Yes child, were going to Woodys
Its easy to find Woodys. Driving down West Slauson, east to west, with the window down, all you have to do is follow your nose. That comforting scent of hickory and mesquite will reel you in from several blocks away, until you see the packed parking lot and the long line of hungry souls extending out of the glass doors and away down the street.
Tom and I had been looking forward to our visit to Woodys for some time. I wouldnt say that we fasted for a week beforehand, but I did skip dessert on Friday night in anticipation. We whet our appetites with a slew of reviews, including one from Gourmet magazine how often does an L.A. barbecue place appear in a magazine like Gourmet? We figured it had to be good; classy, even!
The crowd is very friendly at Woodys, which is a good thing, because youre all packed in there when its busy, and its hot, and there are only about eight chairs to sit in while you wait for the food. I could see all the way into the back, and it was pretty smoky in there, but it was the good kind of smoke, and the chefs were really working it, cutting and chopping and banging things and shouting and laughing. It felt like a good place.
Woodys is take-out only, which is a shame, because Id have liked to hang out there, with all the smoke and smells and the friendly people sitting and chatting. But instead we picked up the big plastic bags of boxedup food and headed back to my apartment. No way we were going to eat in Toms car, that was for sure. Not with all the sauce and the beans and the grease and the sun out, and him just having washed it a few days before. No way.
Now my apartment is a pretty nice place, or at least I think it is. But it doesnt really have the ambience of a barbecue joint. Even when we opened all the boxes and the ribs and the meat and the sides were all spread out on the table, and the air was sticky with the hot, sweet smell of the sauce, even then it didnt feel quite right. I began to think we should have taken it to the park.
We splurged, actually. We got the beef ribs, sliced beef, pork ribs, chicken and links. And we ordered beans and potato salad and cornbread, and peach cobbler to finish up. And thats pretty much all Woodys has got on the menu, apart from some more sides like fries and slaw and greens, and a sweet potato pie dessert.
It was pretty clear that the beef ribs were going to be a winner. For a start, they were enormous, and, unusually for beef ribs, there appeared to more meat than bone in the composition. They were very tasty, laden with meat that wasnt overcooked, or too greasy, or two chewy. There was some resistance to the bite, to be sure, but the beef was juicy and very flavorful: full of smoke.
The pork ribs looked very promising, with that shiny, bronzed epidermis and a layer of pure pink underneath. They smelled magnificent, so we were surprised to find them rather dry and chewy, dare I say tough? The flavor was all there, but we had to work hard, and we found ourselves blessing the sauce, which seemed to moisten them up a bit.
I should point out here that Woodys is a Memphis style place, so all the offerings come slathered in sauce. We werent offered a choice of sauce strengths, and at first it was a bit overwhelming, rather sweet, with a slow gentle burn. I scraped much of it off, initially, but after a short while it began to grow on me, and I found myself ladling it on, particularly on those slightly dried-put pork ribs.
It seemed a little redundant on the hot links, which were, well, hot. They tasted a bit manufactured - not like the ones your Uncle Joe used to make, but more like Trader Joes, if you get my drift. They were still very pleasant, however, even if the skin was a tad tough, and they left a slightly sweet, lingering heat with the aftertaste.
The sauce did best on the chicken, which was exceptional. The meat was perfectly done, with just the right amount of moisture in the breast, and the leg not underdone. I suspect Woodys chefs may cook the chickens upside down, to let the moisture seep into the breast. Whatever the technique, the bird was a big hit, and we noticed that for some reason it tasted much smokier than any of the other meats, and yet lighter. We kept going back to the chicken, finding it provided a refresher between the various darker meats, and there wasnt much left over at the end.
The brisket was disappointing, a little chewy, and a little watery, despite the thick sauce. The flavor was all there, but it was hard to get through the serving, and we ended up pushing it aside. It joined the beans, which were suspiciously small, and pork-less, and could have passed for canned, Tom commented. My wife loved them.
The potato salad had a good texture, being moist and refreshing, laced with onion and pickle. But, like the beans, it didnt have too many takers. And neither did the corn bread, which was dry, mealy, and unpalatable. The cobbler was made of peaches transparently canned. The cooks went heavy on the sugar and the cinnamon, and the effect, once the slice of pie had been crammed into a small takeout container, was of an oversweet, cloying mess of pastry and canned peach juice. It looked terrible. And we ate it all!
Woodys produces some great barbecue, but we were a little disappointed. Judging by some of the previous reviews, however, were prepared to concede we may have gone on a bad day. Or perhaps it really was the environment, and we should have sat in the park to eat after all. Either way, the place requires a second look, so well be back; perhaps well go to Inglewood, where you can eat in. But maybe not straight away.
3446 W. Slauson Ave
Los Angeles, CA
475 South Market Street
11897 Foothill #B
Rancho Cucamonga, CA