Samantha was off this week so we're running one of our reader favorites. Enjoy!
L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge is a local classic for good reason. The excellent service and food ensure diners have a great night out.
The restaurant at 7110 N. Lincoln Ave. in Lincolnwood goes for a woodsy lodge vibe. The dining room features plenty of wooden booths with red cushion and dark wood tables. Walls are covered with pictures of customers, autographed sports photos and mounted fish, and the bar area features plenty of flat-screen TVs tuned to sports.
The place was nearly full around 8 p.m. Saturday, bringing in mostly middle-aged couples with a few larger groups taking advantage of the restaurant’s big tables.
Our service was truly excellent. The server asked if we had dined at L. Woods before and when we said we hadn’t, she launched into an in-depth explanation of the menu, highlighting the restaurant's best-known dishes. She was able to provide detailed information on everything from cocktails to desserts, peppering her delivery with personal opinions and experiences with the food.
When we asked about appetizers, she insisted since we were first-timers that we try the flatbread, later bringing out a complimentary plate of the barbecue flatbread ($7.99). We really appreciated the generous gesture, especially since the dish was excellent, with very thin and crispy bread lightly covered with pesto, chunks of chicken and chives. The sweet tastes of the pesto and barbecue sauce blended perfectly together.
L. Woods’ drink menu includes plenty of cocktails and a list of local craft brews, including beers from Goose Island, Two Brothers and Bell’s. I went with our server’s recommendation of the Paw Paw Punch ($8), a blend of Southern Comfort, cherry pucker, orange juice and raspberry lemonade. It turned out to be a perfect summer sipper, refreshing with only a mild alcohol taste.
For another appetizer, we ordered the calamari ($8.99), which featured a generous portion of fried squid served with a spicy horseradish sauce and L.Woods' homemade cocktail sauce, which is heavy on the horseradish. The dish featured a nearly even split between tentacles and rings, and the rings were pleasantly tender rather than rubbery.
Our server told us barbecue was what L. Woods did best, so we chose to go with two of the restaurant’s signature dishes for our entrees. I ordered a half-slab of baby back ribs ($15.99). The naturally raised pork was fall-off-the bone tender and served with a side of the house-made tangy barbecue sauce.
As excellent as the ribs were, my boyfriend made the better choice by ordering the barbecue planked salmon ($22.99). The dish features organic Scottish salmon cooked on a cedar plank and lightly covered in barbecue sauce. The fish is served with a pile of fresh cut corn on a bed of whipped mashed potatoes lightly roasted to add a golden brown top.
The sauce accented rather than overwhelmed the wonderful flavor of the fish, which takes on a somewhat smoky taste from the wood. Mixing the potatoes and corn made for an absolutely delightful blend of tastes. The dish is also big enough to make a second meal.
We were too full for dessert but asked for something to take home and our server was prepared for what must be a common occurrence, offering advice on what would travel well. We wound up with plenty of leftovers and a slice of homemade key lime pie ($5.99), leaving very happy with our experience and the knowledge of another excellent place nearby.
The following is part of our Dinner and A Movie series, which runs every Monday. To read this week's movie review, Mr. Popper's Penguins',