Woody’s Smorgasburger III

We’ve had so many messages posted here about the late, luscious Woody’s Smorgasburger that we have to break them up.  This is the third thread of comments.  You can read our article about Woody’s and the first batch of comments here.  You can read the second batch of comments here.  Please continue the discussion on this thread.

162 Responses to Woody’s Smorgasburger III

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For the days of Woody’s, tube tops, crop tops and sweater dresses.

    Three days after my Hot Pants conversation and I am STILL smiling.
    Bobber in NM, you are a fun guy !
    Yoga pants in Ohio do not cover anything. This fashion trend is what keeps me young at 70. Only 1% of the girls that wear them have seen the inside
    of a Yoga classroom. Fine my me !
    The girls who look best in them could just as well wear body paint.

    I just read a posting from Brian on the Cassell reopening in the Normandie.
    He tells us things are a little different but the size and quality of the burger
    remains the same. Elsewhere I read the 1/3 lb. burger starts at 10.95 !
    I hope Mark Evanier or one of you Readers can swing by and give us a report afterward.

    I guess I could tie Woody’s together with Yoga Pants in this way ;

    At Woody’s the patron received her SmorgasBuger ” nude ,” leaving her the option of keeping it that way.
    I think the girls wearing Yoga Pants feel the same way.
    How else can they leave the house ……. feeling nude ?

    Just think, you don’t have to go to a beach or a swimming pool to see what they are showing you while ordering at Starbucks.

    Such fun … enjoy the holidays.
    Phil

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Looks like my Cary Grant look alike contest was a total flop.
    Yes, a little dismayed as I wanted to wrap up 2014 with a little fun.
    Not much longer till we see what 2015 has in store.

    For those of you who have a interest in the Cassell’s rebirth, be sure and jump over to the Cassell’s site offered here by Mark Evanier.
    ” Guy Reading ” posted a short, but very insightful narrative about the new digs in the Normandie. He addressed every issue I wondered about.
    Plus, I learned that self serve condiment bars are now taboo in LA.

    How could a resurrected Woody’s circumvent that ?

    Ohio will not have a white Christmas this year, not that I was dreaming for one. Better the Rockies and the Sierras get the new snowpack.

    I am off to help Mary Ann bake some Toll House cookies for Santa.

    Merry Christmas everyone !
    Phil

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    I would like to share this positive news to wrap up 2014 :

    Mr. Ralph Wood is holding his own and doing okay.
    He recognizes most visitors most of the time.
    Mr. Wood continues to rely on a motorized wheel chair and does
    need assistance with meals, etc.
    During this month of December he celebrated his 90th birthday.

    After his 67 years of marriage to his beloved wife Barbara ” Risty ” Wood,
    well, we know he is missing her terribly.
    Mr. Wood lives in an assisted living complex which is located in the same neighborhood that he lived in most of his adult life.
    As much as he enjoyed being near or on the water, it is my prayer that people in his life now make it a point to get him to places where he can overlook the rolling hills of Palos Verdes and the awesome Pacific.

    I learned this update from the folks who work and hang out at the “Risty “.
    For those of you who still maintain ” prayer lists ” , why not join me in adding Mr. Wood near the very top of that list. Amen.

    Phil Ankofski

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Dear Readers and Friends,

    I was happy to close out the year 2014 with positive news regarding Mr.Wood’s health. Now a month later, I must start 2015 by informing
    everyone here that Mr. Ralph Wood has passed on.
    Mr. Wood died on Sunday, January 25th at the age of 90.

    The Daily Breeze newspaper has printed the obituary in todays edition,
    Saturday, January 31, 2015 ~ The obit also informs us that Mr. Wood’s memorial service was held on Friday, January 30th.

    You can access the obit @ dailybreeze.com/obituaries/20150130/ralph-wood.

    At the bottom of the obit, there is a window which invites you to sign the guestbook and/or post comments.

