Whenever I enter a barbecue joint of any kind, part of me hopes for bluegrass blaring, sawdust on the floor, and a smoke filled whiskey splattered dive bar. Given a choice between a rundown restaurant in the sticks that is badly in need of renovation after fifty years of neglect and a spotless shining new more gourmet barbecue place, I will always choose the former. I don’t want to turn this into an anti-corporate rant about the McDonaldization of the world, so I will just say that I would prefer that barbecue places make a greater effort to acknowledge their roots.
Woody’s (6176 Falls of Neuse Rd Raleigh, NC 27609) is a barbecue place that opened up recently at the Northridge shopping center on Falls of Neuse in a building that used to be a Hardee’s. It should also be noted that Woody’s is a chain barbecue place that can be found in a lot of areas of the Southeast. The building doesn’t look like much from the outside as it still holds a great deal of that crappy fast food restaurant charm including crumbling drive thru. Once I got inside I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had put a lot of work into renovation including new booths, pine paneling on the walls and many many signs with a vaguely country theme. The bar at the back was a nice addition though, and I was very happy to consume a Blue Moon with my meal. The signs irked me a little and they are likely the source of my discussion of barbecue authenticity at the beginning of this post.
I have to say though, whatever irritation I may have had with the atmosphere, it was made up for by the food. The meal was started with a basket of hushpuppies which had a good balance of onion and sweet that hushpuppies should have. I ordered the Carolina Barbecue sandwich with coleslaw and fries on the side. The pulled pork was perfectly tender and the restaurant provided 4 or 5 different sauces to add to it. Normally I don’t like adding my own sauce, but I found a good blend of the sweet southern sauce with the Carolina barbecue sauce tasted amazing. To make an authentic Carolina barbecue, I dumped a bunch of coleslaw on top of the pork to add the sweet and sour contrast that makes NC BBQ so great. My one complaint with the food was the rather tasteless French fries. This may seem like an insignificant slight, but I think a barbecue place should know how to cook a tasty batch of pomme frites.
The service was great at Woody’s especially considering that we took several weird pictures involving small figurines of famous artists and anime characters. I will say I was more than satisfied by the waitstaff, but here I am going to turn it over to wifey for more.
Thank you, Husbandy. Woody’s BBQ is not a place for the faint of stomach. You will be clubbed over the head with the amount of food served. It’s also not a place for the vegetarians out there, the place has a three-meat salad for Christ’s sake!
It’s especially not a place for those obsessed with restaurant aesthetics. The outside is still reminiscent of a certain big-burgered, Padma Lakshmi in BBQ sauce, high caloric fast food chain that used to inhabit the building.
But I digress, for all Woody’s lacks, it makes up for tenfold with its food and service. I like my waitresses with sass, which ours had in spades. She not only took care of us, I don’t think my iced tea was ever less than half-full, but she was friendly and even joked around in a way that made me at ease.
The food, as I mentioned before, is plentiful, almost to an obscene amount. For a lunch meal, I had BBQ baby back ribs, texas toast, hushpuppies, cole slaw, and french fries. The meal was only $8.50 and I had enough food left over to package up and send to UNICEF.
My god, my ribs were tender, literally falling off the bone, and with just the right amount of fat, and with a little bit of char. Absolutely delicious. The sauce was the BBQ most outside of N.C are familiar with; a sweet, tomato-based sauce with enough spice to make things interesting. I tried the other sauces available on our table. The best of the bunch is known as Carolina Sweet, which may be the sauce on my ribs. The others were vinegar-based and tasted a little one-note to me.
All of my starches were great; the fries were crispy and not too salty; plus, the hush puppies were wonderful and crunchy. The one off note of the meal was the coleslaw, but that’s due to my inherent lack of understanding of coleslaw as a whole Why is the South obsessed with weird things in mayo-based sauces? Why??
In terms of a good, quick, and well-priced meal, Woody’s meets my criteria. Ignore the gaudy signs on the walls and the glum Sarah McLachlan songs playing. Focus on the taste and leave your other senses at home.