A House Divided Delivers BBQ, Pizza, and Fun
From the outside, Flat Rock Wood Room doesn’t look like a house divided.
It’s a cream-colored stucco building with black trim, many windows, and a large front porch, which is excellent for good-weather dining. You can tell immediately how crowded the popular restaurant might be because of the the drive-through parking lot in front. It has that distinctive Flat Rock-look of being old, well kept, and just a little creative. Tasteful small white gravel, free-growing boxwoods, and a carved wooden bear make it all that more inviting.
But divided is the Wood Room — but only terms of its food. Although the menu is extensive with made-from-scratch and authentic foods, its offerings fall into two basic categories: Memphis-style barbecue and Neapolitan pizzas — neither of which is widespread in the Carolina Foothills, where barbecue is normally defined as pulled pork with plenty of tangy sauce on a bun and mass-produced pizzas that come from the Hut, the Inn, or the freezer.
“We are not just a typical barbecue restaurant,” owner Jamie Guay said. “We offer competition-level barbecue and very special wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas using top-shelf pizza ingredients.”
As a large-frame bachelor, who lives upstairs above his restaurant, Jamie can be at times modest and at others a master of restaurant management and promotions to which his website and Facebook page attest.
On a recent lunch visit, Jamie composed a sampler platter of his appetizers to impress. It was both impressive and filling, and consisted of a Jumbo Frankenmuth Wing (not to be associated with the monster Frankenstein, but rather a small town in Michigan, Jamie’s home state), fried green beans, high-flavoried hushpuppies, sweet potato fries seasoned with cinnamon, and a unique meat-filled egg roll. It came with various dips, each adding another layer of flavor to the smorgasbord.
The on-the-spot and knowledgeable waiter kept a watchful but unobtrusive eye on my eating and soon brought out a smoked-meat platter that would horrify a vegetarian but delighted this carnivore. Slices of fork-tender and mild beef brisket; fall-off-the-bone ribs; boneless moist white-meat chicken; pulled pork that didn’t have and didn’t need any sauce; and highly spiced (hot), house-made, and grilled Andouille sausage. Being Memphis-style, the meats were dry-rubbed and slow-smoked using hickory, oak, and apple wood. A side platter had baked beans, collard greens, cheesy and creamy grits with green onion and bacon, to-die-for four-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese, and not-too-sweet cornbread topped with honey butter and pecan bits. Of course, I took home the leftovers.
On previous trips to Flat Rock to see dramas and musicals, my wife and I had dinner at Wood Room, but had only ordered pizza, assuming (by not reading) the barbecue was routine. We were wrong, but always went back for the pizza, which we naively realized was better than most.
Little did we know that authentic “Neapolitan pizza” is in class of its own, requiring specialized tomatoes, flour, and a wood-burning oven imported from Italy, all of which produce either a white or red pizza with a thin, buttery, and chewy crust.
Our Southern-born palates always like the onion stack, which is onion rings only lighter, crispier, and better.
“We expect only the best service and food,” Jamie said. “We would like to think our standards are very high. We like to provide exciting menu specials, and our servers are very knowledgeable. We don’t just take orders and serve food: We offer an experience, which includes a fun atmosphere for families and all ages. We offer a very diverse menu and try hard to offer an exciting menu item for all palates. Consistency is important to us so our patrons can not only experience a great meal but depend on it being the same when they return.”
Like many restaurants, Wood Room strives for a “dining experience” that makes it a “destination,” rather than a default choice by proximity. For a restaurant that can seat up to 160 people, the bar is rather small and it only sells beer and wine. Thankfully, there’s only one television in the room.
“We promote a social environment of fun, fun, fun, fun,” Jamie said. “Food and service aren’t all we offer. We offer an atmosphere that promotes communication amongst friends and family, laughter, memories, planning a day in the mountains, etc. We embrace our patrons and are proud of the many many close relationships we’ve established throughout the years.”
The more than 3,000 friends on Facebook give Wood Room a 4.7 out of 5 rating. TripAdvisor’s 842 reviewers give it a 4.5 rating out of 5.
“By far the best feeling for myself and the staff is having a customer passionately compliment their entire experience here,” Jamie said. “From arrival to seating, food, service, atmosphere, cleanliness. It gives us a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. Be prepared to be wowed!,” he emphasized. “Ask for Jamie, I’d love to introduce myself and meet you.”
Caption for outside of building:::
Just a couple of miles between Flat Rock Playhouse and the bustle of the City of Hendersonville, along Greenville Highway, the Flat Rock Wood Room identifies with the Village rather than the City, even though, technically, it is in Hendersonville. But many of the businesses along this scenic two-lane road do the same, probably to capitalize on the Village’s relaxed, understated, and cool image. (Photo by Steve Wong)