Woody’s Famous Philadelphia Cheesesteaks, Atlanta GA

Years ago, Woody’s Cheesesteaks, a little shack at the bizarre, horribly designed intersection of Monroe and Virginia, was one of those places that I would always drive past, wondering whether the food was any good, but unable to find out because they had already closed. They used to keep really unfriendly hours, but had a pretty devoted clientele in the neighborhood.

I think that another problem has always been the warring strip malls in the region and their parking enforcement. It should make sense to park over at the Midtown Art Cinema’s lot, walk over to Woody’s and then come back for a movie, but you risk having your car towed for that. Heck, I’m afraid to leave my car at the movie lot and walk as far as the Trader Joe’s. No, you have to fight for one of the small handful of spaces at Woody’s or the teeny strip mall behind it, get a meal and then move your car sixty seconds’ drive down Monroe to see a movie, which is a criminal waste of gas and time you could spend getting a little exercise.

Well, this past Saturday, we were going to see a movie after lunch, but that was down at the Plaza, so I suppose it was okay to park here and then move the car. (You do know that I’m being a little intentionally silly, right?)

Now, back when Woody’s was originally open during its unfriendly lunch-and-a-bit hour, it did have a very good reputation for serving up, after an apparently considerable wait, some really excellent grilled-to-order cheesesteaks. The original owner, David Pastoria, was much loved, but with a little exasperation for the long lines and short hours. Or maybe not “short” so much as “erratic.” He decided to step down in 2009, and passed ownership of Woody’s to Steven Renner, who has made some changes to the place. For one thing, nowadays they’re open more often than not.

I never tried Pastoria’s original, of course, but my son and I stopped by just as they opened, meeting our friends Matt and Kelley, who came into the city to see the original Frankenstein with us at the Plaza Theatre. This is part of the monthly – at least I think it’s monthly – Silver Scream Spook Show, a complete riot of fun, silly costumes, bad jokes and go-go dancers from the local Blast-Off Burlesque troupe. Now that the Spook Show has resumed operations after a few months’ break, we are looking forward to going to see them from time to time, and having an early lunch somewhere in Atlanta beforehand.

Honestly, we need not have arrived at Woody’s quite as early as eleven to have time to make it over to the Plaza, but it gave us the chance to see the place in action before it got too busy. We didn’t have the really long wait for our orders that diners of the original Woody’s have reported, but maybe about five minutes. They serve their sandwiches in table-covering butcher paper. Matt and I each had a traditional cheesesteak, mine with added mushrooms. Kelley had a hot dog and my son had an Italian sub. We all enjoyed them, but I was a little surprised that less meat had made it into my roll than I would have thought.

It was a pretty good sandwich and quite filling, but it was not quite as good as a Mad Italian cheesesteak, and nowhere close to the awesome ones available at Roy’s in Smyrna. My son was raving about his Italian sub, but that could be the Jack Benny in him. Every sandwich my boy has is the best sandwich that he’s ever had, so he’s not the most reliable of reporters. His milkshake, made with Breyer’s ice cream, certainly was terrific. In all, it was a pretty good meal, certainly among the better cheesesteaks in the city. With much more convenient hours for dinner and late night guests – they’re open until 4 in the morning on the weekends – I could see us stopping in again if we are in the area, and if we can find a parking place without anybody being a jerk about it.