In Happy Endings, we travel the part of the globe that says "Dallas" in search of great desserts and great places to eat them.
When a restaurant names itself after one of its desserts, you don't ask questions -- you just order it. Especially when it involves the words "whiskey" and "cake."
So it was on a recent Friday night, when a friend and I walked from the strip mall that hosts Kroger and Academy through a wormhole that seems to lead from Plano directly to the Bishop Arts District but actually leads to one of the northern suburbs' favorite restaurants: Whiskey Cake. We grabbed a couple of seats at the long, high bar, and, as we do in Happy Endings, skipped straight to drinks and dessert.
The atmosphere here could be described as "industrial chic." The exposed brick walls give way to an airy environment, where bare bulbs hang throughout like little astronauts. Upside-down light bulbs serve as vases and steel nuts act as napkin rings. These touches are meant to complement their "farm-to-kitchen," "from scratch only" philosophy, or perhaps the restaurant supply store was closed and they were forced to spend their decorating bill at Home Depot. Either way, they work.
Another thing that stood out during our visit was the staff. They were efficient, pleasant, and mostly male. To (these) straight women, their uniforms -- newsboy caps, suspenders, chunky glasses -- were the equivalent of a Hooter's lady's little orange shorts. They even carefully avoided the word "ma'am," instead using "Miss," no matter a customer's age. I'll bet that's one full tip jar.
Since we were there to dig in to that eponymous dessert, we asked the bartender to recommend a cocktail that would complement it. He was right on the money. "The Nuts," a drink composed of pecan-infused Buffalo Trace bourbon, vanilla, Demerara syrup and cream, was practically a liquid form of the dessert. Although Ron Swanson would probably disapprove, we thought it was genius.
While we waited for the cake to arrive, we amused ourselves by peering into the open kitchen. We'd never been serenaded by the Arctic Monkeys and Peter, Bjorn and John while watching a chicken being spit-roasted before. We also had never engaged in a Ninja Turtles name-off battle with our bar neighbors before, though we were happy to put the smack down on this occasion. This is the kind of place where you feel comfortable talking to strangers and nobody seems too preoccupied with impressing each other.
What was impressive was that whiskey cake. Our server asked if we wanted whipped cream, and we did. The fresh whipped cream balanced out the richness of the supermoist toffee torte, which rested in a moat of bourbon Anglaise. The whole affair was topped with candied pecans that were just the slightest bit peppery, and, paired with with our Newsies and our Donatello talk, it was all unusual enough to make our night.