    During the last two years, we have posted in excess of 700 comments which ultimately preserves Mr. Woods legacy. I wish we could transpose all of
    our comments to Mr. Woods Guest Book.
    I am sure Mr. Wood’s family, friends and employees would find much comfort in the love we have displayed for this man.

    In closing this short narrative, I would invite all of you to get out to your
    local butcher counter before the Super Bowl game and buy enough ground beef to make your favorite SmorgasBurgers at pre game time.
    That’s what I’m gonna be doin’ …… along with my frosted mug of root beer.
    ” Here’s to you Ralph Wood ; You were a mentor to so many of us. ”

    Phil Ankofski

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Thank you Phil.
    Hopefully, Mark will let me include this f/u article from the Daily Breeze.. http://tinyurl.com/oqq8cqs …note Folks can comment there. I’ve also asked it’s author to reference Mark’s site.

    By Megan Barnes, The Daily Breeze
    POSTED: 01/30/15, 7:39 PM PST | 3 COMMENTS
    When Ralph Wood Jr. decided to open an upscale steak and seafood restaurant on the isolated Palos Verdes Peninsula in the mid-1960s, he was met with skepticism. Such a venture was sure to fail, he was told.

    The restaurateur had moved his family to the Hill a few years earlier, driving throughout Southern California each day to his multiple Woody’s Smorgasburgers locations, and wanted to open something local and different. So when he found a spot in a sparsely filled Golden Cove Shopping Center overlooking the Pacific Ocean in what is now Rancho Palos Verdes, Wood was thrilled, even if he had been shot down trying to find financing.

    Almost a half-century later, the Admiral Risty Restaurant has served nearly 4 million patrons since opening in October 1966, undergone three expansions, and has garnered awards and a reputation as a dining landmark on the Peninsula.

    Wood, who named the restaurant after his high school sweetheart and wife of 67 years, Barbara “Risty” Wood, died Sunday at the age of 90. Generations of loyal customers and “crew members” are expected to attend his memorial service at 3 p.m. Fridayat St. Peter’s by the Sea Presbyterian Church. A reception will follow.

    Born on New Year’s Eve in 1924, Wood grew up in Pasadena and spent his childhood camping and fishing with his family. After graduating from South Pasadena High School, he served in Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army in Germany during World War II and married Risty, then a student at Mills College, while on a monthlong Army furlough in 1945.

    Wood took an interest in the restaurant industry when he worked as a fry cook and host while earning an economics degree from Occidental College.

    He and Risty moved around Southern California, living in 10 different houses during the first 10 years of their marriage. They had four children and opened King Karrot Juice Bars in grocery stores before starting the first of seven Woody’s Smorgasburgers. The eateries were known for their sundae and condiment bars, which let customers build their own creations.

    The restaurants began closing in the 1970s and Wood turned his Torrance location on Pacific Coast Highway and Palos Verdes Boulevard — where Rock & Brews stands today — into a Mexican restaurant called Mucho Gusto, putting a pink bus inside that was converted into a dining room. For a time, he opened a second Admiral Risty in San Diego and a restaurant called the Catalina Grill in the Hollywood Riviera.

    In all, Wood owned or operated more than 23 restaurants in his lifetime, served two terms as president of the Southern California Restaurant Association and nine years as a director of the National Restaurant Association.

    “He was a kind gentleman who was always thinking positively and moving forward and trying to improve whatever he was doing and we were doing,” said Wayne Judah, co-owner and general manager of the Admiral Risty.

    Judah walked into the restaurant one short-staffed night in January 1969 to apply for a bartending job and was hired on the spot, working his way up to become a partner in 1982.

    He said while he and Wood didn’t always see eye to eye, they never argued.

    “We really didn’t,” he said. “We’d discuss things, come up with a solution and that’s the way we handled our business. He was a great man and we’re all going to miss him.”

