I will admit up front that it was difficult for me to envision worthy BBQ happening in the suburban enclave of Bressi Ranch. BBQ has always been either an urban or rural experience for me and the in-between joints always seemed to be lacking in some key area. Well those preconceived notions were dispelled as we drove through the maize of parking lots that make up The Square at Bressi Ranch and got a whiff of the wood burning goodness that is a sure sign that BBQ is happening. More on the worthiness of WR Kitchen & Bar in a bit as I have a couple of clarifications to make.
I’ve made this clarification in the past while writing about BBQ, but I feel that a brief explanation needs to be made for those folks that still confuse BBQ and grilling. It’s really quite simple, BBQ involves cooking by burning wood and sometimes charcoal at a low temperature, preferably around 225 degrees, low and slow as they say with circumvented hot air with the lid closed. Grilling is done, for the most part with the lid up and cooking with direct heat on the bottom instead of all around the source. I like the example of grilling a steak and barbequing a pork butt, ribs, brisket, etc. In my somewhat snobby BBQ world, the preferred method of BBQ is an offset smoker, where the wood resides in a unit to the side of the long horizontal chamber where the food smokes. I realize it’s much easier to say “we are having a BBQ” but an easy substitution would be “we are having a cookout” to avoid freaks like me showing up and asking where the BBQ is. Anyway, you get my point.
All I know is that smelling that wood burning on the drive up to WR Kitchen & Bar in Bressi Ranch was a welcome scent. At 3,900 square feet, the space itself is impressive and has a clean design, what they are calling “an energetic, casually upscale environment.” This place is tailored to the areas more sophisticated, time-challenged residents who demand the speed and efficiency of a fast-casual environment but the authenticity of a deep south BBQ. On the surface, those two would seem an odd mix but WR Kitchen & Bar pulls it off. This location is offshoot of the Southern California-based barbecue chain Wood Ranch that has several locations throughout Southern California.
Of course, they feature a wood-fired open kitchen, and an a la carte menu that allows each guest more options to customize their orders with maximum flexibility in the selection of items and portion size. Ordering is done in the fast-casual mode of ordering from a station at the bar, then choosing a seating option in the dining room, bar or patio where orders are delivered. While that process is fast-casual, servers are plentiful and stop by tables to take additional orders for cocktails, dessert or more of their delicious BBQ.
We started with some really nice chips and guacamole and crispy buffalo cauliflower. BBQ selections were tough, so we just went big as leftover BBQ works nicely for me. Baby Back Ribs with a sweetish WR sauce were delish, and the sliced Tri-Tip and Oak Smoked Brisket were equally impressive. I also love that you can put just about any of these proteins on a salad, taco or sandwich. There is also an extensive list of sides and any BBQ experience for me is not complete without some Smokey BBQ Beans and theirs were delicious. A new BBQ side sensation was the Pan-Roasted Corn with feta, chili and green onion, which I loved. There are about a dozen sides available and they all sounded appealing.
In the interest of providing a thorough report on this suburban BBQ oasis, we had to give the Warm Butter Cake a try. It’s as decadent as it sounds with citrus whipped cream and a raspberry drizzle.
WR Kitchen & Bar also houses a full bar, developed by their talented beverage team that touts hand-crafted batch cocktails, 12 craft beers on draft, and several value-priced wines. We were there on a game night and the bar scene was a lively one.
So yes, I’ve overcome my preconceived notions that decent BBQ needs to be in an urban or rural location with a bit of grit involved. I’d go back to Bressi Ranch again for this BBQ as it was quite good … although it would be fabulous if they were to open one a bit closer in Encinitas.
WR Kitchen & Bar will soon be offering online ordering, take-out and delivery. For more information, visit www.wrkitchenbar.com/food/ and follow on Facebook at @WRKitchenBar and Instagram at @WRKitchenBar.