What: Woody's Wings & Things
Where: 6817 Lowell Boulevard, Westminster
When: 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
For more info: Your best bet is to visit: This spot does not have much of an online presence.
a favorite DTC Chinese spot for noodles when the place I'd intended to try was closed. This week, a similar situation landed me at a spot that has been on my dining short list for years. There's a Woody's Wings in Aurora and a Woody's Wings 3 in Englewood, but the Woody's Wings & Things in Westminster had long been on my radar because it reportedly had a binder full of Asian dishes you could order.
The restaurant is in a strip mall next to a small takeout pizza joint that, like Woody's, has a cartoon mascot beckoning from the weathered signage. Inside Woody's, chandeliers hang from the ceiling of a dated dining room packed with long tables and red, tufted booths. Every table was either occupied or covered in not-yet-cleared dishes, and two other customers lingered near the back counter as one employee jetted in and out of the kitchen.
None of these sights deterred me, though, because the aroma was enough to convince me I was in the right spot. My guest and I ended up at one of the large, long tables near the front, which we eventually ended up sharing with another two-top that came in, but the slightly hectic atmosphere felt exactly right. And soon I was too immersed in the menu to care much about what was going on around me, anyway.
In an ordering panic, I texted two friends who'd eaten at Woody's before and asked their advice, but their recommendations — "Lort!" wrote one (Cambodian short rice noodles), "beef and trip salad," said the other — came too late. I'd already landed on two choices, but after eyeing the orders of every table around me, I'm pretty sure it's impossible to go wrong with anything here. You can also specify your spice-level preference; we ordered our dishes "spicy" — which they were, but not in a burn-your-mouth-off way. Instead, each one had a steady punch of heat balanced by a wealth of other flavors.
Listed on the menu as "duck lab" (which I'm familiar with as "larb"), the first dish to arrive was a tangle of duck meat, herbs, onion and spicy chiles served with a wedge of cabbage and rice. Thai food should hit on five flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy, and this dish nailed all of them. You can scoop the larb onto cabbage leaves, or just munch on one between bites to cool the heat from the chiles.
The next dish was completely new to me: canh chua, listed on the menu as Vietnamese sweet and sour fish soup. The broth was heavy with citrus notes and tender pieces of fish, alongside bits of pineapple (the sweet component), bean sprouts, cooling tomato, fiery chiles, green onion and a pile of fried shallots. Even though I'd never eaten this before, it somehow felt familiar and comforting.
Just before we left, a plate full of green beans and chunks of pork in a dark sauce was put down in front of the couple sitting at the end of our table. That, and the lort, will be at the top of my list on my next visit, along with whatever the staff recommends: A woman who began helping in the dining room soon after we arrived promised she'd share her favorites when we returned.
And we will.