There really isn’t anywhere like The North Woods in left around. A wonderful remnant of a bygone era where everything tasted like Lawry’s seasoned salt and smelled like Worcestershire sauce. Founded in 1958 it’s a welcome trip back in time to a simpler culinary era.
Most people are unaware I grew up in Arcadia. My folks moved there from San Francisco when I was just a baby and we lived off Baldwin Ave south of the main drag until I was 12. That was a wonderful time. Dionne Warwick’s “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” was still playing on the radio, and Earthquake (the movie) came out shortly after the Sylmar temblor, which rocked me out of my bed. Everything cool was coming out of Menlo Park and my parents’ kitchen was awash in a sea of avocado-colored appliances, including a massive first-generation microwave. I lived a couple miles from the San Gabriel location and it was where we went with both sets of Grandparents when they were in town. As children we called it “Snow Top” and I still get as excited as an 6 year old kid every time I see the place. No joke.
The North Woods Inn is home to lumberjack-sized portions of food piggybacked with their amazing garlic cheese bread and duo of salads. The double salad thing is a one-two punch of very basic iceberg with bleu-cheese style dressing, followed up by a crunchy mound of mildly pickled red cabbage in vinaigrette. Mix the two and you are in roughage heaven. The cheese bread is absolutely spot on, a perfect blend of whipped butter and spices, unchanged since day one. You can buy a tub there and it is also available at a few retail outlets (I think Stater’s still carries it).
The sandwiches are great, gigantic portions of meat piled high on rye or their specially baked roll served with rice pilaf and salad. It’s a meal in itself, perfect with an ice-cold schooner of Sierra Nevada. If you dare tackle their entrees, be prepared.
I am notorious for my massive servings of food, a trait I’m actually quite proud of. The North Woods Inn serves a plate that is substantial even by my standards. I’m a big hamburger steak guy, and they do it right with lots of grilled onions and a perfect char. All their large plates are served with a massive baked potato (topped with either garlic butter or mushroom gravy) and rice pilaf. Carb heaven. Their steaks and seafood are spot on. I tackled, and was almost defeated by, their 25-ounce porterhouse one time but emerged victorious. Their large surf and turf combo dinners are wonderful too, I would suggest coughing up a couple bucks and splitting the plate though.
The North Woods Inn gets double-thumbs up from me, with an extra thumb thrown in just for good measure. Next time you are up that way make a stop.