Aurora's Havana Street is awash with some of the most diverse ethnic cuisine in the Denver metro area; the cultural landscape is primed with every kind experience, from fine-ish dining to lovable dives to mom and pop eateries from almost every nationality and culture: Ethiopian, Vietnamese pho, dollar-a-scoop Chinese, Mexican seafood, Cuban bakeries, and barbecue startup trucks. This stretch of semi-urban street makes for some colorful dining, so I'll be giving you my fitty-cent tour every week, complete with all the color, flavor and commentary of my ‘hood.
I effin' love bone-in chicken wings and all the usual-suspect fried things that pair nicely with them, but what I can’t stand is the atmosphere at most chain wing restaurants. I’m the type to feel completely uncomfortable at — and consequently actively avoid dining at — hardcore sportsball-sportsy-sports wing spots filled with drunken dude-bros and deafeningly loud television coverage of whatever sport I don’t care about, which is almost all of them. But a leisurely stop into Woody’s Wings 2 got me wings, fried things, zero dude-bros, and Avengers on the telly — much better.
The original Woody’s Wings is over at Buckley Road and Alameda Avenue; the sequel I visited at on Havana Street at Third Avenue is not a showy building at all: a bit drab on the outside and fronted by a modest patio with a cracked concrete floor and a few empty baskets and wrappers strewn about. The dining room wasn’t fancy either, and looked like a cross between a cafeteria and a home kitchen. The whole place had that trademark wing-place smell of grease fryer and hot sauce. It wasn't dirty or cluttered, but appeared lived-in and extremely family-friendly. The few tables of other diners looked settled in and relaxed, like they were lounging around in someone’s living room. Free wi-fi means that if you get tired of your kids bickering at each other, throw them a tablet to play games on so the adults can eat their chicken in peace.
The menu has all the fried stuff: chicken strips and nuggets, fried onion rings, mushrooms, jalapeno poppers, pickles, zucchini, cheese sticks and corn dogs, catfish and shrimp baskets, a handful of burgers and sandwiches and a few cold sides like potato salad, cole slaw and noodle salad. The prices were average for the portions — nothing on the menu was expensive unless you order in volume, like the 250-piece wings for $225.21, pretty affordable for you and your 25 closest friends, if you plan on demolishing a couple hundred wings in one sitting.
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SHOW ME HOW
I ordered at the counter: a fifteen-piece wing basket (half hot and half garlic-Parmesan), deep-fried okra and curly fries. I actually enjoyed the fifteen-minute wait for my food because the flat screen facing me was tuned into a Marvel movie marathon and I had the idea that I really could have walked in wearing jammy-pants, a hair clip and flip-flops and no one would have noticed or cared. The cashier who took my order was focused but warm, and while the cooks I could see through the narrow kitchen pass-through were shaking my wings she scrubbed a table or two, then played with a toddler who seemed happy to see her.
My order was fine — nothing flashy here either — but the hot wings were hot, the garlic Parmesan wings were coated with real shredded Parmesan (shaky cheese can…eww). I liked that the wing skins were fried crispy, the okra nuggets were hot and crunchy, and the curly fries were nicely seasoned. I had meant to eat-and-run, but I ended up sticking around longer to watch TV; I was so comfortable that if I would have ordered a couple of beers I might have drowsed off. Not wanting to get poked awake with a broom at closing time, I collected my leftovers and headed out, thinking about how glad I was to have discovered a wing place that I could eat at, in the dining room, without feeling like I wanted to punch an obnoxious sports fan in the stomach.
Woody’s 2 isn't going to win any interior decor awards, but is so approachable and relaxing that it’s easy to forget about the typically insufferable wing chain ambiance and just chill out, eat some chicken wings, and go home — eventually.