5 O'Clock Somewhere
Wood Ranch gets into the craft scene
By Chris O'Neal 05/29/2014
Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill
3449 E. Main St.
In a sea of chain restaurants, one would be forgiven for passing by on the 101 with a flip of the hand and not a thought in mind of stopping, sitting at the bar and ordering a light beer at a TGIF, Chili’s or wherever. The customers for whom a commercial is enough to entice are aging, and the easy-to-please crowds are dwindling. Wood Ranch BBQ and Grill escapes the same treatment by adapting, innovating and being a good listener; meaning, stop, sit at the bar and order that Gulden Draak 9000 Quadruple.
If a recent media dinner is any indication, things are looking good for foodies and craft cocktail and beer enthusiasts. What began in Moorpark at the first Wood Ranch has spread to 14 locations, and soon will be on the East Coast as well.
While head chef Alex Benes demonstrated the proper way to grill a side of ribs (hint: use mustard as a base), cocktails were passed around. The Texas Mule was no different than a Moscow Mule, only instead of your standard ginger beer, the bar at Wood Ranch in Ventura utilizes the high-end brand Fever Tree, making it significantly better and less artificial, finishing it off with Tito’s vodka.
Grant Salisbury, general manager and managing partner at the Ventura location, says that noticing differences in consumer tastes for craft beer and cocktails made him realize that the restaurant needed a makeover.
One of those decisions that shows the difference between a Wood Ranch of five years ago and one of today are the inclusion of Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute India pale ale and the strong Belgian quad Gulden Draak 9000, a Belgian standard that pairs very well with short ribs.
“I’ve seen many more people be adventurous with what they’re drinking,” said Salisbury, who also notes that people are weary of hearing that a restaurant belongs to a chain. “We’re privately owned and focused on our core of great food and great drinks to pair with that.”
While passing by the old monoliths of corporate food service is perfectly acceptable, Wood Ranch doesn’t fit that mold. It’s a variation on a theme that reacts to its customers and therefore is worthy of a sit at the bar. Also, ask for burnt ends — beg for them.
Chris puts the Q back in BBQ. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @agentoneal.