The Woods is game-changer for Harbourside Place

Tiger’s new restaurant boasts fine food, faultless service.

The Woods is a restaurant that only seems to be steeped in contrasts:

Servers in Nike kicks and sportswear hand out luxuriously hot towels after each round of finger food.

The spinach-artichoke dip ($12) shares the menu with a grand 32-ounce porterhouse steak for two ($86).

The place is bustling, but even during peak hours the service rises to the level of intimate, excellent restaurants.

It’s a steakhouse; it’s a sports bar.

But there’s an X factor that brings together all the disparate qualities: the restaurant’s celebrity owner.

Tiger Woods, local resident, superstar golfer, hands-on restaurateur, has brought a stroke of genius to Harbourside Place: a restaurant that feels local and worldly, accessible and sophisticated all at once.

“He opened the door for me the other day,” one of our servers told us on a recent night in a tone that suggested wonder and respect for the athlete/restaurateur whose presence is understated but real at The Woods, which opened Aug. 10.

A stylized photo of the golfer in action adorns one corner of the entryway and golf streams from TV screens above the main bar. But this is not Woods’ version of Walt Disney World — there is no Tiger version of The Mouse engraved in details great and small.

Instead, just weeks after the opening of The Woods, it is evident this is a place that prizes more important details. The food is delicious. The service is extraordinary.

The menu’s strong point: meat. This strength shines even in the restaurant’s sandwich menu.

The Woods prime burger ($16) is gussied up with all sorts of toppings — avocado, balsamic onions, smoked mozzarella, tomato, shredded lettuce. And these ingredients conspire to make an outstanding burger, but they are not the reasons why this is a good burger. Even bare, this burger would be outstanding. Executive chef Carmine DiCandia flavors the prime ground beef with bacon and onions before cooking. The result is a burger that’s smoky, oniony and well-seasoned, a burger that pops with flavor inside its toasted brioche bun. Yes, you get mustard, ketchup and truffle aioli on the side, but consider them unnecessary.

As much as I loved that burger, I would take The Woods’ rib-eye steak sandwich ($19) over it in a Jupiter minute. A grilled rib-eye is topped with Drunken Goat cheese, balsamic onions and an heirloom tomato slice, and served on a toasted French baguette. The steak is tender and sizable, not sliced as one might expect, and the cheese melts just enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the meat. It’s a decadent, hearty — and, yes, shareable — bite.

There’s a good reason why The Woods’ meat offerings are stellar: Chef DiCandia hails from The Capital Grille, where he was executive chef partner, having opened restaurants for the national steakhouse chain.

His experience shines through the spot-on preparation of The Woods’ center-cut pork chop ($22), a 14-ounce, bone-in chop that’s juicy and tender beneath a gorgeous char from the hot grill. It’s served with a warm Dijon mustard dipping sauce that adds a layer of luxe to the bite.

The chop shares the “Land & Sea” menu with various cuts of beef such as filet mignon (7-ounce $26, 10-ounce $36), New York strip ($34), prime rib-eye ($38) and sliced skirt steak ($19).

A mighty flavorful choice on the menu is the 10-ounce, club cut Wagyu strip steak ($42), thanks to the meat’s distinctive marbling.

A selection of fish and seafood — including salmon, hog snapper, sushi-grade tuna, Chilean sea bass and shrimp scampi — rounds out a menu that’s varied but not unwieldy.

Some standout sides: creamy-delicious mac and cheese made with tender cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta ($7), crispy but not overly rich onion rings ($6), garlic-infused and buttery mashed potatoes ($6) and thin, crispy truffle fries ($6).

A night at The Woods can be many things — a full-fledged steakhouse experience, a more casual sandwich supper (or lunch, starting Sept. 12), a cocktails-and-appetizer stop at the bar, a late-night dessert run.

For the cocktail and small bites crowd, there’s a selection of flatbreads, a respectable charcuterie board that’s laden with cured meats and cheeses ($25), and various other bar options. Beer drinkers will find a kicky pairing in the spicy calamari ($12), fried and boldly seasoned squid rings tossed in Buffalo sauce and blue cheese crumbles. Spinach dip fans will be pleasantly surprised to find delicious heaps of spinach, instead of gobs of cream and cheese, in the spinach-artichoke dip.

Meanwhile, dessert lovers will find decadence in the oozy Nutella depths of The Woods’ S’Mores Casserole ($10), a hot dip of melted Nutella and chocolate beneath toasted marshmallows. Graham crackers are served on the side for dipping into this large dish that’s shareable among two to four. The Key lime cake ($8) has the smooth texture of a pie, a flat graham cracker crust and great, salty pops of pistachio beneath a crown of toasted meringue peaks.

Whether the meal happens at the brightly lit bar or in the more intimately sectioned dining room areas, it is equally elevated by The Woods’ meticulous service. Servers check in frequently, show excellent command of the menu and brush off no questions. Managers check in as well. That an establishment this busy has been able to command the essence of good service in such a short time should be taken as an example in a region marked by largely spotty, inconsistent hospitality. Maybe it’s the Nike sneakers? Whatever it is, it’s clear exceptional service is a priority at The Woods.

And this is clear here as well: Just as he energized the sport that made him famous, Tiger Woods has brought buzz and a spark of excellence to Jupiter’s Harbourside Place entertainment plaza. The Woods is a game-changer, indeed.

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