There was a funny naming thing going on in Deep Deuce a few years back. Native Roots. Urban Johnnie. Urban Roots. We never got a Native Johnnie, but it felt like a real possibility.
Well, Urban Johnnie is gone (soon to be replaced by a new concept from Jonathon Stranger and Fabio Viviani) and so is Urban Roots.
The odd naming convention continues with Whiskey Biscuit, which seems like the marriage between Whiskey Cake and Buttermilk/Hunny Bunny, but it is its own new thing.
Chef/owner Mark Richards and his wife moved to OKC from St. Croix, where they also operated a restaurant, to be closer to their family. And it’s OKC’s gain all the way. Talk to Mark for a minute and you’ll be instantly energized by his passion for the food and Deep Deuce’s history and where his restaurant is going next.
The first thing I appreciate about Whiskey Biscuit is how relaxed it is without being sloppy. It’s a space where I think you could go in dressed to the nines and sit a table away from someone in a hoodie and jeans and everybody still feels like they fit in. One side is more of an intimate restaurant. One side is more bar-focused. And in the back Prohibition Room, you’ve got a cool little cocktail lounge where they do art classes and other events.
(It’s not done yet, but the back patio is sure to be a favorite when it opens. The city rises up all around you, but it still feels secluded. Look for live jazz, which should be a given in Deep Deuce, when it opens this spring.)
But this isn’t I Ambianced Oklahoma dot com, which...I’m not even sure how that would work. We’re here for the food and, let me tell you, I think Whiskey Biscuit has what it takes to be a neighborhood favorite and more.
Coming from St. Croix, it’s not a shock that seafood plays a prominent role on the menu. Ahi tuna nachos, fried crawfish sandwiches, crab cake burgers and the like are on the opening menu, but keep an eye out for a lot more fresh fish as the restaurant progresses. Richards made it clear he’s got a passion for great seafood and I’m eager to see what else he has up his sleeves.
But what has me most excited is the level of confidence and customer-facing care the restaurant is bringing.
I was, quite honestly, prepared to be extremely nonplussed by the Barrel Smash Burger ($10, including fries). Oklahoma City is a city with a burger scene so rich and varied that making a version that impresses is nigh impossible. Well, “nigh” is the key word, because Richards turned out a burger that stopped me dead in my tracks.
There’s nothing exceptional about the ingredients of the Barrel Smash Burger — 80-20 beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and his housemade Barrel mayo sauce — but the execution is impeccable. He seasons with the confidence of a chef who’s been in the biz for decades and I love it.
The little things he does, like stacking the ingredients in a certain order or cutting the tomato into quarters so when you take a bite you don’t pull the whole slice out, make such a huge difference. The burger was smashed with salt and pepper, grilled with crispy edges and served on a tender, but pliant potato bun. The beef held together, but it was so gently handled that little nooks and crannies opened up for cheese to melt into and mingle with the beef juice in a really tasty way.
And the Ahi tuna nachos ($10), served on freshly fried crispy wonton chips with garlic, salt and pepper-grilled tuna and tender slices of avocado were tremendous. It’s not like I haven’t had attempts at a similar dish before, but none were as well-executed as these.
I’m looking forward to writing a full review once Mark unveils his full menu, but there’s nothing stopping you from heading there now. Whiskey Biscuit serves breakfast all day (including biscuits and gravy with fried crawfish) and I’ve got a feeling they’re going to end up serving me a lot of food when all is said and done.