the Players' Retreat
Welcome to the Players' Retreat. . . . In 1951, Bernie and
Mickey Hanula founded the institution known as the Players'
Retreat. Less of a bar and restaurant, and more of a family,
the PR (as it is affectionately known) remains a popular
respite for the young and the old, the rich and the poor. It
is a place where people from all walks of life rub elbows,
share toasts, good times and laughs. At 62 years old, very
little has changed since its humble beginnings. In 1994 Pete
Jarrell took over the PR and continued the tradition. Our
friends Bernie and Mickey passed away several years ago. In
their honor, our staff and our patrons strive to keep the PR
the way it has always been, and as it should always be. Thank
you for your patronage and support over the years, and may the
PR continue for many years to come.
articles from the past:
Published: Nov 04, 2005
Greg Cox, Correspondent
Chili cheese fries? Looks like ol' Greg has consumed one too
many orders of foie gras and has finally gone over the edge.
That's the sort of reaction I imagine many of you are having
as you read this week's pick, and I can't say I really blame
you. As the restaurant critic for a newspaper serving an
increasingly diverse and sophisticated market, I realize that
I risk losing some serious gourmet cred with such a
But look at it this way: If I'm willing to take such a risk,
maybe there really is something special about the chili cheese
fries at Players Retreat. Like scratch-made chili, for
starters, a classic diner-style brew chockablock with ground
beef and kidney beans in a tomato-based sauce jacked up with
diced pickled jalapenos.
This chunky concoction is amply ladled over a massive logjam
of crisp, skin-on fries. And it's generously topped with
grated cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.
One caveat: Don't order this dish unless you have someone to
help you eat it. It's big enough for four normal appetites,
but it's so addictive that you'll probably polish it off even
if you're dining alone. I say this from sad experience.
Granted, even chili cheese fries this good aren't what you'd
call gourmet fare. But they deliver a simple, deeply satisfied
feeling that gourmet fare rarely does. And I'd swear that the
setting -- a college-town tavern that doesn't appear to have
changed since it opened more than half a century ago -- makes
the chili cheese fries at Players Retreat taste even better.
Nov. 22, 2005
News & Observer
By Dudley Price
© Copyright 2005
After keeping the beer flowing for 54 years, the Players
Retreat, one of the city's oldest taverns, was on the verge of
a final last call when an investment group bought a stake in
the business last week.
With competition that has been siphoning customers and a
coming rent increase, the bar was about to shut the taps for
good this month, said Richard "Gus" Gusler, a lawyer who is
heading the partnership.
"It was 10 days away from being gone forever," Gusler said of
the bar at Oberlin Road and Hillsborough Street.
Pete Jarrell, who in 1994 bought the bar -- affectionately
known as the "PR" by generations of customers -- is retaining
partial ownership. Gusler is taking over day-to-day
management. "It's going to be a challenge," Gusler said. "But
I fully believe we can turn it around."
Gusler, who lives in neighboring Cameron Park, acknowledges
that he'll have to work a delicate balancing act to maintain
the PR's character while making enough changes to appeal to
"We're going to take the PR into the 21st century," he said.
In a city where nightlife tends to be centered in strip
shopping centers or at trendy national chains, the Players
Retreat stands out.
It's the antithesis of the high-energy lounges that dominate
the nearby Glenwood South district. The decor is dark wood and
vintage N.C. State University athletics. Rows of aquariums
back a long oak bar. There are a few small televisions, but
conversation, a pool table and a 500-can beer collection often
are the entertainment.
From its founding by Bernie and Mickey Hanula during the
Truman administration, the PR was a social center for West
Raleigh residents, NCSU students, politicians and journalists,
who crammed the place nightly.
Wedding receptions and baby showers were held at the PR, where
the clientele regularly included Supreme Court justices and
carpenters in adjoining seats.
PR ... what they're sayin'
Winner of the Wine
Spectator Award for 2010 and 2011
Return of The Morning Room at the PR (at
least on Friday and Saturday) Call for details: 755-9589.
living November, 2011
Ashley Christensen on the PR
"Locals call it "the PR", a tavern across
from North Carolina State University that's been there since
1951. A friend of mine took this place over. It's a great
place to watch a game, drink a beer, and chow down on Mimi's
Sausage Dip and Chips ($5.95), made with local sausage from
the Farmers' Market, cream cheese, tomatoes, and hot
CMUS talk of the town award
Friday, October 14, 2011
Players Retreat, Award Recipient for Excellence in Customer
From: Talk of the Town Awards Division
Our research team calculates each score by reviewing all
information gathered from user-review websites, social
networks, business-rating services, and other
awards and accolades. Only those who reach 4 to 5 stars will
win the award.
