Westwoods BBQ & Spice Co. is open, the newest big restaurant to catch Fresno’s attention. The restaurant took over the former Claim Jumper space at Blackstone and Nees avenues. Despite opening just last week, this one was packed last weekend.
The restaurant is a modern twist on barbecue. The meat isn’t drenched in sauce and there’s salads on the menu (check out the food pics on the Facebook page). So far, the burnt ends brisket, which spends 12 hours in the smoker, is a popular seller, along with the fried chicken and tri-tip. The Westwoods pastry chef tried 200 recipes before perfecting her cornbread. The owner and his chefs came up with the menu after a three-week cross country trip trying every barbecue restaurant they could find.
The owner is top Fresno restauranteur Dave Fansler. He’s the guy who created Tahoe Joe’s, Pismo’s Coastal Grill and Yosemite Ranch restaurants. He’s poured millions into revamping the Westwoods space so that it looks nothing like Claim Jumper — as in, knock-down-walls, tear-out-a-fireplace and relocate-the-bar kind of renovations. The restaurant is an homage to Fresno County and its farmers, so you’ll find plenty of ag-inspired details. The windmill out front was rescued from a Sanger property and the wood ceiling made from old barn wood, for example. You can see more details in this video.
The restaurant is half quick service – where you order at a counter and are handed a pager – and half full service, where a waiter or waitress takes care of you. One interesting tidbit: That pager never buzzes or lights up. It connects to a magnet in the table and uses technology that allows the server to know exactly where your food needs to go so you don’t have to get up.