Mesquite smoked duck breast from Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar
Mesquite smoked duck breast from Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar

Bits & Bites: NRHA Derby

My expectations were fairly high going to Oklahoma City for the first time, because I’m usually able to hunt down a killer restaurant in a big city. When my research led me to Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar, a farm-to-kitchen establishment in the inner city, I was immediately excited. My love for “from scratch only” restaurants started when I ate at Farmer Fishers Bakers in Georgetown, D.C., with my brother Cody a few years back, and I haven’t found a place that matched it since.

I was interested in trying Whiskey Cake’s elaborate brunch menu since I’m a sucker for some gourmet grits, but a busy National Reining Horse Association Derby schedule allowed for a late dinner instead. Luckily it was just over 10 minutes from State Fair Park, where the show was held. This time, QHN Managing Editor Kelsey Pecsek joined me. She prefers simpler foods and doesn’t generally enjoy complex dishes, so I was interested to see how she weathered our visit.

The outside of the restaurant was lined with vegetable and herb gardens, and after we were able to muscle open their extremely heavy (but beautiful) entrance door, we appreciated the dining room’s rustic and modern decor.

We kicked off our visit with a couple fresh fruit mixed drinks. They offered plenty of bourbon cocktails but we had a few things left to do for work, so we opted for non-alcoholic options. Kelsey’s was pretty heavy with grapefruit, which turned out to be a little bitter. Mine was a watermelon and cayenne pepper medley, and while the freshness of the ingredients was evident, it was a little bland.

As a starter, we ordered their deviled eggs. The toppings change often depending on what is in season, and I saw a lot of hype about them online. Our eggs were topped with quinoa, mustard seed and pickled vegetables. I would say they definitely lived up to their reviews, and at only $5, I can easily see why they’re a favorite. For my main plate, I ordered the mesquite grilled short rib, which was whiskey braised and paired with a rutabaga and carrot mash, and crispy kale in brown butter vinaigrette.

Much to my surprise, Kelsey went out on a limb and ordered the mesquite smoked duck breast with carrot-ginger puree, heirloom carrots and wilted greens. We also ordered a side of the adult mac and cheese to share, because it’s something we both know and love.

mac and shortrib
Adult mac and cheese and mesquite grilled short rib

I liked my entree, specifically for the crispy kale, but I wasn’t wowed by it. I just felt like the brown butter was a little heavy and overpowering. Although Kelsey wasn’t the biggest fan of her duck, I thought it was fantastic and would order it over the short rib if I returned for another meal. It was flavorful and moist, and had just the right amount of crispy duck fat on the edges. Not surprisingly, I loved the mac and cheese. Because it’s one of my favorite foods, it would be hard for me not to like, but it had a variety of mild and pungent cheeses that set it apart from others and made Kelsey question the taste.

For dessert we had to order the whiskey cake, the restaurant’s claim to fame and the dish the whole establishment is named after. I’m not a huge dessert person to begin with, but this cake was phenomenal. It had a bourbon anglaise, spiced pecans and a bowl of fresh whipped cream, and it tasted even better than it sounded. Our waitress said it was sweetened mostly with dates, which I thought was fairly unique and probably added to the rich denseness of the dish.

Kelsey thought the dessert was OK, but was more impressed by the fresh whipped cream (which she ended up eating directly out of the bowl with a spoon). Overall, I think it is definitely a sweet treat worth naming a restaurant after.

All told, we paid just over $60 before the tip, which I thought was very reasonable considering the volume of food we ordered. I’d say the highlights of the visit were the service, the starter and the dessert. While I don’t think it entirely paralleled my experience at Farmers Fishers Bakers, I wouldn’t hesitate to revisit and explore more of the menu.

cake and eggs
Whiskey cake and deviled eggs

Quick Reference Guide

Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar

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Dinner menu

Pricing $-$$$$: $$

Next stop: NCHA Summer Spectacular

Alex Lynch is an associate editor for Quarter Horse News. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 2014, she spent nearly two years developing her equine photography and writing skills at dressage and jumper shows along the East Coast. In late 2015, she began her journey in the Western world at QHN. In her free time, she likes exploring new restaurants and spending time outside shooting her bow.