Got Woody’s?

Local hideout serves up good grub in a fun atmosphere

AT THE BAR<br> Wayne Daley and Tim McKee sit down for a drink and peanuts at Woody’s.

Wayne Daley and Tim McKee sit down for a drink and peanuts at Woody’s.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Unassuming and unpretentious, Woody’s sits on the corner of Park and 20th. Despite my penchant for dens of inequity, the nondescript, faded exterior and its likeness to a biker bar had previously been enough cause for me to drive past and never set foot inside.

Recently, however, I received word it serves up some damn-near-spectacular meals and isn’t so much a seedy dive as a diamond in the rough. The source of the word being reputable enough, I sought out Woody’s on a Monday night with a friend in tow. Joining the six men assembled at the bar watching football, their beers at various stages of drunk, we ordered large amounts of bar food and drinks and settled in for a greasy food/football fest. From the sign on the wall advertising the sale of a bowl of peanuts for 50 cents to the cozy atmosphere created from a mixture of metal walls and cement floors, I was charmed.

Monday-night football at Woody’s calls for big sandwiches and greasy appetizers. We got what we came for. The “bad boy” bacon cheeseburger ($7.25) is an enormous half-pounder, laden with veggies, cheese and bacon, served with homemade potato salad, known as “fat tater salad.” The potato salad is just like Mom’s, complete with eggs and celery. The tricked-out tri-tip sandwich ($8.25) rivals the burgers in size and is “great,” according to the patron sitting one seat over. Mozzarella sticks ($5.75) are served up with ranch dressing as are the jalapeño poppers ($5.75). We finished off our gluttonous feast with a game of pool and some drinks. I leaned back on the bar stool, drink in hand, and silently thanked Woody’s for a perfect Monday night.

Behind this humble exterior lies some of Chico’s finest pub dining.

Photo By C. Moore

I went back for a late-Friday lunch with a friend and was impressed with the unique dishes the Cook’s Specials menu ($8.25) offered (lamb ragu rigatoni and mushroom barley soup, among others). I inquired as to who was behind the imaginative menu and found out Woody’s cook, Yvonne, comes up with new specials every week in addition to the offerings on the regular menu. I made a mental note to return to see what else she’d conjure up.

On that visit, I sampled the fish and chips, which were served with tartar sauce and expectedly greasy, and the mushroom barley soup made with what I’m assuming were dried shitakes, judging by the chewy texture. The soup was delicious and vegetarian, made with Yvonne’s homemade vegetable stock. Served with buttery pieces of garlic bread, the soup bowl is a meal in itself. My fearless friend, never afraid to try new things, sampled the lamb ragu rigatoni and was reasonably impressed.

During my most recent visit to Woody’s, while staring at the corrugated metal wall, I had an epiphany: Woody’s is great. Just great. And then Yvonne arrived with my drink and my insight was justified. Her brilliant smile, amazing kitchen and menu-development skills, and gentle service are enough reason to visit Woody’s for lunch on any given day.

That day, the Cook’s Specials included pulled pork sandwiches, homemade coleslaw and New England clam chowder. I prayed my soup would arrive piping hot in a bread bowl, and my chowder was served in a bread bowl, creamy and thick, full of potatoes and clams. The pulled-pork sandwich with barbecue sauce lasted all of two minutes in front of my ravenous companion and was pronounced spectacular. At Woody’s, the side dishes are homemade and even the coleslaw is notable.

Looking around the small room, my glance swept over the mostly filled bar stools, the small tables and vinyl-covered benches, the pool table in the center and the small wooden stove in the corner with a gleaming copper kettle on top. Unexpectedly endearing, with good food to boot, Woody’s is reason enough never to judge a book by its cover.