- - Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Wood from the West has finally come east.

While the DMV has no shortage of BBQ joints, it was always going to take a major player to up the ante here in the nation’s capital, and thanks to the California-based Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill chain extending its reach to the East Coast at long last, the gauntlet for rib-sticking goodness in the major capital corridor has been thrown a step further.

Located in the Springfield Town Center, about a 25 minutes’ drive south of the District, Wood Ranch has joined more leisurely dining joints like Maggiano’s, Chuy’s and Nando’s as a sit-down, full-meal complement to the shopping-and-eating suburban destination.

So why should District diners take the trip south — yes, along 95 at that — to see what Wood Ranch has to offer? The menu itself offers many, many answers.

General manager Brian Watson, a Southern Californian who came to the “right” coast to open the chain’s first eastern outpost, offered up a sample of tri-tip for a starter. (I was well advised to come hungry and thus skipped breakfast.) The tri-tip, which is shaved off from the rear part of the cow’s body, offers succulent biting, and is best served medium for both flavor and tenderness.

For the main meal this reporter chose a flight of fanciful meat options, including the brisket, pulled pork and St. Louis ribs. The pulled pork featured a delectable dry rub for seasoning. For added zing, add just a touch of sweet sauce (have some on the side to add as you like it) or, to let your taste buds know it’s really there, a smattering of the Carolina sauce will provide just enough kick to stimulate heat sensors without setting off fire alarms on your soft palate.

The St. Louis ribs come with a dry rub seasoning that, to my palate, was enough flavoring all on its own. However, if you must abide by your demands to add more taste zest, dip the rib meat in the chipotle cherry sauce for both heat and taste.

The gold medal winner of the meat options was, without question, the brisket. Mr. Watson explained that the brisket is smoked for upwards of 14 hours, and judging by still tasting the smokiness on my breath hours later, he could not be more correct. The brisket was smoked to absolute perfection for an out-of-sight flavor experience unlike anything this reporter has ever encountered in his numerous sorties to the nation’s various barbecue huts.

The cherry chipotle sauce complements the brisket nicely, but for a true taste adventure, paste on just a touch of the habanero peach sauce. (When I say a touch, I mean precisely that, as any more will definitely wake you up and then some.)

For sides, my chips are firmly placed on Lauren’s Favorite Mac n’ Cheese (whoever Lauren is, you should trust her). The macaroni came out a perfectly moderated al dente, offering just enough resistance for the molars to get in some light exercise. They aren’t kidding around on the cheese, that’s for sure, as you will most definitely know that it’s there. Plan to take some home for seconds later.

When it came time for dessert — and by that I mean I’d already asked for a to-go box for the rather generous helping of my entree leftovers — the helpful server Mariah claimed there could be no question as to the choice of the Oreo Cookie Crunch, a sugary concoction of vanilla ice cream encased in an Oreo cookie shell that somehow defied the laws of physics but, thankfully, hewed to the culinary rules of meal-topping with a sweet final course. The dish comes with drizzled-on-top caramel syrup that together combines to foster joy upon the senses.

Mr. Watson, who has spent months in the District getting the Springfield location up and running, said the company plans more expansion beyond their Golden State home base, and hopefully he’ll be there when the next location opens its doors. If Mr. Watson and the company do as great as they did with the DMV location, the evangel of West Coast BBQ will be spread like wildfire (sorry, Californians, I know it’s so dry out there!) to all other points east.

Meantime, District residents can rejoice in a satisfying meal that, without alcoholic drinks attached, will run around $20 to $30 a head to do it right. For those of you provincial residents of the District who fear to tread past the confines of Arlington, do yourself a favor and head down to Springfield for a meal.

Your stomach — and your friends — will thank you.

You’re welcome.


Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill

6797 Springfield Mall, Springfield, Virginia, 22150

Open: 11 a.m. To 10 p.m.



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