Congratulations on your 5 star rating.
2010 and 2011 Wine Spectator Awards
Submitted by gregcox on 07/14/2010 - 09:27
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Tags: Mouthful | awards | Wine Spectator
Let's raise a glass to this year's winners of the Wine
Spectator awards. And no, that's not a typo: The Players'
Retreat, long known as a burgers 'n' brews joint, has been
polishing its act of late and is indeed a newcomer to the
list. If you haven't been there in a while, you may want to
drop in and check out the changes.
In the no-surprise category, The Angus Barn does us proud
again, bringing home the coveted Grand Award for the
umpteenth time in a row (the first was in 1989, if you're
Here are the winners:
The Angus Barn
BEST OF AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
42nd St. Oyster Bar
Elaine’s on Franklin
The Melting Pot
The Players’ Retreat
Six Plates Wine Bar
Zely & Ritz
From Raleigh News and Observer - November 20, 2009
An old favorite with a few nice upgrades
BY GREG COX - Correspondent
Team photos dating back to the days of leather football
helmets hang so close together on the walls of the Players'
Retreat that you can barely see the age-darkened wood
paneling behind them. Hundreds of beer cans, some of them
brands that haven't been brewed in decades, stand in neat
rows on high, narrow shelves. Beer steins and mugs belonging
to longtime regulars hang over the timeworn bar, where
customers alternately chew the fat and watch the action on a
couple of overhead TV screens.
You get the feeling that the PR (as it has come to be known
affectionately) has changed very little since the late
Bernie Hanula, a former Wake Forest football player, opened
it with his wife, Mickey, in 1951. Beneath the timeworn
patina, though, the place has undergone a number of
substantial changes in recent years.
In 2005, the PR nearly closed in the face of increasing
competition from modern sports bars boasting gastropub menus
and plasma screens by the dozen.
Richard "Gus" Gusler, a Raleigh lawyer and loyal fan of what
had by then become a local institution, came to the rescue.
While preserving the original spirit of the pub, Gusler has
boosted its appeal to a 21st century fan base in a number of
He installed a computer, for starters, which is available to
all customers (and, with the aid of Google, has been known
to settle more than one bar bet). He has assembled the
largest collection of single malt scotch whiskeys in the
state, including a few rare gems he discovered on annual
trips to Scotland. More recently, Gusler bought a
state-of-the-art wine preservation system that dispenses
more than 100 by-the-glass offerings. Meanwhile, the
selection of draft microbrews and bottled beers more than
lives up to the pub's sudsy heritage.
Changes to the menu are less obvious and, for the most part,
reflect an increased emphasis on quality ingredients.
Certified Angus beef is used exclusively in everything from
the 12-ounce New York strip steak to the meat sauce for
pasta. That includes the burgers, too, which have always
been a PR staple and, now that they're ground fresh daily
and can be flame-grilled to order, are better than ever.
Several burger variations are available (the Bernie, with
bacon, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo is
popular), as well as an assortment of sandwiches ranging
from chicken salad to a jaw-stretching overstuffed corned
beef and Swiss on rye.
The appetizer list rounds up the usual pub nosh suspects,
and throws in a couple of offbeat options such as Brunswick
stew and sausage dip with chips to keep things interesting.
I'm partial to the cheese fries, especially when they're
topped with the PR's chunky chili (homemade with an ample
portion of beef - Angus, naturally). Fried oysters are plump
and succulent. I confess I'd happily eat those house-made
meatballs by themselves. For my money, the pick of the
entree list is the baby back ribs, whose toothsome rewards
aren't smothered under a blanket of thick sauce.
The PR is due for a couple more changes in the near future.
Construction on Hillsborough Street, which has hurt business
for several weeks, should be complete any day now. And on
Jan. 2, the statewide smoking ban will mean that those
overworked Smoke Eaters in the bar can be retired.
Still, for all its changes, the Players' Retreat remains at
heart a college town tavern of the old school. I, for one,
am happy to toast another 50 years of its continued success.
