Delivering an elevated dining experience rooted in local sourcing and sustainability is Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar’s recipe for success.
When you dine at Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar in San Antonio, you may not initially realize that the goat cheese used for its popular fondue is sourced from The Dapper Goat, a dairy roughly 90 minutes northeast of the restaurant’s location at The Shops at La Cantera. Likewise, the honey in its signature Wabbit Smash cocktail is produced just 20 minutes down the road. But the Whiskey Cake team is all too happy to convey that behind-the-scenes information.
“We love offering the background that’s true of so many of the items on our menu, and increasingly we see that guests are not only excited about it, but they’re also looking for it,” said Casey Covington, assistant general manager and spokesperson for Whiskey Cake at The Shops at La Cantera. “Our philosophy has always been rooted in local sourcing and sustainability, as well as programs that deepen our roots in the community. Sharing those details are part of the experience here.”
At a time when consumers are increasingly looking for elevated dining experiences that embrace sustainability, Whiskey Cake—named after its signature sticky toffee cake with bourbon anglaise, spiced pecans, and house-made vanilla whipped cream—takes it a few steps further. In addition to providing a detailed list of the local resources used on its website, Whiskey Cake’s buying strategy focuses on “local first” in almost every dish. From salad greens to olive oil and Whiskey Cake’s private-label coffee, developing relationships with farmers and other vendors in the community isn’t just a good story to tell, it’s also been key to their success, Covington said. “Some of the owner-operators of the nearby farms hand-deliver their products to us, and that’s always a pretty great feeling, because it’s such a clear example of how these relationships benefit us both,” he added.
Another local Texas farmer, the Celina-based A Bar N Ranch, provides Whiskey Cake with the Wagyu beef used in its chili, among the restaurant’s most sought-after dishes. “It’s an extra-flavorful beef that we also use in our pastrami,” Covington noted. “We also do a great charcuterie board that includes sausage from a fantastic local sausage maker. You know, I’ve lived in San Antonio for 17 years, and before I started working here five years ago, I had no idea things like olive oil or sausage were made right down the road.”
That eye on local sourcing doesn’t stop with the menu. The aprons worn by servers are produced by an employee who’s also an expert seamstress, and coffee mugs and other dishes are purchased from local second-hand and antique shops. “About 30 percent of all of my china is second-hand,” Covington said. “Many restaurants pay for custom-designed dishes, but we’d rather buy something that already exists in the world. Guests get a big kick out of it, and sometimes you hear, ‘My grandmother had dishes just like this!’”
Second-hand furniture—“pieces that have character and a little bit of history,” Covington elaborated—likewise populates the six lounge areas throughout Whiskey Cake. But, if you’re considering how thoroughly the restaurant chain incorporates its sustainability practices, look no further than their hand-cut cardboard coasters, sourced from the liquor boxes that arrive by the truckload on a regular basis. “We have a branding iron with our logo, and with that, we’re able to convert those boxes to create our own homemade coasters. Just consider how much paper we’re not buying as a result, and how much money we’re saving by not purchasing that one item,” Covington added.
For Whiskey Cake team members, communicating those messages is accompanied by an education process that includes tours of local farms. “When we’re able, we plan great outings for our staff to visit local farms and distilleries, where they can experience how a goat cheese is made or enjoy a whiskey tasting,” Covington said. “We want our team members to share those stories, and it’s easy to make those opportunities both fun and educational. Once they’ve held a baby goat and watched a farmer make the cheese, they can’t wait to tell guests about it.”
What’s next for Whiskey Cake at The Shops at La Cantera? They’re launching a partnership with San Antonio’s Gardopia Gardens, a non-profit group that oversees a community garden. Gardopia will not only assist with the restaurant’s own kitchen garden, they’ll also sell herbs and vegetables from their own crops to the restaurant. The yield isn’t enough to supply Whiskey Cake’s regular menu, but that challenge sparked an idea. “Once a month we’ll let our chefs go nuts and create a five-course tasting menu, paired with specialty cocktails by our bartenders,” Covington explained. “We’ll sell tickets, our chefs and bartenders get to stretch their creative wings, guests will experience a truly unique evening, and best of all, a community garden benefits. Everybody wins.”
The Shops at La Cantera • 15900 La Cantera Pkwy Suite 21200 • San Antonio, TX