Another restaurant that made it onto my 2012 restaurant bucket list is Wood Ranch BBQ in the Irvine Spectrum. Although this restaurant group is not new, it has been consistently reviewed as one of the better chain-BBQ places in Southern California. I wanted to see how it would rank against some of the BBQ Giants like Lucille’s, so I paid them a visit to see if they could differentiate themselves. For me, one of the key differentiators was their focus on authentic representation of the American “BBQ Regions,” from Texas to the Carolinas. Here are my impressions of my favorite dishes that I tasted.
My Favorite Dishes
Famous Shredded Onions
This plate is very impressive from a presentation perspective, and it’s absolutely delicious. It’s simply a giant plate of shoe-string fried onions. The onions appear to have been shredded, dry coated with a super secret powder, and deep-fried.
Carolina Pulled Pork Sliders
Very slowly smoked pork mixed with a traditional sweet and tangy Carolina style sauce on slider rolls. They are served with pickles and a mayo-based coleslaw. This is a miniature version of how the folks in the Carolinas do BBQ. My recommendation is to throw some shredded onions into the sliders.
What part of the pig is pulled pork from? The Boston But. This cut of meat is actually in the shoulder area (not the rear end) is usually very fatty and with lots of connective tissue. This is why slow-cooking with smoke is such a great option to break down the fat and tissues.
Texas-Style Smoked Brisket
A cut of brisket (which comes from the lower end of the cow, closest to the chest) is naturally a tough, stringy and fatty cut. Although with a slow cooking method, this cut will become juicy and soft. Like all of the meats at Wood Ranch, the brisket is massaged with a dry rub, smoked many hours with hickory hard wood and then finished over an open hard-mesquite flame. The result is a very tender and juicy brisket that places the emphasis on the meat’s natural flavor.
Giant Short Rib
This monster cut of Certified Beef Angus Short Rib begs for a “that’s what she said” joke. This short rib is uncut from the bone and cooked using pecan wood smoke. It is served cowboy style (bone in), brushed with BBQ sauce and with two sides. The short rib was very tender as it easily cut open with a butter knife under minimal pressure. The natural flavor of the meat was at the forefront with subtle hints of pecan. The meat was tender and it fell apart in my mouth. There was something very primal about this dish that made me want to find a caveman outfit. This dish is enough to a very hungry large man, a couple who eats moderately or a group of children.
What is a short rib? Short ribs are cuts of beef taken from the underside of a cow’s rib cage, where the meat is often more tender than other rib cuts. This cut is very rich in flavor and has more meat than spareribs.
Bar-B-Que Cubano Sandwich
An interesting take on the Cuban culinary tradition of using a loaf of Cuban bread (similar to French bread), cooked ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and pulled pork in place of Cuban style roasted pork. This sandwich is on the large side and it is big enough to be shared by a twosome with lighter appetites.
Aside from their standard table BBQ sauce, made in the Santa Maria style, they also offer some sauces a little more on the wild side. The first is the Cherry Chipotle Sauce, which has a sweet and tart up-front flavor from the cherry and the smoky slow sizzle flavor from the chipotle. The other sauce is the Habanero Peach Sauce, which has an upfront kick from the habanero on the tongue, but the sweet balance from the sugary flavors of the peach. I personally preferred the Cherry Chipotle Sauce, because I much prefer a slow, long-lasting sizzle that allows the natural meat flavors to shine.
Avoiding gluten is very important for anyone who is gluten intolerant or suffering from Celiac’s disease. Alejandro Benes, Director of Marketing and Communications, indicated that they have made a concerted effort to eliminate gluten from as much of the menu as possible, including their BBQ sauces. In addition, all their BBQ meats are made without gluten. They also have a very large selection of appetizers, salads and sides that are gluten free.
My Final Thoughts
I really appreciated the tour of the American BBQ regions via tasting the dishes at Wood Ranch BBQ. I have eaten at this restaurant twice now, and each time they delivered consistently delicious food and provided excellent service. Although Wood Ranch is a “restaurant group,” with fourteen locations in southern California, they operate the restaurants as a family business. As a result, there is close attention paid on food, service and overall experience. Rumor has it that they send secret shoppers into their stores on a monthly basis to ensure their original family standards are maintained. If you go here, I highly recommend that you order the short rib, briskit and tri-tip.
Contest for A $20 Gift Card
Have you dined at Wood Ranch BBQ? I am giving away a $20 gift certificate to one of my readers who leaves a comment on my Facebook page post or on this blog post. Let me know if you have ever dined here, and tell me whether it was a good or bad experience. I try my best to keep objective, if your experiences were not as good as mine, I would really like to hear about it. If you have not tried Wood Ranch, let me know what you thought of the food I described. I will be picking a winner on November 11th.
Other Dishes We Tried