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As one of Oklahoma City's smaller districts, Deep Deuce is one that is particularly geared toward using Spokies to get around. There's less traffic, which is nice, and the pace is a little slower, so you get fewer angry drivers swerving around you. Plus, with ample bike racks, it's easy to find a place to stash your bike for the ride home.
Now, on to the food!
Honestly, I roll my eyes a little when I hear a server say, “We do things a little differently here.”
Most of the time it’s when you’re ordering and they’re describing what is essentially a small-plates menu, which is not particularly new or different. (Or successful, based on the number of restaurants that either abandoned small plates or just went out of business.)
But when the nattily dressed young man who took care of me at Black Walnut said it, I listened. Because if there’s one chef in Oklahoma City who delivers different on a regular basis, it’s Chef Andrew Black.
Black’s pedigree is ridiculous, even more so locally, where he’s run the kitchens at Vast, Flint, and the Skirvin, opened Meatball House in Norman, and now has a trio of connected restaurants inside the Maywood in Deep Deuce—La Baguette Deep Deuce, Grey Sweater, and Black Walnut.
La Baguette is more like the Norman version than the Buthion-run North May Ave. La Baguette, but it’s still a solid place for a quick-and-tasty breakfast, lunch, and dessert. Grey Sweater is similar to Nonesuch, in that it’s a straight tasting menu restaurant. You order the number of courses, but what you’re getting is what the chefs are making.
Black Walnut is, in a way, the most traditional of the three. There’s a bar. There are tables. You order from a menu with a server. I don’t know why I keep describing this. Presumably you have been to a restaurant before.
But Black Walnut’s “theme” is emotional. Situational. It is a restaurant built around your mood more than your tastes. That’s why the menu is parsed the way it is.
Appetizers are under “Sweet and Savory,” because everything there is a bit of both. A nice starter, regardless of your next decision on this Choose-Your-Own-Adventure of a menu.
“Fresh and Light” are not all salads, but that’s where you’ll find them along with a few other lighter entrees.
It’s a little harder to separate out “Smokey and Satisfying” from “Casual and Comforting,” but that’s because it’s less about the ingredients and more about the feelings Black hopes to evoke. Confused? Me too! But I’m always hungry, so let’s dig in.
There are some absolute drop-dead delicious dishes on the Black Walnut menu, but no section gave me more decision-based anxiety than “Sweet and Savory.” I’d say you can’t go wrong, but all I know for sure is that I could barely decide among the options. Thankfully, a small kitchen snafu landed me two appetizers instead of one.
For two, I think the crispy bacon slab ($7) is a lock. You get these big, thick-cut, meaty pieces of house-smoked bacon in a sweet, sticky glaze and, no lie, I spent a solid five minutes fantasizing about putting them in a massive gourmet BLT. While the menu said there’d be garbanzo beans on the side, ours came with little mounds of lightly glazed pepitas—a far superior option, I think.
If you’re feeling less carnivorous, or if you’ve got a slightly larger party at your table, the baked chevre ($11) is perfect. I didn’t order it, but when it showed up at the table, I wasn’t mad at it, either. The goat cheese is creamy, studded with tender confit peppers, olives, and onions, and infused with the heady aroma of smoked garlic. Smear it on some toast points and prepare to feel your eyeballs roll back in your head like some kind of gourmet ghoul.
If I had to choose between them, I couldn’t. I shan’t and I shizn’t and I shorn’t. They’re both too good to leave the other in the kitchen.
My enthusiasm for the roasted beets and root vegetable carpaccio ($11) before it arrived is in direct opposition to my feelings for it after tasting it. Jess wanted it and I was fine trying it, but I wasn’t exactly salivating at the prospect.
That changed the second it hit my tongue. The beets had none of the dirty flavor that sometimes overpowers the veggie and the veggie carpaccio had a nice crispness to each thin slice that balanced well with the meatier texture of the beets.
To put it in the barely comprehensible parlance of the Internet: 10/10 would nom again.
Sadly, the opposite was true for the spinach pappardelle with crispy anchovies, butternut squash, and soft-poached egg ($15). I was giddy with anticipation waiting for it to arrive, but the reality was a bowl of noodles my palate could not translate.
The clashing sauces sent my taste buds careening from tart to savory to sweet to fatty without ever being able to cohere around a central flavor. It tasted like a high-end tuna noodle casserole, but with too much going on.
Look, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe I had it on the wrong night or maybe it’s just not right for me, but this is one I’ll skip going forward. Your mileage may vary, though.
It was a blessing of sorts, however, because those noodles were sure to take up a lot of stomach space that would otherwise have precluded my devouring of the English beef ribs with hush puppy and kale slaw ($33).
The menu at Black Walnut rarely ventures above $30 for an entree—something I think we can all appreciate—but when it does, you know it’s something special.
The English beef ribs are seasoned, seared, and slowly braised to create a juicy, tender pile of meat that very nearly shreds itself. It’s as if there’s so much flavor and fat and juice that it cannot hope to contain it and bursts out into tiny, bite-sized morsels of the best pot roast you’ve ever had.
Piling a bit of meat on the fork with the baby kale slaw created an entirely new flavor, adding some crunch to the texture for a bite that was deeply satisfying. I’m not sure if I growled at the server when it looked like he might take the plate away, but there’s a distinct chance I did.
Rather than call the cops (again), he brought out a piece of Black Walnut Cake, which is...uh...black walnut cake with ice cream, fresh berries, a buttery rum sauce, and granola. Like everything else on the menu, it’s a trip.
Black has given a lot of thought to the taste of the food, obviously, but also the texture and the way in which we eat. He’s not the only one in the metro playing the game from 30,000 feet, but he’s one of the best and that’s made Black Walnut a must-visit for me.
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