By STEFAN MODRICH
Many distinctive details are easily observable about Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar in Stafford — from abstract vintage light fixtures to a hybrid rustic modern interior look that combines culinary fusionism and adventure with a more laid-back, old-school vibe.
Napkins are held in place with classy-looking pipe fittings, and tables are adorned with upside-down incandescent bulbs converted into miniature vases for small rosemary plants.
A contactless QR code affixed to the table offers access to a link with the full menu. I arrived in the middle of the afternoon and felt quite comfortable having nearly an entire section of the restaurant to myself, though it felt a bit less empty later with some folks coming to watch Saturday’s NFL Wild Card playoff games.
The menu is a quirky and eclectic one in some ways, but it is not unlike that of many trendy restaurants that have tried to give a much-needed jolt to the classic and contemporary American cuisine categories.
Kicking things off from the subsection of the drink menu labeled “Elixirs & Such,” I took a chance on the “That’s My Jam!” and found it hit all the right notes. The El Jimador Reposado tequila was naturally sweetened with blackberry jam, and I liked it enough that I’ll probably make replicating it a homework assignment in Kitchen Mixology 101, the self-taught course that will have to hold me over until it is safe to return to a bar.
I did my due diligence of scouting out the entire menu, but I had long decided I would have the Thai Barbecue Duck Wings ($12), which are topped with toasted sesame seeds, Fresno peppers and cilantro. They knew I was going to make a mess, so they provided me with a warm towel. I have far too much pride to eat wings with a fork and knife. The meat was a tad dry, but not lacking in flavor. The sauce had a zesty kick as well. Wings may not be my favorite part of the duck to eat, but this was a dish with a lot of potential that I nonetheless appreciated.
To wrap up my oddly-timed post-lunch and pre-dinner snack, I went with my server’s suggestion, The Switch Up. Whiskey Cake rotates its sandwich specials seasonally, and I had The Muffler ($13), inspired by the Muffaletta, which was created by Italian immigrants from our Gulf Coast neighbor New Orleans.
Presented as a humble sandwich on a stick, little did I know I was in for so much more. Layers of Mortadella, hot salami, shaved Niman Ranch ham were slathered with a spiced olive spread and served between herbed focaccia bread.
Places that reward adventurous and spontaneous eaters earn my trust, and I’m excited to see what Whiskey Cake will have in store in the future.
Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar
Address: 12575 Highway 59, Stafford
Dining Options: Dine-in, curbside pickup, delivery via UberEats, DoorDash
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday
Entrée prices: $13-$36
Senior discount: No
Healthy options: Farm Salad ($5), Arrosto Misto ($7)
Star of the show: The Muffler