Taste | Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill
Written By: Chef Alex Rivas
Photographed By: Jamie Durante
With another year coming to a close, restaurants are a little fuller and a little more cheery. So, when I was recently invited to go try Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill in Chino Hills, where the atmosphere was buzzing even on a weekday afternoon, I was excited because I love BBQ & Grills. To be honest, it is hard to find reputable BBQ & Grills in our area, so with holiday cheer and excitement, I drove into the parking lot hoping for a nice plate to taste.
When I arrived I was introduced to Alejandro (Alex) Benes, who is a Partner at the mostly SoCal chain of 16 Wood Ranch BBQ & Grills. Alex was very warm and friendly, and he graciously put time aside to meet with us and give us the inside story to what makes Wood Ranch unique and great. Wood Ranch is one of the only chain restaurants I know of that doesn’t limit the type of woods they use to smoke their food. They carry a variety of pecan, white oak, hickory and apple woods, which helps diversify flavors and create more excitement for guests to try new items on the menu with each returning visit.
Alex took charge in ordering what was the most popular and recommended items on the menu. We started with the Fresh Guacamole, which was served with fresh chips and also fresh salsa. The guacamole tasted fresh and was chunky, which in my opinion was the best way to have it. It was seasoned light but had the right balance. Our lovely server Mandy also provided us with fresh baked yeast rolls that were lightly glazed with olive oil and Parmesan; they were a warm and welcoming touch. I also got to taste the classic but amazing BBQ Chicken Potato Skins; this time classic was well executed. Crispy skins, the perfect blend of BBQ chicken, Monterey jack cheese, red onions, and parsley I would be happy with this as dinner, as it was all you could ask for on one plate.
We followed up with a half order of the Famous Shredded Onions, which were battered beautifully and honestly could be put in almost any dish and would taste amazing. I enjoyed them dipped into Wood Ranch's Original BBQ Sauce. Along with the onions came the WR Sliders, which came with pulled pork. The pork was soft as butter but had some nice crispy parts, and they were topped with coleslaw. The sliders were paired with a side of Wood Ranch’s Western Carolina Sauce, which the heat helped cut through the fat and made the combination taste that much more amazing.
With the appetizers setting a nice tone, it was a great start and made my taste buds look forward to some dishes off the entree menu. Again Alex was very generous and provided us with a feast of items to try, so if you start reading random words it’s because I fell into a memory coma then, and the tasting still has my mind blown.
Entrees started out the way carnivores could only hope for while at a BBQ & Grill—with the BBQ Combo, which came with Tri-Tip, All-American Baby Back Ribs and St. Louis Ribs. I started with the Tri-Tip, which was lightly glazed with BBQ sauce. It was so tender you could cut it with a plastic knife—with just the right amount of smoke you could see a beautiful smoke ring around it, which tasted as great as it looked.
I followed with the All-American Baby Back Ribs, which again was a dish cooked to perfection—firm but soft enough that you could pull the bones out with your fingers. It had just the right amount of sauce and just the right amount of smoke and seasoning. I followed this duo with what might had been my favorite of the three options—the St. Louis Ribs. These ribs were a great treat. It’s not every day that you can find a place that executes ribs just right, with just the right amount of dry rub, cooked to perfection . . . I could honestly sit and eat racks upon racks of them. So with a great idea of what kind of top-notch barbecue that Wood Ranch was serving, I couldn’t ignore the sides that came with this trio—this plate came with buttery, creamy mashed potatoes, and what I think was one of my favorite sides of the night—Fiery Green Beans. With a great blend of spicy, sweet, and not bitter, the preparation of this vegetable was well executed.
Now you would think I would have made a dent in the journey, however my new friend Alex had much more to show me. I next came across the Fire-Roasted Half Chicken, which was free-range, fresh, natural, dry rubbed, and slow roasted to perfection by a secret method. The chicken breast was so moist and flavorful, you wouldn’t know it was a breast but rather a new and forbidden piece nobody knew about. It also came with some chicken broth and Wood Ranch’s very creamy and cheesy Lauren’s Favorite Mac & Cheese.
