There were a few things I didn’t expect during my first trip to Little Woodrow’s, the new sports bar in a freshly developed complex on Ross Avenue. I’m at a small counter-top table with a big foldout menu. The place is vast, with exposed brick and unreachable ceilings. If you’re wondering if the restaurant is on decor trend, then breathe a sigh of relief: The floors are cement, the duct work is exposed and there are panels of stained dark wood running along the bar. This is a sports bar for the lover of Edison bulbs.
A giant NSFW photo of Marilyn Monroe sits above one table, a photo of Frank Sinatra above another. Cigarettes are for sale, and there’s a neon sign that buzzes with the words “Manhattan Beer” across from the many TVs. This is surprise number one — I wasn’t expecting a sports bar to have so much New Yorky, speakeasy memorabilia.
Surprise number two is when my server asks me if “medium’s OK?” for my cheeseburger. The menu boasts that the burgers are half-pounders, “hand-pattied in house,” using a blend of brisket, short rib and ground chuck. I’d ordered the Texas Burger, a flat top-sizzled patty with a side of lettuce, tomato, purple onion and a pickle spear for $10. I answer that I’d love medium rare, if possible. She tells me she’s not sure if they can, and that she’ll check (I never heard back).
The bun is the third surprise. We live in the bold age of the craft bread at the sports bar. Woodrow’s uses Sheila Partin, a bakery from Houston, and it’s one of the most unpredictable buns for a burger that I’ve had all year.
It’s square and soft and toasted, somewhere between a lobster roll and a giant, bready kolache (klobasnek, technically) with the sausage removed. It's a strange choice. The patty is juicy enough — when I press down with my fingers, tiny rivers of meat juices dribble into the bun — but it’s cooked medium-to-well done, which is forever a bummer. On the side, there’s a piece of raw lettuce big enough to be a throw blanket, several rings of undressed purple onion and a tomato slice.
Still, Little Woodrow’s feels different from the average sports bar. It has more than 100 beers, many of them craft brews, and a brick-lined patio that’s begging you to grab a pack of Camels from the bar and loosen your bow tie. The menu has typical items, with some exceptions. There’s “Mile Wide” nachos, burgers doused in queso or chili and enough hot wing options to numb your brain.
They’re going for it. Therein lies my recommendation: Don’t order typically at Little Woodrow’s. I ordered modestly (who’d guessed the Texas burger would be low key?), and instantly regretted not having chili ladled over everything.
Get the burger covered in queso and bacon and “Colossal sauce.” Get the Irish nachos, which are chips covered in bacon, more queso, sour cream and chives. Surely it will dissolve any doubts, or quinoa, you might have in your bloodstream.
Little Woodrow's, 3300 Ross Ave.