Opened in early 2007, Westside Steak & BBQ is located on a side street about a mile northwest of downtown Worcester. It’s a small storefront with a take-out counter and about a dozen tables in the clean, bright room. They offer table service but no bar, although BYOB is an encouraged option. In the warmer months, customers can enjoy outdoor seating on a patio shared with some of the neighboring stores and restaurants, including a coffeehouse.
The menu at Westside Steak & BBQ manages to offer variety and flexibility while sticking to just a few basic themes. For barbecue, there’s on kind of rib (spares), one kind of brisket (sliced), pulled pork, half chickens and pulled chicken. All barbecue meats can be ordered as dinners (with cornbread and two sides), as meat only (great for add-ons) or as combo plates with 4 to 6 sides. Steaks include a 22-ounce Porterhouse, a 14-ounce NY steak, an 8-ounce fillet, plus steak tips and (Thursday to Sundays only) prime rib. Appetizers include wings, potato skins, chicken fingers and chili. Sandwiches include barbecue options, tacos, burritos, burgers and a steak sandwich.
The place really doesn’t resonate with a barbecue (or steakhouse, for that matter) feel, so I set my expectations accordingly. I ordered a pulled pork and brisket combo and added on a half rack of ribs, knowing I’d probably eat less than half of it.
Saying the pulled pork was moist would be an understatement, as it was heavily coated in a thick red sauce. Luckily, the long strings had some chewiness to them and a pretty good flavor, although not the least bit smoky. I wish there were more bark and less sauce (although the sauce wasn't bad).
The brisket, served unsauced at my request, was sliced thin, with a little fat along the edges and a very faint smoke ring. The meat was slightly moist but there wasn’t a whole lot of flavor. Dipping the slices in the hotter version of the barbecue sauce helped.
Pork ribs, also ordered unsauced, were meaty spares with the chine intact. Although there was some retraction of the meat to expose the bone tips, I didn’t see a smoke ring and I didn’t taste any smoke. The ribs were juicy and the minimal spice rub (whose chief ingredient was salt) offered a pleasant enough flavor. But I wasn’t looking for pleasant; I was looking for barbecue, and the flavor profile reminded me more of a well-seasoned steak. That seemed to be the story with all of the meats. As for whether they were smoked or not, my server said they have a smoker, but I’m not so sure. In any event, I didn’t get that down-home barbecue joint vibe from the meats any more than from the look and feel of the place.
Sides were a little below average. French fries (frozen) were long and crunchy. Baked beans were a soupy New England variety, slightly doctored with some meat. Cole slaw was creamy but plain. The cornbread muffin was old and stiff.
Service was extremely friendly throughout. My server explained some of the menu items and went out of her way to offer the hot barbecue sauce and a sample of some unsauced pulled pork for comparison.
The bottom line: If lived in Worcester and found myself in the mood for a serious meat fix that’s not necessarily serious barbecue, this place might be an option.