    Wood’s daughter, Sara Wood, described a father who encouraged his children to follow their own dreams.

    “He would say, ‘Do what makes you happy,’ and he kind of lived that,” she said. “Neither he nor my mom were very critical of who we dragged home, who we hung out with, what we did or how we did it. They weren’t too high-pressure about school. They really let us develop as human beings on our own and that’s something I’ve always been grateful for.”

    It’s difficult for Sara Wood to describe her father without also talking about her late mother.

    The two met in the seventh grade and became inseparable. The avid sailors were active in the King Harbor Yacht Club and took their children camping and fishing in the eastern Sierra. They loved the outdoors so much that they had a home in June Lake and went backpacking every August for their anniversary. The Woods traveled to every continent except Australia.

    At the restaurant, Risty wore many creative hats, from coordinating marketing and special events to greeting guests. The Woods retired about 10 years ago and Risty died in May 2012.

    Growing up in a family in the restaurant business meant they were the first to have the latest kitchen gadgets at home, like a commercial malt machine and a microwave in the mid-1960s, Sara Wood said.

    “It was completely unheard of then, and it didn’t take us kids long to figure out to throw foil in for a tremendous light show,” she said.

    Wood was an innovator in his own restaurants, testing recipes, coming up with food and labor cost-control systems before the advent of computers, and designing a conveyor belt that transports dishes from the waiters’ station to the kitchen still used at the Admiral Risty today.

    Sara Wood and her siblings worked in the family’s restaurants and Wood’s son Eric and grandson Anders both became professional chefs. The Admiral Risty employed many local teens over the decades, helped raise money to build the high school swimming pools on the Peninsula and remains an active community donor.

    When Peninsula resident Kathy Berg told Wood she was starting her public relations business 31 years ago, he signed up to be her first client, and the restaurant remains one today.

    “I have countless fond memories and am so thankful to have had the pleasure to work with Ralph,” she said. “He truly was a one-of-a-kind gentleman and I will miss him.”

    In addition to Sara, Wood is survived by three sons, Jon, Chip and Eric, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

    The family asks that any donations in Wood’s honor be made to the Occidental College Annual Fund, 1600 Campus Road, Building M-34, Los Angeles, CA 90041.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Eh…what a hoot to re-check the original newspaper article http://tinyurl.com/oqq8cqs to see some “nutty” remembrances in the Comment section of it!
    Alas, you guyz 1) did your jobs, and, most importantly! 2) created lasting memories!!! Doesn’t get any better than that in this Life!!!!!!

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    Hello Bob of NM ~

    Good for you. Sharp thinking on your part for asking Mark to transfer Mr. Wood’s obit here so everyone can be equally informed. Smart man !
    Thank you.

    Thank you Mark Evanier for taking care of us.
    Hope all is going well with the new ” Cloud ” .
    All my best ,
    Phil

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    Wow………….
    Not the kind of news I was expecting clicking on my favorites link to here after being away for a few weeks. Comes as kind of shock, especially after seeing notices today about the deaths of Gary Owens (a favorite LA DJ of mine) and loyal LA newsman Stan Chambers.

    I’ve posted my condolences on the Daily Breeze page, but I’m mostly at a loss for words, as I didn’t really get to know Mr. Wood well during my time at Woody’s Smorgasburger. By the time I started, the corporation had a lot going on, and my Westwood store was not fully owned by Mr. Wood. There seemed to be a bit of a disconnect after a while from the management structure, starting around 1970 or so. Then, when Steve Dabbs in essence ‘bought’ the store, there was no corporate involvement at all, and some visible changes started to occur.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Not meaning to be disrespectul just to satisfy my curiosity and maybe its already been covered, but is there any “place” for a backstory why Woody’s didn’t “last”? Were they too concentrated from CC to Redondo? Did USC/UCLA need beer? Was it just price…certainly not quality…whereby the Arches “flourished”? Was a square burger of Wendy’s or “roast beef with horsey sauce” of Arby’s that big a competative edge? While to some extent CA was in the forefront of casual eateries and their going national, it always surprised me how they were slow to sprout up in e.g. MA in the last quarter of last century as say they did in the SouthWest.

