Got a hankering for barbecue? Of course you do. The southern specialty is delicious, but is unfortunately so often in short supply here in California. Thankfully for us Gauchos, we have some great options right on our doorstep in the Santa Barbara area. Today I’ll take you through two of the best barbecue joints this side of town: Woody’s BBQ and L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

Woody’s BBQ
5112 Hollister Ave, Santa Barbara
Phone: (805) 967-3775
Hours: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Price: $10 to $20

To start off, any avid reader of On the Menu will remember that Woody’s has been featured before, and rather frequently. There’s a reason for that. The Goleta institution has continued to impress the taste buds of generations of UCSB students and remains the place to go for delicious barbecue. Consistently praising Woody’s grub is not unique to On the Menu; the restaurant has been recognized as the best barbecue joint in town for more than 25 consecutive years. I myself wrote on its many merits just last year, calling its food “everything that barbecue should be,” (“Woody’s BBQ,” Daily Nexus, May 20, 2009). Needless to say, an opportunity to do a follow-up this year struck me as an excellent idea.

Upon entering Woody’s, I escaped the torrential downpour, the likes of which rarely terrorizes this beach community of ours. Surprisingly enough, I was hardly the only person to seek comfort in the arms of smoked, saucy, satisfying barbecue platters. About a dozen Santa Barbara natives had braved the weather to get their hands on some fantastic home-style dishes.

As I sat down to order my entrée, I remembered a signature item from my previous visit, the Bullwhacker, and chose to avoid it. Not because it wasn’t amazing, but because variety is the spice of life. I opted for the slightly pricier but extremely appetizing Smokehouse Stack. With prime rib, cheese, bacon and onion rings piled heartily between two tantalizing slices of bread, this thing was cardiac arrest in sandwich form, and I couldn’t care less. I devoured it, savoring every last bite and apologizing to my arteries the entire way. Worth it.

A friend of mine who accompanied me on my barbecue quest ordered Woody’s famous baby back ribs with the promise he would share, and yet by the time I looked up from my sandwich his meal was gone. I’ll just have to assume it was that good.

After shamelessly devouring our meals in record time, I spoke to Assistant General Manager Nathan Lee about our meals, and he was unsurprised by our choices.

“[The Smokehouse Stack] has got to be the number one sandwich we have here,” Lee said, before pointing out the popularity of their “extremely tender baby back ribs.”

Lee then gave me a brief history lesson on the joint, describing its original founding by Chicagoan restaraunteur Gino Stabile and how it wound up in Goleta. Woody’s has been a fixture in the Santa Barbara community for nearly three decades, and since its opening, they have rarely changed a thing and will continue to do so for years to come. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“We try our best to keep things the same, knowing that the customers like consistency in the food,” Lee said. “Each time you come [into Woody’s], you’re going to get the same delicious burger you got last time you came here.”

With meals for around $10 to $15 and a consistently award-winning meal, it’s no wonder that Woody’s BBQ has received all the accolades and praise of newspapers and patrons alike since its opening in Goleta.

L & L Hawaiian Barbecue
7127 Hollister Ave., Goleta
Phone: (805) 968-8880
Hours: Sunday to Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday to Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: Less than $10

Our modern, interconnected world has taught us a lot. Diversity, tolerance, commonality — it’s all great. But potentially, the most important thing we’ve learned from globalization is that nearly every culture has delicious barbecue; Hawaii is no exception.

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue may not seem like a traditional choice for On the Menu. After all, it’s all over the place. The chain has locations from New York to Alaska to New Zealand (seriously, look it up), but also calls Goleta its home. But what our local L&L lacks in individuality it more than makes up for in deliciousness. The unique taste of Hawaiian barbecue is unlike anything else available in Santa Barbara, and sometimes it’s just irresistible.

I myself ventured the short distance to L&L this weekend. When I say short distance, I mean it. Right next to Albertsons, this is about as close of a meal as you can get after leaving Isla Vista.

For variety’s sake I ordered a barbecue mix, though I frequently found myself stealing from my friend’s chicken katsu plate. This proved to be a mistake, as my own portions were hefty enough. And I do mean hefty. The barbecue mix is not some puny sampling of each meal — a taste test fit for an ice cream shop. No, this is a hearty plate filled with servings of beef, chicken and ribs, along with the standard macaroni and rice. My stomach is happy to tell you there were leftovers for the next day.

Store Manager Allan Abad was kind enough to speak with me, and he emphasized the value L&L’s patrons get for their money.

“It’s good service, cheap food, with quality and quantity,” Abad told me. No arguments here.

He said the barbecue mix and seafood combo (shrimp, mahi mahi and your choice of the barbecue meats) are the most popular items, but the chicken katsu is his personal favorite. With two of those already tried out in my visit, I’m now very tempted to head back and take down the seafood. It certainly won’t take a big chunk out of my wallet. Meals at L&L are available for under 10 bucks, making it a great choice for starving college students and underpaid professors alike.