Much to be thankful for
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., Sept. 8, 2006
321 Ben White Blvd. #300, 851-9663
Hours: Sun-Fri: 11am12mid. Sat: 11am-1amwww.woodyssouth.com
There are not many cool hangout places in South Austin where one can get affordably priced food, happy hour specials, live music nightly, and a great neighborhood atmosphere. Well, thankfully, we have Woody's South.
Tucked away in a definitely nondescript strip mall on Ben White, between South First and Congress, Woody's occupies the building formerly known as Serranos. Some evidence of the pseudo-Mexican decor remains, such as the three wall murals depicting Mexican mountain ranges as seen from a bougainvillea-draped terrace. "I couldn't bring myself to paint over them," says new owner Woody Wiedeman, formerly of Room 710. And if you look carefully, you can find the face of Jesus hidden in all three of them.
The cool limestone interiors and metal cutout wall sculptures are also leftovers from the former restaurant. But that's where the resemblance ends. Woody's has a Red River flavor to it, with band posters and a game room for shooting pool and playing videos. The small bar has been packed on all of our visits with friendly folks enjoying happy-hour pints, frozen margaritas, and half-price appetizer specials. Continuing his support for live local music, Weideman features bands for happy hour, late nights, and Sunday brunch.
The menu features classic American fare and Southern favorites. For lunch, there are a wide variety of sandwiches, wraps, salads, and burgers, and the service is prompt and friendly. The Buffalo Chicken Salad ($6.99) is a satisfying plate of crisp iceberg lettuce topped with chicken-fried chicken slices coated in a tangy and spicy buffalo sauce, tossed with homemade blue cheese dressing. The Turkey Reuben ($7.50) is piled high with turkey pastrami, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese between soft slices of marbled rye bread. The burgers ($6.95) are juicy handmade patties, with optional toppings like cheese, mushrooms, and grilled onions that can be added for a few cents extra. The fries are slightly seasoned and always crispy, but the thin-sliced onion strings are hit or miss. Sometimes they are just right, sometimes limp and undercooked.
During a weekday happy hour, we enjoyed the Sample Platter ($7.50 happy hour), with crisp potato skins topped with bacon and chives, onion strings, spicy wings with ranch dressing, and shrimp flautas. Woody's take on the shrimp-wrapped-in-bacon-with-jalapeños, the "flautas" are wrapped in wonton skins, then deep fried, served with a spicy ginger soy dipping sauce. A couple of pints of Real Ale's Fireman's #4 and a plate of those yummy things, and I am calling it dinner.
Except that the dinner dishes are also very good. Bubba's Meatloaf ($7.99) and Chicken-Fried Steak ($8.99) are toothsome and filling. They come with homemade gravy and your choice of two sides, including mashed potatoes (with peel, mmmmm!), garlicky wilted spinach, fried green tomatoes, and freshly steamed broccoli, among others. The only disappointing entrée was the Fish Tacos ($5.95). The grilled fish was savory, but the tacos were small, the slaw had seen better days, the rice was crunchy and the beans uneventful. Our gracious server agreed to exchange the crunchy rice for some juicy fried mushrooms, but that entrée still did not satisfy. Next time, I'm going for the bock-simmered brat.
Desserts at Woody's include homemade pies and cobbler, but, honestly, we were too full to taste them. But we did enjoy the music of Natalie Zoe and conversation with friends over a couple of beers. To me, that and the shrimp flautas are good enough reasons to return to Woody's time and again.