Restaurants & Bars 7

Roundup of Armadillo Willy's (Capitola)

Carb Lover | Oct 2, 200503:59 PM

Having a massive craving for meat the size of a 30-gallon cowboy hat, Y and I ventured to Armadillo Willy's (see link) on Fri. night. We wanted a change from Cole's and were too tuckered out to drive to Watsonville to try Hungerford's w/ the additional prospect of having to deal w/ loud blues music. I wasn't expecting top-notch Texas style BBQ at this NorCal chain (as forewarned by hounds on the bay area board), but figured it might quelch the Q craving. Photo of our goods is below, and yes, it was as lackluster as it looks. Here's my roundup:

Ordered: 3 meat combo (we chose Texas ribs, brisket, and Memphis pork) comes w/ Texas toast and choice of 2 sides (spicy peanut slaw, baked beans), side order of garlic parmesan fries, and 1 soda. Total came to about $23. Counter service and self-serve drinks.

Overall, food was pretty mediocre and meat portions fell a bit short of what I was expecting. Sides were "off" in their own way; I wouldn't order any of those again. I actually liked the Memphis pork (the bits at 3 o'clock on the plate) and the Texas toast the best. Pork was a bit underseasoned but had some savoriness and was tasty dipped into the spicy sauce. Even though the toast was probably slathered in cheap margarine and should have been a thicker cut, it was relatively satisfying and flavorful w/ garlic seasoning.

Surprised that their ribs are pork b/c I thought that Texans preferred beef ribs? While these were fairly meaty, evenly coated in a dry rub, and separated from the bone w/ little effort, they didn't have much depth of flavor, were a little stringy, and tasted and looked like they had been boiled and then briefly smoked til outside was dark and charred. While slices of beef brisket were tender and juicy, they tasted more braised than smoked for 18 hours as they advertise. Ultimately, I didn't experience any BBQ afterglow (you know, the warm feeling inside that one gets from a carcinogenic feast).

As hounds noted, their two housemade sauces (regular and jalapeno spiced) were mediocre and not very complex. I preferred the spicy while Y liked the regular better. Counter service was quick and efficient, and young staff did a good job of bussing and cleaning tables quickly. It's a comfortable place where families seem to go after a kiddie soccer game or couples come to grab a quick bite. I would only return to sample the pork sandwich or maybe a burger if I were in the area and didn't want to eat at the other chains on that busy strip of Capitola.

Cole's in SC and Aptos is way, way better for their saucy beef ribs, french fries, and other sides, and portions are more generous. Y and I have decided to do a mini-BBQ crawl and will be trying Hungerford's in Watsonville and Bruno's in Scotts Valley in the coming weeks. Any opinions on Bruno's or recs for other places? Does Buffalo Bell do Q?

Link: http://www.armadillowillys.com/menus/

Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

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