Sunday, August 05, 2007

Smalltown Steakhouse

Remember me? Your long lost blogger? It's nice to be back...

So steak - and by extension steakhouses - have always been a part of my life. I forget when exactly we got introduced to Peter Luger's but from the time I was a little girl, I remember annual trips to the venerable, Brooklyn-based steakhouse - usually for Mother's Day.

Get me going and I can wax prophetic on the differences between The Palm, Ruth's Chris, Morton's and Smith & Wollenksy. I think I've been to just about every major steakhouse chain out there - and usually in more than one city. For example, the bext sliced steak I ever had was at the Palm in Houston, but the Palm in Charlotte has been somewhat of a disappointment (although their lobsters are terrific). In Charlotte these days, we prefer Sullivans.

And while I'll always have a soft spot for the gruff waiters, lack of decor and inconsistent service at Peter Luger's, these days a trip to NYC is more likely punctuated by a trip to Keens or Wolfgangs, which like a number of other NYC steakhouses was started by some ex-Peter Luger's staff who captured the best of Luger's (mainly the food), plunked it in a swanky decor, conventiently located in Manhattan and enhanced it with things like table cloths and a decent wine list.

I have even grown fond of Outback, in its own way, as to me it epitomizes how a massive chain restaurant can successfully churn out above average formula food.

Which brings me to Tuesday night. Marty was craving steak. Typically we get our steak fill either at home (I don't know anyone who grills a better steak than Marty) or at Mansour's. However, neither was really an option.

Months and months ago, I had asked my mother-in-law about Linebergers, a steakhouse out towards Denever (Denver, NC folks) that we had eaten at years ago on a visit. We pass it on our way out to Tim Schafer's and it's always crowded.

She told me that there had been a change in ownership and since then, she had not been a big fan (though you'd never know it from the parking lot on Friday and Saturday nights - that place is always packed).

However, she did mention The Woodshed, a steakhouse in Stanley known for its prime rib.

After driving through Stanley numerous times during my winter driving routine and en route home from the airport (usually on Sundays when the restaurant is closed), we finally, finally had the perfect opportunity to try The Woodshed.

Thank goodness they have a website because we were able to glean some pertinent information in advance - like their hours (the kitchen was open til 10), the fact that they didn't serve alcohol but you could BYOB (they even provided set-ups), and the menu (in addition to their much discussed prime rib, they served rib-eye, Marty's favorite).

Marty & I rolled in at around 8:30pm on a Tuesday. It was - not surprisingly - pretty quiet.

The decor was a combination of dark wood and more dark wood - sort of Western in style (including a train running on a track overhead) but not overly themey.

We were seated at a large booth and our waitress promptly appeared with 2 wine glasses and a corkscrew as well as 2 glasses of water. She handed us menues which didn't require all that much perusing since we had already seen them on line.

I'll say this for the Woodshed: there's not a whole lot of frills. All entrees come with a salad from the salad bar (a topic I can't get into in this already off-track, meandering chapter/post but which I touched on in another form in an earlier post) and either baked potato, baked sweet potato or fries. Vegeatbles don't feature prominently (oh well).

Marty opted for a rib-eye. I tried the prime rib. Neither will put Peter Luger's out of business any time soon, but both were delicious, better than expected and honestly, a bit surprising to find in a small town like Stanley.

The best part of the evening though was without question the service. Our waitress, Phyllis, was super nice, called us kids (as in: "can I get you kids anything else with that?"), and at the end of the evening, asked us if we had enjoyed ourselves and was there anything that she or the restaurant could do better.

You've got to be kidding me? A restaurant actively soliciting feedback from its patrons? Marty and I were stunned.

What was even more delightful was when a white-haired man with a big beard and a warm smile approached our table as we took our last sips of wine. It seems Phyllis had mentioned to him that this was our first time in the establishment so he wanted to come over and introduce himself as he was the owner, Bill Withers.

He sat down in our booth and we chatted for a few minutes about this and that - how long the Woodshed had been around (since 1969), his catering facility in Dallas (NC not TX), his other business (accounting). Marty and I talked about being from NY and how blissfully happy we were here in Lincolnton.

As he got up to leave, he followed up on Phyllis's question and asked if there was anything he could personally do to make our experience at his restaurant better. I'd like to see Danny Meyer, Hospitality King and winner of the most Service-Oriented-Restaurateur award, top that.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...


Bob said...

I live in the Denver area and can second your recommendation for the Woodshed. A great steak, alittle pricey, but you get what you pay for ;)