By Shari Valenta
If you love fried food and live in Centennial, stop at Wingin’ It! It’s located at the northeast corner of the Safeway shopping center near County Line Road and Quebec. Almost everything on the menu is battered and dunked, from the usual American favorites such as onion rings, hush puppies and fries, to traditional New England fish (made with halibut) and chips, by the way. Of course, no place like this is complete without fried mushrooms and cheese. They even have fried pickles!
If that’s not enough coronary decadence, there are some yummy desserts including fried funnel cake, and if you’re not on a diet, you may want to try the old county fair favorites, deep-fried Twinkies or Snicker’s bars!
“We have fun, unique things that you can’t find anyplace else,” said Derrol Moorhead, restaurant owner. “Kids love the deep-fried candy. Well, actually a lot of adults do, too!”
Surrounded by such over-the-top treats, it’s amazing that fry Daddy Moorhead stays thin. He says he has a fast metabolism, and he does seem to get a lot of exercise while waiting on and conversing with customers.
The apple of his eye, his teenage daughter, quickly delivers baskets of steaming hot wings to patrons around the colorfully decorated eating area. She gets involved with the family business working summers. Sometimes his 11-year-old son helps out with little tasks. His wife was responsible for the decorating.
“My wife is an interior designer, so we did a sports theme and found these old hockey boards from a guy up in Grand Lake,” Moorhead said, gesturing to the decorations around the room.
Moorhead’s brother-in-law, an accomplished artist, painted an impressive mural of a street scene with athletes. There’s sports memorabilia on the walls, a large screen television, some arcade games and even a rack of magazines to peruse.
“We wanted to make this a casual neighborhood hang out, a place a family could hang out or a few guys could drink a pitcher of beer while watching a game,” he said. “We’re even drawing an older crowd with our fish and chips. We wanted a place where everyone feels comfortable.”
There’s an inviting patio outdoors to watch others rush around running errands in the bustling shopping center while you take a relaxing moment out to enjoy a cool light ale with some spicy hot wings.
“Even after three years of business, I still love our wings,” Moorhead said.
Wingin It! uses fresh chicken, not frozen. Prices aren’t bad, either—$5.50 for six wings. If you’re feeling guilty for eating fried food, order the wedge salad with the wings. On it, try the blue cheese dressing, which is really good. It tastes like a cross between Ranch and blue cheese. On your wings or sandwich, choose from 22 different homemade sauces. Aside from hot, medium mild and fire, they include teriyaki, spicy mango, honey barbecue, chipotle, green chili and garlic parmesan.
“A friend of mine who’s a chef helped me develop the sauces,” said Moorhead. “The Chernobyl sauce always brings out the best in people. A group of boys from a church youth group came in one time. They were from about 12 to 14 years old; all of them were trying my hot sauce that tends to be really hot. They decided they were going to do Chernobyl sauce next, which is so hot that I hiccup immediately when I even taste a little drop of it.
“This kid took two Chernobyl wings just as fast as can be; everyone was cheering him on. He was acting very cool until about 45 seconds later. … We had to start serving him chocolate just to get rid of the burning sensation.”
Like his company name, Moorhead was wingin’ it when he started the restaurant.
“I never worked at a restaurant; I was never even a bus boy,” said Moorhead. “I actually have an MBA in communications, marketing and sales from Colorado State University. About four years ago, I was working for a small association and I think I had corporate communications burnout. My wife and I’ve always talked about opening a wing place, because there was nothing on this end of town that did wings. We used to drive out to Woody’s Wings in Aurora all the time just to get them.”
So far, the business has been a fulfilling success.
“We’ve won some awards, which is nice. In Westword and in City Search last year we were the top-rated wing place,” said Moorhead.
Wingin’ It! also received other awards in Westword, including Best Deep Fried Twinkies, 2003, and Best Use of Things Never Meant to Go in a Fryer, 2004. Besides awards, Moorhead has enjoyed meeting a wide variety of people.
“I’ve met a great core group of people that come in here all the time,” said Moorhead warmly. “I’ve had a lot of great people who have worked for me including, a kid who’s now going off to college but has worked here since we opened. The owner of Woody’s Wings in Aurora spent two or three hours with me going through how the business works; he didn’t have to do that. I think the best part of it is all the people I’ve met.”
Wingin’ it! offers catering services, if you’d like to have a hot sauce contest at your party or just want to have unique fried treats for an event.
Wingin’ It! is located at 8200 S. Quebec St. For more information call 720-207-2435 or visit [http://www.winginit.biz].