Breaking the norm

Montana Ortega, Woogies manager; Montana’s daughter, Madelyn Ortega, 4; and Woog
A crawfish pistollete and The Swamp Thing

Woogies is not your average sandwich shop. If the name itself, the crazy-looking monster mascot, or the restaurant’s colloquial slogan, “This ain’t your momma’s sandwich,” doesn’t give that away, then owner Candie Rutledge will be happy to tell you that Woogies marches to the beat of a different drum. She also isn’t afraid to tell you that political correctness is not a top priority for Woogies. She happily showed off a sign to us that read, “We say Merry Christmas, God Bless America, we salute our flag and give thanks to our troops, police officers, and fire fighters. If this offends you, you are welcome to leave. In God we trust.” 

Tough words. And you won’t find a healthy options menu at Woogies, either.

“People come in here and say, ‘Where’s your healthy menu?’ and I say, ‘At Subway,’” Candie joked.

Along with that spunky, patriotic attitude and great service, you will find sandwiches like The Beast, loaded with turkey, roast beef, ham and topped with jalapeño mayo, mustard, lettuce, and American, Swiss and provolone cheeses. And The Swamp Thing, a roast beef sandwich with all the fixin’s — made with Woogie’s crawfish pistolette mix, jalapeño mayo, mustard, lettuce and American, Swiss and Provolone cheeses.

The Swamp Thing was actually commingled by a customer who insisted that the restaurant add crawfish pistolette mix to his sandwich. The concoction became such a hit that it became a regular menu item, Candie said.

Although Woogies is looking to expand, it is far from having the impersonal feel of a chain-restaurant. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Woogies’ owners Candie and Thomas Rutledge, along with other family members like their daughter Montana Ortega, run the Vidor location at 1165 N. Main St., which has been open for two and a half years now.

“The first year that we were open, we literally couldn’t close,” Candie said. “I could lock the door and more people would just keep coming. Finally, I said I am closing at this time. At some point, you just have to say enough is enough.”

Candies said Woogies’ customers finally got used to the restaurants hours, which are Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Woogies’ most famous menu item isn’t a sandwich at all. It’s a Cajun-fried bread roll stuffed with crawfish called a pistolette, made famous at the South Texas State Fair, where Candie and Thomas set up a food trailer for fairgoers. You also might have seen Woogies at the Texas Pecan Festival in Groves.

“Our pistolettes are better than anybody’s,” Candie said. “We make those fresh every single day. We buy the bread for a hundred dozen pistolettes a week.”

Candie said the secret to making a good pistolette is consistency.

“Even though I have been making these pistolettes for seven years, every day I still weigh out my stuff. … You don’t want to run any kind of business where your customer will say, ‘Oh, it was good yesterday, but today, not so much.’” 

That one time a customer tries a food item and it’s not good, you may lose them, Candie stressed.

Woogies now hopes to expand west and become a permanent fixture in downtown Beaumont. The husband and wife duo is opening a new 1,600-square foot Woogies location in March 2016 next to Hamburger Depot and New York Pizza & Pasta in downtown Beaumont.

Candie said Beaumont City Manager Kyle Hayes, who often visits the Vidor restaurant, suggested the couple open a Woogies in downtown Beaumont.

“Kyle said if we would open one in Beaumont, then they wouldn’t have to come all the way out here (to Vidor),” said Candie, who added that Hayes and Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Beaumont Chris Boone suggested to her that she open the new Woogies at 790 Neches.

“Some coworkers and I kept hearing about these great sandwiches served at Woogies on Main Street, so we decided to check it out,” Hayes said. “The food is great; the Rutledges are so nice and the restaurant is extremely clean. The Rutledges know how to run a great business, so I casually mentioned that we would love to have one of their restaurants in Beaumont. We are so pleased they are locating in downtown.”

“Woogies has some extreme sandwiches … but usually for lunch, I look to the simpler Bull or even the Roast Beef and Cheese, which is great on their yeast-roll bun, with jalapeno mayo,” Boone added.

The spot is already approved by the city, Candie said.

“We are just going through the motions now,” she said.

Unlike the Vidor Woogies, the Beaumont location will offer breakfast and lunch but not dinner. Although this will be a first for Woogies, Candie and Thomas have experience serving breakfast. The Rutledges operated a donut shop in Orangefield for five years.

“We went from making donuts and breakfast there to actually making our sandwiches there, and then we came here (to Vidor),” she said.

Where did the name Woogies come from?

“If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘There’s Something About Mary,’ at the very beginning of the movie, (Cameron Diaz’s) boyfriend in the movie, when they were young and in school … they called him Woogie,” Candie said.

Candie’s son, David, came up with the Woogie mascot, which looks similar to Gossamer, the monster from the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Hair-Raising Hare.”

And when you try Woogies for the first time, you will know why they chose the mascot they did and why the two best-selling sandwiches have monster-themed names. They don’t skimp on anything, especially the meat. And everything tastes fresh because it is.

“My husband comes in every single morning and slices our meat fresh. Every day. He slices our cheese fresh. I make the pistollete sauce every day fresh. We do not fry your bread until you order it,” she said.

The couple hopes to have five locations open within the next two years, and is considering opening one in the Port Arthur area.