When word spread that Woody’s Famous Philadelphia Cheesesteaks in Midtown had closed, Atlanta’s food fans took a collective sigh. Though not everyone found the place destination worthy, Woody’s had a distinct personality and better than average grub. Opened in 1975 by David Pastoria, the free standing hut had served as a fixture of quirky Atlanta for roughly 35 years.
But 12,784 days is a stretch and Pastoria had his fill of the restaurant life. Though I’m not exactly sure of the new ownership structure, Steven Renner decided that Pastoria’s departure was the opportunity he needed. So in early June of this year, marked with a little elbow grease and some TLC, Renner gave Woody’s Cheesesteaks a new life in its old location.
Woody’s was actually one of the first restaurants that I did a full review on; at first glance, things are pretty much the same. But then, in the middle of the night, after explaining to the cops that your designated ridee didn’t mean to let her tags expire, you find yourself drawn to the dim light emanating from the screen doors of Woody’s house.
You see, Woody’s was probably best known as “that place that never seemed open” (it did have hours – 11am to 5pm and only five days/week). And though I was three sheets deep in sobriety, the additional option for my late night carnivoring was just as exciting to me as it was to AW … “Let’s get a fuggin’ cheesesteak!” Who am I to deny the wiles of women? Besides, even a guy like me needs something besides Krystal or Majestic in his late night bag of tricks.
So yeah, the point being that Woody’s is now open seven days a week from 11 o’clock in the AM to 10 o’clock PM. In a move that reeks of common sense, they extend those hours until 3AM on Friday and Saturday nights.
The building itself is the same, save for the new paint job and refinished kitchen. Maybe something else is different, but let’s not waste our time on such trivial matters. The true questions about this meal are: how did it taste and how was the charm?
Frustratingly enough, Woody’s is still cash only. You can’t really fault them for that choice, but it’s a controversial one nonetheless. I’m not sure how many late night bar hoppers are still gonna have their britches on, much less the $5 to $10 you’ll need to dine at Woody’s. So please, do yourself a favor and get your cash beforehand.
The menu is unchanged, and though I was told that the sourcing on the non-cheesesteak items has gone up a notch, but the cheesesteak mix has not been altered. I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to continue down my trail of dietetic hell to sample the other stuff, so I’ll leave that to future visits. Still, Woody’s offers your run of the mill sandwich selections (turkey for example), a hot dog, and even something that might make you ‘steak fans rear back … a veggie philly! If you can manage the room in your stomach, you can get an old-fashioned milkshake. I have yet to get that far.
So after some truly engaging service from the two dudes pumping out the grub, we found ourselves at one of the tables along with a new friend. We had the space to ourselves and at three in the morning, that’s pretty unbelievable! I don’t expect it to last as word spreads that they are open again and the hours are extended.
Turns out our pick me up is a chef who worked at some pretty notable places in town; but, he left that life not too long ago for other ventures. His background lent itself well to the adventurous spirit of the meal, so did his unabashed desire to go cheesesteak into that good night. As the conversation at the table went on a winding road, joined with cheerful jeers back and forth with the guy behind the counter, I found just enough time to Mr. Miyagi my food. Focus Buddha-san, focus!
The first thing that caught my attention was the drink! Served in either a 16 or 12 oz Styrofoam cup (I’m not good enough to remember which), I am happy to report that the little ice bubbles I adore are still used. These crunchy little pellets turn a bite of ice into something like a subtle dessert … seriously folks – the Sprite just hugs the ice just enough and the crunch is soft!
Okay, so yeah … then there are potato chips. Fine fine … move on already! Yup, there it is – wrapped in a heavy helping of butcher paper is a bread torpedo slowly and methodically soaking in all the juice from the shaved meat and gooey cheese encased within. Being the bastard that I am, I quickly reached for my bag of chips and the ketchup bottle to kick it up a notch.
While cheesesteaks seem simple and definitively low-brow, there are a multitude of opinions about “the right way” to ‘steak. I prefer mine with white cheese, so yeah … this one satisfies. However, whiz is an option, as are some other selections. I was pleased to see the meat still shaved thin and the cheese perfectly integrated into the sandwich.
The onions had that buttery sweet taste that works well against a sandwich that is a bastion for salt. I still find the bread to meat ratio a little high, leaving bites a little to muted, but not prohibitively so. They aren’t bland, but without a true infusion of salt, I yearn for flavor. It’s something that can easily be fixed table side with a shake or two of your money maker. Me, I use plain Lay’s for that extra force of salt and a bit of crunch. Truth be told, I spent the better part of my munching wondering if I were to stick a straw into AW’s cheesesteak, would I be able to get anything out of it? Mmmm … Cheeseshake!!! :-) Unfortunately, AW would have none of that … and summarily dismissed my advances:
Through and through this was a positive experience. Though I never found the previous owners to be off putting, I have heard comments to the alternative. I would be shocked if anyone says that about these dudes. They’re cool, laid back, and über focused on the customer.
It made it that much easier to sit back and enjoy my cheesesteak in a familiar setting at an unfamiliar time. The more straightforward hours is a huge step in the right direction as well.
In the pantheon of cheesesteaks, I’m not exactly sure where I’d actually put Woody’s. New owners means exploration is needed … but if you’re looking for a cheesesteak around lunch or diner, Woody’s should do the trick. I can only hope that someone in my inner circle is nice enough to let me get shitty and drive me over to Monroe so that I can face plant into this gooey sense of yum one
evening err … morning. Yeah, I wish the pictures were better … but for a Droid at 3am … not bad huh?
Woody’s Cheesesteaks Restaurant Address & Information
981 Monroe Dr NE Atlanta, GA 30308 // 404.876.1939 // Woody’s Cheesesteaks on facebook
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