  • Marshall Loveday says:

    Good question, Bob. There are probably a lot of answers to that question. Not being a restaurant industry expert, my opinion won’t be worth much, but here goes..

    Woody’s Smorgasburger ultimately failed because it didn’t grow. With a maximum of maybe 6-8 stores at its peak in the late 60’s / early 70’s, it didn’t have the attention on it like the big players in the casual dining scene in southern California. The franchising arrangement in the early 60’s failed because it was a bad deal all around. Maybe that event bothered Mr. Wood, I don’t know. In my opinion, the chain should have been building more stores in new areas, and also maybe starting up a ‘Smorgasburger, Jr.’ (with drive-thru) to compete with the fast food guys.

    Of course, it’s easy to do Sunday morning quarterbacking…….so what I’m writing means nothing.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    I say ” blame it on the NO FRIES policy.”
    After 15 years, Chris Pingel and Mr. Cramer took over ( 1971 ) and
    proceeded to install fries immediately in the El Segundo store.
    WA LA !! Potato salad sales plunged and the food cost improved along with the increased sales associated with FRIES.
    It took Chris some time longer to figure out how to install fries in the Culver City store …….. but he did do it ! Well done Chris !

    To me the NO FRIES policy at Woody’s would be akin to this scenario;

    Investors announce that they are building a brand new casino/ hotel
    in Las Vegas. After describing all the new amenities, one of the guys
    says ; ” we will NOT be featuring a SEAFOOD or PRIME RIB buffet in our restaurants .” ************ SAY WHAT ???????

    There, you have it.
    Phil

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Thanks Marshall.
    Admittedly, while I greatly enjoyed working and the camaraderie at Woody’s for, albeit only,10(?) months ’62-’63, restauranteering was not in my naive view of the world. If it had been, it might have dawned on me to compare my seeing (and starting!) what didn’t exist in my hometown…despite it being of a pop. of 100,000 and on the edge of Boston…versus what was ‘happening’ in CA. I cannot recall a single “Chain” in that town in the late ’50s/early 60’s (let alone many, during visits, up till the ’90s….e.g. Friendly’s and Howard Johnson notwithstanding! Everything was local Mom n Pop ala pizza or subs-grinders-hoagies or comfort/sea food!….altho http://tinyurl.com/mfhb9ca Otherwise in CA, A&W had been trying to ‘blossom’ since the ’20s; there was Taco Bell trying to ‘bud’ under various names…the last including an Anglo!; there were Big Boys and there was even Wienerschnitzel!!! Beyond and “stepping it up a bit’ competing for munching dollars, there was Ships, Rand’s Roundup and a myriad of everyday venues let alone ‘dining’ venues…e.g. Scalo’s/Trader Vic’s/Lawry’s trying to lure in one’s dollars! Indeed, I can imagine there was a possible cost-efficiency to contend with ala a Smorgasburger structure and a Twin Arches. With due regard to your ‘expansion’ view, if I lived in Pasadena, would I’ve jumped on my Vespa to ride a half hour to Culver City just because they uniquely served a burger a) on a Kaiser roll, b) upon which I could lather some things not offered elsewhere like c) Thousand Island and d) chopped peanuts???? Lo that Mr. Wood did not advertise(?) a chance to espy the likes of a teenybopper of CC High’s Saffrons like http://tinyurl.com/mn7m33q Sharrie Williams, a Maybelline heiress! albeit certainly, eating Woody’s Smorgs then resulted in an equally luscious Sharrie today http://tinyurl.com/p7sayb4!!!!
    I’m just saying!!!!

    Alas, how many of us have or are saying: Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda! LOL

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