By this point, in my mind I was wondering how I was going to continue tasting the rest of the dishes Alex had generously provided. But when the food tasted as great as it did so far, I knew I'd find room. It was with excitement I dove in to the Bar-B-Cubano Sandwich, which is Wood Ranch’s version of a Cuban classic. Now for those traditionalists, I know you’re thinking, “BBQ?” Yes, it has BBQ sauce in it, but Wood Ranch finds a nice balance, using Carolina pulled pork rather than roasted pork like a traditional. It’s also layered with honey-smoked ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, Dijon, and it’s pressed in a baguette. I felt like I was in the movie Chef and found something new and great before everyone else knew about it.
So here again in my mind I start thinking, if I had to relive the same day over and over like the movie Groundhog Day—this would be on the top of my list. But I wasn’t done just yet; I still had two more dishes to go. So with so many different dishes completed, some might wonder how a burger compared to all the dishes before?
Well . . . l had no ordinary burger, I had the Brisket Burger 2.0. Yes you read that right. Sweet, sweet, slow cooked brisket with crispy chard pieces were smoked and flavored to perfection . . . and that’s just the brisket patty. This burger was also layered with those amazing shredded onions I mentioned earlier and came with Wood Ranch’s homemade Chipotle-Cherry BBQ Sauce, pickles and a nice toasted bun. If you are a burger person this might change the way you look at a regular burger, so be warned. The burger came with grilled asparagus and had a lovely layer of smoke on it from the fire grill that they use.
Now this taste was coming to an end, but I wasn’t prepared for the final meat dish that had arrived. This by far, would have the Ron Swanson (from Parks and Recreation) seal of approval. A tornado of awesomeness, it was the Giant Short Rib, which is the special that is served until they sell out. A giant Certified Angus Beef smoked on pecan wood, finished over a mesquite fire and beautifully glazed with BBQ sauce, this is the dish that if you wanted to ask for the impossible from me, you would serve me this, and I would be so hypnotized that I would give you whatever you wanted—my car, it’s yours . . . you want me to marry, whoever you are? Done. With a side of mashed sweet potato it was like having dessert for my meal.
It really is very impressive how Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill has taken so much time and care into finding some of the best meat companies, making everything from scratch, not limiting the kinds of woods used for the menu, and how they are more than just a BBQ restaurant but also have an amazing grill and many options from BBQ, steaks and delicious options for vegetarian dishes. The Tuscan Kale Salad, for instance, was an attractive, inventive and healthy option for those looking for something a little lighter than meat for dinner. The freshness of the watermelon radishes, green beans and kale was sweetened by the golden raisins, chives, shaved Parmesan and balsamic vinaigrette.
Another vegetarian dish that you don't want to miss House Made Veggie Burger. Although I'm more of a carnivore myself, this VeggieBurger was the ideal meal for my vegetarian guest. The house-made vegetarian burger patty is packs more flavorful than any store bought alternatives. With a crunchy outside layer of the patty, topped with avocado and all the fixins' atop a toasted wheat bun, this Veggie Burger changed the way I thought about meatless burgers—they can be downright delicious! The Original Peanut Coleslaw served on the side brought a sweet freshness to the meal that was much appreciated.
Our generous host didn’t stop at the entrees; he also served us five of the desserts that Wood Ranch offers. Just like the rest of the dishes I tried, none of them disappointed. If you’re looking for a great place that provides quality and flavorful fare, Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill is a place I would try, but be careful as you may just find a new favorite restaurant. I have to say that I have found one of my newest favorite restaurants to go to. Alex was an amazing host and very humble; it’s easy to see how he has made Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill such a success, and you can really feel and taste the passion he has for his work.
With two location in Chino Hills and Corona it’s worth the trip—they are also offering a Gift Card Special till the end of the year. When you purchase a $50 gift card, you will receive a $10 bonus card to use in the first quarter of 2016. You can purchase this offer through December 31, 2015. See website for details and restrictions.
Wood Ranch BBQ Chino Hills is located at 3335 Grand Avenue, Shoppes at Chino Hills, Chino Hills, CA 91709. For more information call (909) 203-5500 or visit their website.
Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill Corona is located at 2785 Lakeshore Drive, The Shops at Dos Lagos, Corona, CA 92883. For more information call (951) 667-4200 or visit their website.
Full Disclosure: This dining experience was provided complimentary by Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill, however all opinions expressed are 100% our own.