Mardi Gras for the Palate and Soul: PLāYT
Sep 01, 2018 11:53AM ● Published by Fran Miller
BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER
Fans of iconic Picán restaurant were saddened when the award-winning spot shuttered after several years of popularity. Devotees of Chef Jerome “Spike” Williams’ southern fried chicken, smoked gouda mac ‘n cheese, and St. Louis ribs were left wondering from whence the next ‘fix’ might emerge. They’ve found the answer at PLāYT, the Downtown Hayward-located, semi-reincarnation of Michael LeBlanc’s former beloved and soulful Uptown Oakland eatery.
A bit more intimate and a tad more casual than its precursor, PLāYT serves-up the same New Orleans-influenced comfort foods over which Picán enthusiasts raved. And with a vibe that is equal parts convivial and cosmopolitan, the sleek dining room and bar – fronted by al fresco patio seating - are a perfect fit for this small corner of the East Bay. Call it ‘Mardi Gras for the palate and soul.’ This is a place to return again and again in order to experience every delicious menu item and every crafted cocktail, and reasonable prices make repeat visits possible.
LeBlanc and Williams transitioned seamlessly from Oakland to Hayward, and have crafted a well-priced ‘Sideways Southern’ menu that reflects Cajun, Creole, and Gullah influences. Dishes are prepared with fresh, seasonal, often locally sourced, sustainable ingredients using time-honored culinary techniques and slow-food philosophies and practices.
Standout starters include deep fried pickle spears with Creole ranch dipping sauce and slaw, crispy Cajun calamari, and smoked short rib sliders. Three salad choices include the simple yet outstanding Georgia Wedge with iceberg lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing. Main course options include the fan favorite Southern Fried Chicken, the buttery and creamy Sideways Shrimp & Grits, and the incredible Smoked Slow Roasted St. Louis Ribs served with red beans and rice. Not to be missed are PLāYT’s sides of mac & cheese (made with the aforementioned smoked gouda cheese), the collards, and the garlic mashed potatoes. Save room for the selection of house made desserts such as Grandma’s Bread Pudding, Banana Pudding, and Spike’s Peach Cobbler.
Sunday brunch (11:00am – 3pm) highlights include Fried Chicken Benedict, Catfish & Grits, Green Eggs and Ham, and Texas French Toast – all complimented by Bloody Marys, a variety of Mimosas available by the glass or carafe, and ginger/peach Bellinis and raspberry/elderflower sparkling cocktails.
PLāYT’s full bar offers classic, contemporary, and signature cocktails. Favorites of the regulars who fill the 14-seat bar and 20-seat lounge include the straight-up Rose of Sharon (hibiscus-infused vodka, lime, La Pinta liqueur) and the Black Hand (bourbon, basil, balsamic syrup, ginger beer) served properly over a single large ice cube. General Manager Trevor Little oversees the wine options; he sources unusual selections well-matched to Williams’ bold flavors, such as the by-the-glass Argentinian Finca El Origen Torrontes and a Chilean Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon. (Cocktails, wines, and beers are offered at reduced prices during Happy Hour, Monday through Friday from 4:00 to 6:00pm).
Photos by Dana Plucinski (@baydish)
PLāYT: 1036 B Street, Hayward
Open Monday through Thursday, 4 to 9pm, Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10:30pm, Sunday, brunch 11am to 3pm, and dinner 5 to 9pm.
Free parking is readily available on B Street and also in a large public parking lot behind the restaurant between A and B Streets.
Reservations can be made via OpenTable.com or by calling (510) 888-1092.