A glass of Laphroaig Quarter Cask single malt ought to do
click to enlarge
Any time an organization or establishment uses the phrase
“the oldest ___ in ___”, there is bound to be controversy.
The title “Oldest bar in Raleigh” is no exception. Mitch
claims as much for his bar, near the spot on the menu that
also mentions the appearance in Bull Durham. While it may be
the oldest bar that is still in the original structure, the
Jolly Knave was sold to Mitch after the PR was established.
Red’s, also owned by Mitch, has been closed for more than 30
years. Another local bar that claims the title is The Office
Tavern. There seems to be dispute because they relocated
from five points to the Johnson Street location long ago.
It seems as though any person that has lived in Raleigh for
a significant amount of time knows the inside of Player’s
Retreat. The web site states that it is "a Raleigh tradition
While I haven’t lived in Raleigh very long, this place is
special to me too. Once I had an instructor who moved class
to this location to discuss topics over drinks–before noon!
In addition to the history of the place, there is something
special about the atmosphere too. Similar to Mitch’s, it is
chock full of eye candy attached to the walls with phrases
such as "Our waitresses go from zero to bitch in four
seconds". It is quite large inside, especially given the
location. It has a decently sized pool room, a separate
dining room, outdoor seating, and a spacious bar.
One of the most interesting parts of the PR is the computer
with free internet access and printer. The internet (Google
in particular) has made us realize that any disagreement
over a fact, figure, or history item can be settled in a
matter of seconds with almost zero effort. Coffee/tea
houses, restaurants, and bars in particular have always been
filled with people having philosophical debates of every
variety. This frequently leads to one person disagreeing
with another person’s presentation of the facts of an event.
By placing a computer with internet access and a printer for
free public use, you are assured there will never be a
conversation’s completion left hanging upon promises of
future consultation with Google or Wikipedia. As far as I
know, it is the only bar in the area with a free public
Bert, one of the PR’s bartenders, was wearing a shirt that
said "Beer - it’s not just for breakfast anymore". He’s been
around for quite some time and has some unique information
on the cultural history of Raleigh. He told me stories of a
bar on Hillsborough Street with a swimming pool, the old
headshop underneath of Daryl’s (now Red Hot & Blue), and
some of the large name musical acts that came through
Raleigh in the mid 70s to early 80s. When asked about
Mitch’s claim about being the oldest bar in Raleigh, he
"Mitch’s isn’t the oldest bar and he knows it. It’s been
around for 30 years. There is some debate about The Office
Tavern, but they moved across town."
With an established reputation for great food, vegetarian
options, the largest selection of single malt scotches in
North Carolina, fantastic drink specials, and a well
designed web site–they have all of the ingredients for the
best bar in Raleigh.
COMMENT (click to add comment)
Great Neighborhood Pub
The PR has good wine, lots of liquor and tons of new beers on tap. There is
also a non-smoking section and a great jukebox. They have pool tables and the
crowd is really cool and nice --not your uppity Glenwood South. crowd. The
service is excellent at PR, too. The waitresses are all really friendly and
fast. Great cheeseburgers. I just moved from Charlotte and the PR is my new
favorite bar in Raleigh. They also have really cool fishtanks. The bartenders
are oldish men (not hot) but they're nice.
Great Drink and Food Specials
Being on a student budget, this places rocks. Cheap beer and food. Best
place in town to watch NCSU and the CANES on HD TV's. Mondays pints of Bud and
Bud light are $1.00. House liquor drinks $2.50 on Sundays.
$1 pints on
The best ribs I have ever eaten
Very eclectic group of customers. In one booth is a guy drinking a $1.50
PBR and the next booth a guy drinking a $40 glass of Cognac. Great jukebox,
pool and darts. Very extensive menu. Every thing on the menu is great and
I love scotch and this place has a huge selection. All the steaks are black
angus and they don't cut them until you order them. They are great. Best
burger and cheese fries
Best Burgers, ribs, steaks and 42 brands of Single Malt Scotch
... the place has been sold and powerwashed from top to bottom. Clean and
cool!!!! New owners added outdoor seating, good wine, Black Angus Steaks cut
to order and every type of liquor you could ask for. Every piece of equipment
in the kitchen, except for one, has been replaced. Free high speed internet
and 50" HD Plasmas. All the sports packages. Late night breakfast until 2am on
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
pool tables, darts