Friday, March 7, 2008

Wood Ranch Barbeque and Grill - restaurant review

We had a group of 9 people there to celebrate a friend's birthday on Sunday night. By the time we got there, some others in our party had arrived, and they had been told that once at least half the group was there, they'd try to seat us. We waited for a little bit in the lobby area. They had signs on the entrance doors that the winds sometimes made the doors hard to open, and boy, were the winds gushing. I ended up sitting by the door, and every time it was opened, I got a blast of air. They seemed to be permament signs, so I don't know if gale force winds normally roam through Northridge.

Shortly thereafter, the hostess told our party that they had something they could offer us. They couldn't put us all at one table, but they did have two booths next to each other that they could sit us at. Since we were told that it would be quite a long wait if we all wanted to sit at the same table, we decided to go ahead with the adjacent booths. It wasn't the ideal situation, and we basically ended up getting broken into a party of 5 and a party of 4. We did a little bit of talking between tables, but it wasn't very easy, and it was already a bit loud in that section, so we didn't want to add to that by yelling between our tables.

We ended up being led to the very back of the restaurant. The restaurant wasn't very wide, but it was certainly very long. As we walked through the entire restaurant, I looked around and decided that the restaurant wasn't designed very well. Most of the seating in the restaurant was booths that sat maybe a maximum of 6 people, so they couldn't easily accommodate many parties larger than that at one time. It turned out that parallel to our two booths was a row of tables for a party of about 10, and those were the only non-booth tables I saw. There were two more booths behind us, and then it was a dead end. However, the party of 10 below us (since our booths were raised from the floor) took up most of the available walking space, so if a server or runner was either helping one of our tables or one of their tables, no other person could go past them. That made for a bottleneck between staff members a few times.

I've been to Wood Ranch before, though not that particular location. The food was as good as normal, and I pretty much order the same thing every time - 2 item combo with the tri tip (medium-rare) and babyback ribs with macaroni and cheese and an upgrade of the second side to grilled asparagus. I like the flavoring of their barbeque sauce, not too sweet, and particularly that the meat is not completely loaded down in sauce. They also have good garlic rolls that are quite tasty.

While the food was as good as I've come to expect , the service wasn't. Our server was pleasant enough, so I don't know if they were just incredibly busy that night (there were a lot of people waiting when we were waiting as well) or if she was particularly overloaded or if it was the configurations of the tables or whatever, but service was quite slow, both in terms of taking our orders and in drink refills. There were quite a few times when we had to wait some time for refills and even having to ask her for refills. At one point, my iced tea was somehow refilled wrong because I took one sip, and it tasted awful. It took a while for her to come back and then a little while more before I could get her attention, and then some time after that before she was able to bring me a new drink.

If you're going with a party of no more than 4 people and aren't seated way in the back and it's not a super-busy time, then I think this particular location might be ok. But otherwise, I probably wouldn't recommend this particular location, and I wouldn't be eager to go back. We've generally gone to the Arcadia location (at the Santa Anita Mall), and we've never had service problems there. The layout of that restaurant is also not designed as oddly as the one in Northridge.

One tangential thing I noticed about the Northridge location is that the entire complex did not look as I had expected it to. It's been many years since I'd been to that mall, and when we were driving up last night, I didn't remember it being an outdoor mall. The husband remarked that it must be some kind of newer addition. It's also certainly a lot more upscale than I recall. Nearby Wood Ranch was a Harry & David's and a Cost Plus World Market, two stores I would never have expected to see there.

Wood Ranch Barbeque & Grill
9301 Tampa Ave
Suite 226
Northridge, CA 91324
(818) 886-6464

Here's their official website for more information and locations.


JeffG said...

The outdoor portion of the mall is fairly new. I'm not sure exactly when it opened, but it was since I moved out here in 1996. The majority of the mall is still the old indoor portion and that has a more typical line-up of stores (Sears, Penny's, Macy's, etc...)

We'd been to that Wood Ranch several times before, but I had never paid attention to whether or not they were set up to handle large parties. I agree that we probably would pick a different location for similar-sized parties in the future. On the other hand, trying to park at the Arcadia location on weekends is kind of a nightmare...

Andrew said...

I haven't been to the Northridge mall since before the '94 quake. I remember seeing pictures of the aftermath and seem to recall major damage.

The restaurant sounds like an ersatz Red Robin.