It all began with one bite.
The year was 2000 and Steven Renner was opening a restaurant near Piedmont Park and decided to run down the street to Woody’s Cheesesteaks, a tiny hole-in-the-wall tumbledown shack that had been serving up pitch-perfect homages to the Philly cheesesteaks since 1975, for a one of their legendary sandwiches.
“The place reminded me of all the ‘greasy spoons’ that my Granddaddy would take me to on the weekends after going fishing as a kid,” says Renner. The sandwich, an original cheesesteak, blew his mind. He left the restaurant in a bit of a daze.
“A couple hours later I jumped in my car, went back to the restaurant and asked the owner, David Pastoria, if he was interested in selling,” laughs Renner. “Much to my chagrin, the answer was no.”
Like a devout monk, for the next 10 years Renner continued to make regular pilgrimages to Woody’s for his beloved cheesesteak, often as special “cheesesteak dates” with his wife. Each time, the same question was asked to Pastoria: “Are you ready to sell now?”
In May of 2010 their dreams came true and Pastoria finally passed down the fabled grill. Now, finally in charge, Renner’s lay down his first executive order: don’t change a thing.
Since 1975 Woody’s standard cheesesteak has been comprised of a proprietary blend of steak cuts shaved razor thin and grilled piled high on the flat-top griddle. Dice in some sweet peppers and grilled onions, melt some white American cheese (although Cheez Whiz or provolone are acceptable options) and scoop the gooey mass onto a warm baguette sourced from Liscio’s Bakery just outside of Philadelphia. There, on the deli paper in front of you, lies the apotheosis of a Philly Cheesesteak in the heart of midtown Atlanta.
The warm salty steak, the buttery cheese, the soft crunch of the vegetables all held together by the spongy, savory bread—it’s a full-body sensory overload of delight.
Open until midnight on school nights and until 4am on the weekends, Atlantans for decades have relished Woody’s cheesesteaks, sausages, hoagies, hot dogs as well as their milkshakes, malts and floats made with local favorite Greenwood Ice Cream. And because it would be sacrilege not to offer cold beer with a warm cheesesteaks, Woody’s also pours SweetWater, Creature Comforts, Monday Night, Red Hare, and Red Brick Ale from the its taps.
And while you shouldn’t expect change from within at Woody’s, the changes happening around the restaurant are hard to miss. With the amazing popularity of the Beltline’s pedestrian trail and Piedmont Park’s renaissance, Woody’s, located just yards from both near the intersection of Piedmont and 10th, could not be in a better position to serve up its delights.
So next time you are in midtown grab a Woody’s Famous CheeseSteaks and head to the park for a picnic or a walk on the Beltline and know why it’s been a Hidden Gem for over 40 years.
For more Atlanta Eats Hidden Gems, check out a full list here. And be sure to watch Atlanta Eats every Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on Peachtree TV for more of your favorite Atlanta restaurants!