I lived in North Carolina for several years, so when I go out to eat barbecue, one of the first questions I ask is whether the restaurant offers Carolina style barbecue (specifically, eastern Carolina, vinegar-based, barbecue). It’s not a deal-breaker if they don’t, but I’m impressed if they do. During a recent lunch visit to Woody’s Bar-B-Q in Winter Haven, I was not disappointed.
Woody’s is a small chain with locations in 6 states (their web site implies a restaurant in Puerto Rico, also, but I could not confirm that). Our location is tucked away in the Spring Lake Plaza shopping center on Havendale Boulevard. Even though the decor is somewhat cliche for a sit-down barbecue restaurant, I found it immediately welcoming. The restaurant was quiet enough that we could enjoy good conversation, with background music at just the right volume. Somehow I just felt a good vibe when we walked in.
Our cheerful server offered us beverages (2 unsweet iced teas) then took our order. We shared an appetizer of fried okra that included a generous portion of ranch dressing. This was primarily for my wife, as I’m not an okra fan, but even I found it tasty. We ordered sandwiches for lunch but the menu includes a variety of lunch and dinner entrees. Sandwiches come with one side dish chosen from a list that includes barbecue beans, cole slaw, baked or mashed potato, or french fries.
I ordered a Carolina pulled pork sandwich with baked potato. My wife chose a Texas beef brisket sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. The food looked and tasted delicious. The buns tasted good and held up well with the barbecue. My wife felt the mashed potatoes were probably reconstituted but said the beef gravy was quite good. She also felt the brisket has a little more fat than she was used to but that the flavor was still excellent. My own sandwich was delicious, flavored just right without being too heavy on the vinegar. It included a few pickle slices on top, a wonderful idea. It’s hard to wrong with a baked potato; I would like to see bacon and chives added to available “toppers,” but this one was baked just the right amount. With tip our total came to about $36, a little pricey for us but we were happy with the food, service and ambience.
If we have inspired you to visit Woody’s Bar-B-Q yourself, or if you have been there and want to share your experience, please comment below. And if you have Polk County restaurant tips, we would love to hear them via our Contact Us page. Happy eating!