Before we get to the food, I want to take a paragraph to remind you what you’re reading. ¶ My weekly review is an account of one meal at a restaurant. Usually it’s the only time I have eaten there. Satisfaction is a personal matter. I try to make my biases clear, and barbecue is a biggie. So when I say that I was disappointed by the Woodshed’s pulled pork, understand that on this subject I am fussy as a teething infant. ¶ All in all, most of our table – five kids ages 11 to 16 and two adults – were well satisfied with the meal at this new Transit Road joint. It’s shiny and spacious inside, with booths, tables and a bar, which is dry so far. Tables have paper napkins but real silverware and plates. ¶ The menu offers standards like quesadillas and nachos with barbecued meats ($6.99-$7.99), and three salads, including one with pecans, crumbled blue cheese and sliced strawberries ($8.25).
The meats are pork spare ribs ($23.99 full rack) and pulled pork, smoked chicken and smoked beef round, available as sandwiches ($7.99), dinners and combo platters ($17.99-$21.59).
Nonstandard entrees include pork-n-mac ($10.99), macaroni and cheese topped with baked beans and pulled pork, and panko breaded fried shrimp ($12.99). Standard barbecue sides from coleslaw to cornbread were offered, plus mashed sweet potatoes and Cajun corn.
We asked for all the meats in various forms, from pulled chicken quesadilla to rack of ribs, and a bevy of sides. Plus the pork-n-mac, a “smoky Cuban” sandwich ($8.99) and strawberry salad. “Road kill stew” listed on the menu, a barbecue roundup in a bowl, was unavailable. Our personable and attentive server walked us through our choices, input our selections into her digital pad and offered us a sampling platter of barbecue sauces with the meat.
The quesadilla arrived with grill marks and tender chicken and cheese inside, chunkless salsa and sour cream. Gone in 60 seconds.
The Harvest Salad delivered fresh strawberries, plus an abundant, satisfying amount of pecans, slivered red onion and mild blue cheese atop salad greens. Dressing was on the side as requested.
Nachos contained a restrained portion of corn chips topped with black beans, pickled jalapeno slices, cheddar and pulled pork. The jalapenos scared off some people, which was fine with me, but I was eyeing the pork. It was certainly tender, but the smokiness I look for was absent.
The same pork topped the pork-n-mac bowl, which otherwise was a successful comfort food carbfest of cheesy elbow macaroni, sweet baked beans and barbecue sauce. I would have liked more cheddar bite in that mac, though.
The smoky Cuban was a likable combination of smoked ham, pulled pork, yellow mustard and pickles, grilled in a panini press. Its smoky note came from the sliced deli ham, not the barbecue inside. Nobody else at the table cared.
Hand-cut regular potato fries were decent, but everybody went for the crinkle-cut sweet potato fries, from a bag but fried right, with honey for dipping. The cornbread had decent corn flavor but was on the crumbly side. The Cajun corn had little discernible alterations besides chili powder. Spanish rice was a miss, underflavored and overcooked.
The spare ribs had a terrific crust, lacquered with sauce. They were so tender the meat broke when I tried to cut between the bones. Everyone enjoyed them but me; I missed smoke.
The half-chicken evoked a similar reaction. Nicely bronzed exterior with spiced and smoke-darkened skin. Lots of tender, fully cooked meat that I wished was smokier.
The smoked sliced beef round was served in a pool of jus that was salty and seemed aimed at adding moisture and flavor. It was partly successful with me, resulting in beef I would have happily piled on a fresh kummelweck roll with horseradish. But yeah, no smoke.
So in the end, we spent $15 a head, including tax and tip, to make everybody at the table full and happy, except me. But that’s the price of pickiness, isn’t it?
The Woodshed: 6 plates (Out of 10)
New Amherst barbecue outpost satisfies family, just not the smokehound.
WHERE: 5445 Transit Road, Amherst (276-8360, www.thewoodshedsmokehousebbq.com)
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers and salads, $3.59-$8.25; sandwiches, $7.99-$8.99; dinners, $10.99-$23.99.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.