Taking the Cake
Photos by Carli Wentworth
The OKC metro Plays Host to flavors from all over the culinary world – Puerto Vallarta to Punjab – but sometimes when it comes to cuisine there’s no place like home. Especially when those American tastes are done as masterfully as those found in Whiskey Cake.
The rustic, homey vibe that’s currently popular in restaurant design can easily ring false or feel overdone, but there’s something oddly charming about ordering coffee with the namesake dessert (a huge slab of toffee torte surrounded by bourbon-spiked crème anglaise) and getting two mugs that don’t match, accompanied by a miniature creamer shaped vaguely like a rooster. The interior aesthetic in Whiskey Cake – the Penn Square Mall-adjacent joint is the second incarnation of a Plano, Texas, concept – feels built, not chosen from a catalog.
They’re proud of their local sourcing: The bar is flanked by two chalkboards, one listing weekly specials and the other the provenance of various ingredients on hand at the time. Plus, for several of the herbs and vegetables, it’s impossible to get more local, since they’re grown on the premises, mere steps away from the sink and cutting board. The open kitchen stretched along the east wall gleams with stainless steel and bright lighting … and contains no microwave. All the dishes are prepped using slow-cooking techniques like the wood-fueled grill, rotisserie spit and smoker.
How does the combination of those fresh premium ingredients and those careful cooking methods pay off? The short answer is “impeccably,” but feel free to linger over a lengthier investigation;
start with a bowl of the daily rotating soup (roasted corn gazpacho is a cool, tangy hit on a hot day) or the excellent Three Little Pigs, a trio of slider-sized buns overstuffed with savory pulled pork in a whiskey barbeque sauce, slaw and fried onion straws … all served on sticks with giant pickle chunks atop a huff- and puff-proof brick.
Afterward, assuming you saved room by managing to refrain from consuming all three “pigs” yourself, proceed to a protein-powered entree from steak to roasted chicken. The salmon, served on a bed of spinach and adorned with shiitake mushrooms and a citrus-tinged vinaigrette, is especially well cooked – neither parched nor overly wet and gooey, with a lovely bit of crispy charring around the edges. But if you try one thing on the menu, make it a burger. Both the “basic” (standard vegetables, American cheese, generously sliced bacon) and “OMG” (melted port salut cheese, mushrooms, preposterously enormous onion ring) varieties star thick patties of precisely grilled ground brisket on challah buns, and either of these mouthwatering monsters could go toe-to-toe with the champions in our August issue’s “Most Bodacious Burgers” feature. Their only real drawback is that, like the Three Little Pigs, they’re too tall to be easily approached from the traditional “put it in your mouth” paradigm of eating a sandwich. Ingenuity and determination will prevail!
The broad, inviting bar that dominates the west wall boasts many, many choices of spirits, with pros at the metaphorical helm; the mint julep is mixed perfectly with select bourbon, house-made bitters, simple syrup and mint fresh from the garden, and is presented impeccably in a frost-covered silver cup for extra style points.
So: good location, good atmosphere, outstanding food and the local sourcing is a nice feel-good element – that all adds up to a tremendous restaurant. The fact that it’s also home to an excellent bar is one more thing to enjoy … the whiskey is the icing on the cake, so to speak. Overall, it’s an unqualified pleasure. The experience is, well, intoxicating.
Ramble around. There’s a lot to see in the restaurant’s different sections, and if you walk straight in and out you might miss the herb garden out front, or the glasses of fresh fruit garnishes standing ready at the bar. A lot of work has clearly gone into Whiskey Cake’s details; they’re worth a look.
Plan ahead. The portions are ample and then some, and the temptation to try all kinds of things is likely to be overwhelming, so you’d be well served to ensure there’s room in your schedule to take a doggie bag home afterward, or to plot a return trip to select something else, or both.
Plan ahead II. As long as you’re taking home a bag anyway, why not seize the opportunity to do a little shopping? While not a grocery store, the restaurant does offer some goodies to enhance your pantry, like local honey, nuts, jam, pickles and (perhaps most tempting) whole whiskey cakes – so you can have your cake and eat it, too.
1845 N.W. Expressway, OKC
(Penn Square Mall-adjacent)
405.582.2253 // whiskeycakeokc.com
11 a.m.-2 a.m.
10 a.m.-2 a.m.
10 a.m.-11 p.m.