If you’re the type of person who discovered the wheel and built the Eiffel Tower out of metal and brawn, then there’s really only one thing you should be focused on this Memorial Day Weekend: meat. By the same token, this yearly federal holiday provides a perfect opportunity for everyone to join in on some down and dirty eating, because while the last Monday in May is all about celebrating fallen soldiers, the weekend itself is an excellent opportunity to say hello to summer with a little barbecue. Most college students know their way around a grill to some degree, but this weekend, let the professionals take over and make a visit to some of Santa Barbara’s finest barbecue joints. Loosen that belt, grab some wetnaps and let On the Menu direct you toward some of the tastiest meals around.
Knock on Woody’s
5112 Hollister Ave, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 967-3775
Price: $5 to $15
Located on Hollister between the Patterson and Turnpike exits on Highway 101, Woody’s BBQ lives up to its self-proclaimed reputation for “Bodacious Barbecue.” A friendly, family-owned business, Woody’s features a sprawling menu with everything from ribs and chili to low-carb chicken and specialty salads. A favorite for UCSB students and community members alike, Woody’s has won awards from every publication in town and has been voted Santa Barbara’s Best Barbecue for 24 years in a row. One step into the restaurant and customers will immediately feel like they’ve been transferred from the beach to the Midwest.
General manager Steve Flora said Woody’s charm comes partly from its southern influence.
“We try to be a traditional-style barbecue restaurant with roots that go back to Texas and the Deep South,” Flora said. “We stay true to all of our recipes because they’ve been developed over 26 years.”
More importantly, Woody’s offers large portions for very reasonable prices, a necessity to most UCSB students. Lunch specials are offered Monday through Friday until 4 p.m., allowing customers to try choices such as the Smoked Turkey Sandwich, Third-Pound Cheeseburger, Pulled Pork, Barbecue Tri-Tip or Barbecue Chicken Breast for only $4.45. Customers can add side dishes to their meal, with some of the more popular ones being the Fresh Cut Fries, Cowboy Beans and Cole Slaw. Woody’s also offers a large salad bar, which is a popular selection for the health conscious customers.
“Probably about 60 percent of our customers visit the salad bar, and it’s a definite pleaser,” Flora said.
For those looking for a bigger meal, Woody’s definitely lives up to its glowing reputation. All of the meats are smoked, giving them an authentic taste that cannot be found in many other restaurants on the Central Coast. Popular sandwich choices include the Bullwhacker, which is smoked tri-tip on a steak roll with jack cheese, bacon, barbecue sauce and onion un-rings. The Mother Clucker is another crowd-pleaser, which comes consists of barbecue chicken breast, bacon, jack cheese and onion un-rings. Then there are the ribs. All rib dinners come with two sides with a choice of pork spare, baby back, beef, St. Louis or even buffalo – bison – as a possible meat option for the ribs. Other choices on the menu include prime rib, fish n’ chips, grilled tuna salad and even a tangy Thai salad. For those that are extremely daring, there’s the barbecue orgy, a two-person meal that includes barbecue chicken, beef ribs, pork spare ribs and tri-tip. Tums are not included.
Most of Woody’s favorites are meant to be devoured with their famous sauces, including the Devil’s Kitchen Sauce, or the legendary Hotter’n Hell Barbecue Sauce.
“We have our own special barbecue sauces and they’re produced for us and then brought here in mass qualities because we go through so much,” Flora said. “We go through anywhere from 100 to 180 gallons of sauce per week.”
The restaurant itself is spacious and full of old pictures and artifacts to entertain waiting patrons while the food is being prepared. Photos of retro football players and dozens of old license plates adorn the walls, along with a huge television for sporting events. Keeping with its tenets of being a fun atmosphere, Woody’s also features a number of arcade games that add to the ambience. As the weather continues to improve, Woody’s diners will no doubt continue to take advantage of the huge outdoor seating area. Passersby are sure to see groups enjoying their barbecue and perhaps a few adult beverages just passing by the porch.
