How do you "keep a brand funky and ahead of the trend" while expanding it to a half-dozen locations? Scott Sharrer, vice president of operations for the Texas restaurant Whiskey Cake, is up to the task.
Dallas-Fort Worth's second Whiskey Cake has just opened in Las Colinas, near 635 and Belt Line Road, and it carries the same funky vibe as its original in Plano.
Whiskey Cake's influence on the Dallas suburbs proved an interesting shift in dining when it opened in 2010. The comfortable restaurant somehow made a strip mall in Plano feel like a hip spot for brunch or date night. And in fact, Whiskey Cake was one of the earlier restaurants in Collin County making Dallas diners jealous: It forced curious foodies to drive north of 635 for a restaurant they couldn't find closer to home.
Whiskey Cake has since been slinging its popular chicken and waffles and OMG Burgers in cool parts of San Antonio, Oklahoma City and two Houston 'burbs. The company's choice to open the sixth Whiskey Cake in Las Colinas and not in larger cities like Fort Worth and Dallas fits the story: Open a trendy restaurant in an area that craves it.
Las Colinas is also "a great intersection between out-of-town travelers and upscale suburban diners," Sharrer says, noting its proximity to D/FW International Airport.
Flourishes, both inside and outside the newest Whiskey Cake, offer a glimpse into a restaurant that knows what it wants to be. The food is "traditional Americana, ratcheted up," Sharrer says. Out front, the staff is growing dill, oregano, serrano peppers and the like in raised-bed gardens. Inside, there's a hydroponic garden near the kitchen, where they grow garnishes like sweet pea sprouts. Bartenders infuse their own whiskeys and also sell 450 brands, as seen on library-like shelves behind the curved bar. (Pro tip: Ask for the whiskey list and turn to the back, Grandpa's Stash, for the hard-to-get spirits and beers.) They make their own juices. They're into recycling, down to the boxes they receive, which are cut up into coasters and branded with a Whiskey Cake logo. There's even local honey, candles and olive oil for sale out front.
They've stopped naming every local farm they work with on the menu -- and that's a restaurant trend that was going out of style, anyhow -- but Sharrer says their relationships with farmers is "definitely in our DNA here."
Whiskey Cake looks like a carefully curated local restaurant with a confident menu. And it is. They've just figured out how to open a half-dozen of them.
"Our strategy is to bring that urban restaurant to the suburbs," says Sharrer, who is a Flower Mound resident and father of four.
The menu in Las Colinas looks very similar to the one at the original Whiskey Cake in Plano. The decor will be familiar, too: tufted leather couches; industrial light fixtures; and flashes of country-house cool, like the grass-green barn doors which lead into a 60-person private dining room that can be used for parties and work functions.
Whiskey Cake's parent company also operates popular D-FW restaurants such as Sixty Vines and The Ranch, as well as new Plano food haven Legacy Hall. The company owns the plot of land next-door to the new Whiskey Cake on 635. Will it soon be joined by one of the company's other restaurants? They wouldn't say.
If you go to Whiskey Cake, do as 60 percent of the brand's customers do, and order the whiskey cake. It's a moist English toffee torte topped with candied pecans.
"In my 26 years of restaurant experience, I haven't seen a more popular dessert," Sharrer says. Good thing they named the restaurant after it.
Open now at 3225 Regent Blvd., Irving. Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays starts June 9.