin's Station is a cute restaurant with indoor and outdoor (covered patio) seating, converted from a train station on the CSX railway that was built in 1883. Trains still go by, which is a cool feature (if a little loud, for 30 seconds or so). Baldwin's has an upscale feel with excellent service and reasonable prices (especially for lunch).
|Buffalo Chicken Club at Baldwin's Station.|
I really liked this sandwich. The bread was all toasty from the grill, which added to flavor and gave it a nice crunch. Plus, the default was wheat bread, so it felt healthy and was quite tasty. There was a (perhaps too) generous slather of mayo, avocado, fresh tomato slices, lettuce, and fried chicken that had been coated in buffalo sauce.
There was also supposed to be bacon, but I don't actually remember seeing bacon as I was eating. Normally this would be a HUGE fail, but the chicken had an incredible amount of crunch and flavor. So the bacon might have been there, just in hiding. Either way, if it wasn't, I didn't miss it.
And though I've already mentioned it, I'll say it again - the crunch of the chicken was amazing - I'm not sure how the chef got it to stay as crispy after the sauce went on, but it was great. The sauce itself had a pleasant kick, especially when contrasted with the avocado and mayo, but was definitely not even close to too-spicy. The house-made chips were also delicious, crunchy, salty, and slightly warm.
The Decision: Both restaurants were entirely new to me, and both meals were quite good. Still, in my mind, there was a clear winner - Baldwin's Station. Despite my nostalgic love for all things calzone, Baldwin's put together a killer sandwich at a great price, and delivered with excellent service. I'll definitely order their Buffalo Chicken Club again (and next time, if I can keep my mind on anything other than 'OMG TASTY,' I might even check for the phantom bacon.
Somewhat Random Disclosure: I will be marrying Matt (aka, the future Mr. SwimWriteRun) at Baldwin's Station in 2012, so I obviously really like it; however, that decision was made after the results for this FvF battle were decided.