“We have a lot of tried and true customers who have been coming here for 20 years. We have the regulars, and we call them the ‘porch crew,'” Flora said. “People like the casual, fun atmosphere. We certainly get a lot of business from the college community and when the students aren’t in town, we see our business go down a little. We even deliver to Isla Vista because it’s something the community enjoys.”
To sink your teeth into Santa Barbara’s most accomplished barbecue joint, head down to Woody’s, open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and Sunday, and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
901 N. Milpas St, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 892-4483
Price: $10 to $20
Since changing its name from Cities Kitchen five years ago, Cities Barbecue has established itself as downtown Santa Barbara’s preeminent barbecue restaurant. Focusing on duplicating the famous barbecue dishes of Kansas City and the Midwest, Cities is a hotspot for both students and workers in the area.
Owner Pedro Quito said that there are several popular dishes on the menu at Cities Barbeque.
“Our specialties are really tri-tip, baby back ribs and the Kansas City smoked barbecue,” Quito said. “Those three are the most popular.”
Cities has high-quality meat, ribs and pulled pork, with sides such as coleslaw, bacon, cheddar grits and collard greens. The restaurant also features specialty meals such as Cajun shrimp and pulled chicken with pickled jalapenos for an extra kick. Cities’ in-house dining is one of its draws, as the restaurant boasts a shaded patio and a comfortable interior – perfect for any weather. Try the take-out option for a more personal dining experience, or take the meal and a blanket for a good old-fashioned picnic this summer. Plates are generally around $14, with a choice of meat plus two sides and bread. Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant sees a particular rush during the lunch hours, especially from local students.
“At lunch the high school students in the area usually come in, and there are always about 40 or 50 of them,” Quito said. “During events downtown, we get groups of 80 or 90 people coming in here.”
Because Cities is located about 15 minutes from campus, the establishment doesn’t attract UCSB students on a regular basis, but Quito said he is more than welcome to become a favorite for college students.
“UCSB kids don’t really come down here much, but we’d love to have them and we’d love for them to try our barbecue,” Quito said.
Whether you’re looking for a new lunch spot or an appealing place to take your barbecue-loving date, Cities Barbecue is open to help you enjoy your barbeque experience every day of the week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
JR’s Barbecue at Creekside
4444 Hollister Ave, Goleta
Phone: (805) 967-4538
Price: $10 to $20
The latest entry into the Santa Barbara barbecue scene, JR’s is already causing a stir and is sure to become quickly known as one of the best restaurants in town. After years of showing off his recipes in competitions up and down California, owner Jonathan Reid started catering and eventually decided to open his very own restaurant to share his unique blend of southern barbecue.
“We do a southern-style of barbecue that’s based on what you would see in Memphis or parts of Tennessee,” Reid said. “We have really moist barbecue, which is different from a lot of places where the meat comes out dry.”
With 20 years of experience, JR’s barbecue team has traveled and researched recipes from Jamaica, Texas and the Carolinas. And the hard work has paid off, as Reid has won numerous awards, including the “Grand Master Award” for his slow smoked pork ribs with special sauce at the Los Angeles Country Fair.
“We’ve won every contest we’ve entered except one where we came in second, and it’s been nice because we’ve won lots of trips and prizes and other stuff,” Reid said.
JR’s at Creekside features a clean, welcoming interior and sit-down dining, a rarity for barbecue places.
“We have great service and we’re probably one of the only barbecue places you’ll see where you sit down and get this kind of service,” Reid said.
The restaurant prides itself on its pork ribs, pork shoulder and beef brisket, which Reid says are all customer favorites. Other meals include the baby back ribs and pulled pork, while customers get to choose from sides such as beans, fries and sweet potatoes. JR’s also prides itself on the fact that everything is made on site, including its famous sauces.
“Everything here is homemade and slow-cooked on the pit, which is important because some items, like the brisket, take up to 14 hours to cook,” Reid said.
After catering for people such as Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher, Reid has brought his blend to Santa Barbara with great success. If you want to check out the new barbecue sheriff in town, head down to JR’s at Creekside, open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Three-day weekends don’t come around too often, so make sure you take advantage of the holiday this year by chowing down on these local barbeque favorites.