Wood Shop BBQ, a small restaurant- slash-bar tucked away in the Central District on S Jackson Street, is the closest thing this Texan has found to southwestern comfort food in Seattle. Kansas-born Matt Davis and Texas native James Barrington, who started the business in 2014 with a food truck, recently opened the doors to this permanent barbecue spot.
The Pulled Pork Mac Bowl with sausage topping.
At 4:30 on a Thursday afternoon, several people were already there to get their meat fix. My friend and I could smell the brisket smoking before we walked in.
The restaurant is tiny but accommodating; there’s one table with chairs, stools around the bar and another set of stools lined along the front window. The back wall is decorated with an illustrated map of barbecue-famous cities across the country, including Lockhart, Texas—what I consider to be the Mecca of smoked meats, and where my family makes a daytrip whenever I’m home.
When I decided to move from Austin, Texas to Seattle for college, I knew one of the biggest sacrifices would be my hometown barbecue. Few things in this world are as great as the glistening, charcoal-black crust of a smoked brisket, and knowing I would only get a taste on holiday breaks was a difficult adjustment.
It’s easy to be picky about barbecue because it has such stark regional variation, and my biased (correct) opinion is that Central Texas offers the best style in the country. We prioritize beef over pork, smoke over sauce and meat over sides. Thankfully, so does Wood Shop.
I got my usual order of a quarter- pound of brisket (lean) and a link of sausage, with coleslaw on the side. No ribs this time, since the smallest order would have been too much on top of everything else, though the guy behind the bar insisted they’re great. The prices were reasonable; it would be easy to rack up a big bill if you’re paying for a group, but I spent just over $15.
The menu has a great variation. In addition to standalone meat options, sold by the quarter pound, the restaurant offers sandwiches, plus smoked jalapeño mac and cheese bowls with a few different choices of meat as a topping. My friend ordered “The Woody,” which comes with pulled pork.
Immediately the food made me think of home. The fatty, blackened ends of the brisket tore apart without the help of a knife, the sausage was juicy without being overly greasy and the coleslaw was a nice, light palette cleanser. I stole a bite of The Woody, too, which was as rich as its description suggested. A familiar heat started to build in the back of my throat after each bite, and I decided coming here wouldn’t just be a one-off.
Customers ordering their meals at Woodshop.
A strange thing happened around 2012. Barbecue—the food I’d always known as unfussy, unpretentious and cheap, cheap, cheap—became trendy. Pit masters started earning magazine cover stories. The Food Network began profiling joints across the country, soon dedicating entire shows to the craft. Many of my favorite places in Texas are now branded with the ultimate sign of success: an autographed photo of Guy Fieri, framed above the doorway as a declaration of big- name approval.
Where I’m from, plenty of locals are peeved that the secrets of our unique style of barbecue are spreading to the farthest corners of the country. But I couldn’t be more appreciative. This sudden spike in interest has paved the way for restaurants like Wood Shop to bring Texas barbecue to places far outside the state, and now West Coast transplants like me with homesick taste buds can satisfy our cravings nearby.
There are certainly atmospheric elements of the places I like to hit at home that I missed at Wood Shop. Seeing the meat sliced in front of you as you order, steam rising from its center; the cuts piled onto a greasy piece of butcher paper with a cool jalapeño and a hunk of cheddar cheese on the side; a fire burning in a corner of the room even though it’s a hundred-plus degrees out.
Atmosphere aside, the flavors were there, and I can’t ask for much more 2,000 miles away from home. And contrary to past barbecue experiences, I didn’t leave Wood Shop feeling like I had traded my soul for a future heart condition. Overall: A delicious plate of food I’d go back for anytime.
Wood Shop, at 2513 S Jackson Street, is open from 4 p.m. to midnight on weekdays, and from 11 a.m. to midnight—or until the meat is gone—Saturday through Sunday. Hours and locations for the food truck can be found at thewoodshopbbq.com.
Jenna may be reached at
Strategic Communications Major, Digital Media Coordinator for the Spectator. Talents include coffee consumption, making friends with dogs, and figuring things out as he goes.