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Texas BBQ safari: Sizing up Woody Creek Bar-B-Q

Woody Creek Bar-B-Q

6986 Green Oaks Road, Fort Worth

817-737-2008; woodycreekbbq.com

Posted 8:27am on Wednesday, Jun. 29, 2011

I was on Tom Urquhart's radio show on FM 88.7 recently, and the topic shifted from music to barbecue and my quest for the Texas BBQ Holy Grail. We trolled the airwaves for suggestions and got none. Billy "White Water" Wilson, who was sitting at the controls, suggested Wing Stop so I locked him out of the studio. Then Tom suggested City Pig BBQ on Eighth Avenue. I'd heard good things and decided to try them -- but when I stopped in it was completely out of meat.

Desperate, I remembered seeing a barbecue joint called Woody Creek at Ridgmar Mall. I know what you're thinking: a mall? I mean, I've been to two strip mall joints now, so what's next? Barbecue at Starbucks? But there are a few things to consider here:

1. Fort Worth tears down single occupancy buildings as fast as it can find them. Look what happened to Berry Street.

2. There are only so many old Dairy Queens left to be repurposed into barbecue joints.

3. And most important, Woody Creek Bar-B-Q was started in an old bread truck under a tree. The original store in Springtown is in a proper building.

So, we can go ahead and assume that this place is going to lose points for being too clean and pretty right off the bat, and the employees were super-friendly -- no authentic surliness to be found anywhere. But 'cue is all about the food, and we got up to the counter and ordered.

I got the three-meat plate ($10.95), with brisket, pork ribs and sliced hot links. For sides we had potato salad and onion rings, and for dessert, we got honest-to-God blackberry cobbler (a huge Styrofoam bowl of it for $2.50).

The onion rings were good, but looked to be frozen (not homemade). The potato salad was very good (looked to be homemade). The cobbler was awesome, and I couldn't care less who made it. Seriously, be it someone's grandma, or sweatshop workers in an abandoned bomber factory in White Settlement, it just doesn't matter.

When it came to texture, the ribs were as good as it gets. Just the right amount of tenderness, a good smoke ring, just the right consistency -- and they pulled off the bone easily without falling off. As far as flavor, they were good but not outstanding. These were dry ribs (cooked without sauce -- my favorite), but whatever dry rub Woody Creek used just didn't stand out like I wanted it to.

The hot links were great, just the right amount of heat. They were great alone, or with a touch of sauce.

The brisket also had a good smoke ring (Woody Creek uses hickory) but was a touch too lean, and therefore almost dry. With a little sauce, it was perfect, and the flavor was smoky and well-seasoned, but you lose that flavor with the sauce.

So let's talk about the sauce. This is a thick, sweet and semi-hot ketchup-based sauce. (Most barbecue sauce has ketchup as a component, though not everyone will admit it.) It had a really good flavor, but it was a bit overpowering at times. I would love this sauce if the place was serving bad barbecue, but it wasn't. A sauce this heavy is best used to hide something, and Woody Creek has nothing to hide. Luckily, the sauce is served on the side, so you can use it sparingly.

Woody Creek isn't the BBQ Holy Grail I'm searching for, but it will be on my personal short list of places to frequent for good solid Texas barbecue.

If you have suggestions for good 'cue, post a message in the comments section of this review online.

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