I really love good stories. The greatest ones tend to be right in front of us, in quiet underdogs and humble folks who just like to make people smile.
Woody Berry is one of those people. He runs a small, unassuming barbecue store in Richardson, using his own family recipes to please his very loyal clientele. After more than 30 years in the restaurant business, he retired and started smoking meats in his backyard as a hobby, and the hobby turned into a full-time job.
Woody Berry, the youngest of 5 bearing his father’s name, went to college here in Dallas. When he graduated, he met Norman Brinker, restaurateur behind Steak & Ale, Bennigan’s, Chili’s, and a few fast food restaurants. Brinker gave Woody a manager position with the growing company, a moment Woody treasures. “I was right out of SMU and didn’t know a tenderloin from a sirloin, but he hired me and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.”
After 12 years with the brand, Woody went on to be Director of Operations of 4 different restaurant chains in the U.S. and England for another 20 years. When he retired back here in Texas, food got to be just for fun again. He took up the family hobby of smoking meats in the backyard. His father started the tradition by building his own smoker from scrap metal, playing with recipes, and ultimately providing beloved brisket to people all over Corpus Christi. Barbecue is in the Berry family’s blood.
So when the younger Woody starting smoking brisket, the same thing happened. He had such great demand for his smoked meats that it got to be too much. He laughs when he talks about his wife’s ultimate reaction:
“Finally, in a fit of mesquite smoke-filled rage, my wife came to me and told me I had two options, since she couldn’t even get into her own kitchen anymore. I could stop doing this NOW or go open a legitimate business. I knew if I stopped, I would be strung up by the thousands of folks I had been serving, so I rented this little joint here in Richardson near my house and opened a take-home, heat-it-and-eat-it/catering business on 1/11/11.”
After nearly 4 years, Woody B’s has a serious following. The concept is brilliant: stop in, grab some smoked meats and sides to go, and follow the instructions. The specialized bags he packages his food in allow them to reheat to their original state perfectly. The idea, is that when you open the bag, it will be exactly like it was when it was sealed. And it works. The meats are tender, juicy, fragrant, and hard to put down. He smokes brisket, pulled pork, chicken, salmon, and more, depending on the day. Even classic sides like potato salad, coleslaw, and chicken salad have a smoky twist to them. “Our two signature items, without a doubt, are our lemon-peppered smoked salmon and our smoked chicken mac ‘n cheese,” said Woody.
Consistency is hard, as anyone in the restaurant business will tell you. One of Woody’s two biggest goals is to stick to the recipe so guests always get the same flavor every time, and customer service is the other aim. “We have a personal touch with sincere hospitality that is just hard to find out there on the service side [of the restaurant business],” he says.
“The boiling bag concept is something I just thought was needed to avoid the plethora of dried-out and overcooked ‘cue you get out there. It works well and ensures a high-quality product delivered into your home every single time. But I tell people if they microwave my food to warm it up, I’m going to hunt them down like a dog.”
He and his wife see their business as a “true mom-and-pop joint.” They work catering events themselves, and Woody is always at the shop, greeting his customers and cooking up a storm. They love the concept, and clearly the neighborhood does as well. Woody is a pleasure to talk to, with a passionate personality and a love for getting to know people.
Woody B’s is open from 11 am to 7 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.