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Woody's Beefs Up the Basic Bar Menu

A new focus on barbecue redefines the former Plank

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It was Ed's Abbey. It was Brews Brothers. After a marauder makeover, it became The Plank. Now the newest incarnation at 650 S. Vista Ave. is Woody's.

No matter what its name, the establishment has always been a laid-back neighborhood pub that seldom lacks patrons. Busy though it may be, Woody's is visually quiet inside. Pale pine tables, chairs and barstools are all but unnoticeable, and beer signs and pennants on the wall don't beg for much attention. Sports fans can wander in and find a game on one of the big-screen TVs and the horseshoe pit and covered patio out back are welcoming diversions. Woody's is, like its predecessors, a beer-and-wine-only establishment, but owner Lyle Titus said even the 20 beers on tap weren't enough to sustain the establishment, so he decided to shake up the former standard pub fare.

Sandwiches, burgers, hot wings and baskets of fried finger foods are available, but now you can also order a mahi mahi or sockeye fish taco, an Italian sausage, or choose from a large selection of Baja barbecue dishes like homemade chili verde or barbecued sweet-chili-rubbed ribs. All of the pork, beef and chicken served at Woody's is cooked over mesquite wood and hand-pulled on-site.

The beef chuck in the firelog-sized Baja carne asada burrito ($6.99) had a deep, smoky flavor but tasted like it sat over the mesquite a bit too long. It was crunchy, which was an unexpected texture to encounter in a burrito, and was a little off-putting. A sauce station in the corner held bottles of Tapatio, Tabasco, barbecue and fry sauces to accentuate dishes for individual tastes, but I was content with the spicy red chili sauce and a green tomatillo that came with the burrito. The tangy green sauce gave the dish a piquant kick but it wasn't quite enough to override the overcooked meat. The side of pot beans, however, also had that rich smoked flavor and were cooked to exactly the right consistency. Next time, I'll ask the server to chuck the chuck and fill that big soft warm tortilla with those beans, cheese, lettuce and the green sauce.

Woody's is trying to set itself apart further by turning its focus to the 'cue. A newly hung vertical banner that reads "BBQ" runs the length of the pole under the big Woody's sign outside and all the meat is smoked in a grill on the front patio. It may very well work--somebody just needs to make sure to turn over the meat.

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