For Adam Lee, Ben Locher and Todd Weaver, managing partners of Woodson’s Local Tap + Kitchen, opening a restaurant in their hometown marked the fulfillment of a shared goal.
The three associates said they all got their start in the restaurant business in their teens, eventually rising from busboys to bartenders to managers. The three connected through various jobs in the industry, and years after becoming friends they realized their shared plan to open their own space in The Woodlands area.
“From almost the day we met we’ve talked about opening something of our own,” Lee said. “We’ve followed each other to different bars, bartending gigs, management gigs, whatever. And we had the opportunity to come up in 2011. ... That’s kind of when we got started together doing our own thing.”
While Woodson’s was first conceived around a decade ago, the group’s first major success—taking over management of Exit 73 Bar & Grill in Spring, and more than tripling its annual sales—convinced them to move forward on their long-developing restaurant project.
“From all of us kind of working around in this area for so long and working for other people, I think it was time. We learned a lot of things, some good, some bad, from other places, ... and we didn’t want to work for anybody else anymore,” Locher said.
Featuring a menu that blends Southern barbecue themes with the team’s unique inspiration, Woodson’s opened its first location on FM 1488 just north of The Woodlands in March 2017. French fries arrive in city-themed specialty baskets, such as the grilled pineapple and pulled pork-topped Honolulu fries. Egg rolls are filled with brisket and grits or chili mac and cheese, and a traditional grilled cheese sandwich can even be packed with brisket.
“Any normal restaurant item we kind of put a Southern flair on it,” Locher said. “We do things that other people do; we just do them a little bit differently. We do them the Woodson’s way.”
With decor and drinks sourced from the surrounding area, Woodson’s owners also stressed the “local” in the restaurant’s name. Locher said the restaurant’s tables and light fixtures were provided locally, and the beer menu is mainly composed of offerings from regional breweries. The local touches extend to the overall venue concept, which the owners said they changed based on feedback from their visitors.
“We all kind of thought we were going to be more of like a sports bar than a restaurant, and the community told us otherwise,” Locher said.
Lee said the original Woodson’s benefited from that shift, and the team went on to establish a second location off the Grand Parkway in Spring. The new restaurant opened in the Birnham Woods Marketplace at the start of 2019.
Woodson’s staff has grown to more than 170 people across both venues.
“We’re just blessed to be in our home city, our hometown, half a mile away from our houses,” Weaver said. “The three of us are basically best friends, and to be able to go to your job or your business every day with your best friends is pretty cool.”