Pro sports

The Asian steak salad from Woody's Grille & Spirits.

The Asian steak salad from Woody's Grille & Spirits.

Photo by AMY BECK

Woody’s Grille & Spirits is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to close, and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The first things I noticed were the flat-screen TVs everywhere. If it looks like a sports bar and smells like a sports bar, it must be a sports bar. Then I got to the food: yellowfin ahi ceviche, Mazatlan shrimp gazpacho, Asian steak salad—a brasserie of creativity with adventure and flavors on every line of the menu.

Joe Clements is the man at the front of the house. He grew up in the business, studied at the CIA Greystone in St. Helena, Calif., and worked at The Grill locally before taking the Woody’s job. The food aficionado in the kitchen is Chef Sergio Romero, an alum of The Grill, Washoe Steakhouse and Rutherford’s Catering. The menu offerings run the gambit from Italian, to Spanish, to Mediterranean, to Cuban, to Asian, to burgers. Four specials change every day, and all are done with panache.

Woody’s seats 120, with a dozen booths and a large, full service bar. Beer is the primary quaff—remember, sports bar—30 in all, with 10 on tap. A few simple, but good, wines, no real list. There’s a friendly staff and great service.

I kicked off my quest for satisfying flavors with the Asian steak salad ($12), and I was not disappointed. A nicely marinated sirloin in soy and cilantro, cut in a julienne style, was placed atop a bed of Asian noodles. The noodles were cold but had been tossed with serrano peppers and red pepper flakes giving a nice hot/cold effect to the chow mein strands. Below the noodles was a bed of mixed greens with basil and—get this—mint. The dressing was an Asian lime vinaigrette. Mandarin oranges were tossed in, and then, if that wasn’t enough, firm, large cashews were added.

Where do I start with the flavor-aroma-texture experience for the palate? The medium-rare hot steak grabbed the cold bite of the peppery noodles, and the crunch of the greens and cashews tested every one of my taste buds at once. It was so satisfying that I closed my eyes just to savor the moment. On the next bite, I got a sweet orange, and with the greens, came mint. Not only was it a sweet, aromatic experience for my mouth, it also provided an aroma high for my nose.

I probably should have stopped right there, but I forged on. The shrimp cacciatore a la Sergio ($13) was my next temptation. Penne pasta was generously covered with black tiger shrimp in a sauce that was not thick but very rich and full of flavors. Cremini mushrooms, peppers, onions, capers, basil, green olives stuffed with pimentos, and oregano were the textures and flavor profiles evident, and they were held together by a somewhat light tomato sauce reduced with white wine. Using the white wine gave this sauce a slightly tangy flavor that helped accentuate the spices in my mouth while the hint of tomato was still tasted. Topped with fresh Parmesan cheese, it’s a Mediterranean-like creation.

Wine is not the big thing at Woody’s, but I did have a glass of Heron pinot noir ($7.75). The grapes for the Heron 2009 pinot noir grew in Paso Robles, Monterey and Russian River Valley. Lighter and “Burgundian” in style, this wine has a high acidity. It’s elegant and restrained yet zesty and fun at the same time—red cherry, tart cranberry, spicy vanilla and slightly mushroomy.

Woody’s will make you a fan, not necessarily a sports fan, but a fan of its food.