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Dishin’ on the Dish: Pot roast cupcakes at Oooh Wee It Is

Diners at Oooh Wee It Is tend to stumble upon an unusual yet intriguing dish as they peruse the menu at the soul food restaurant in Chatham: Pot roast cupcakes. 

What’s cookin’ in and around Chicago? Here’s a closer look at one of the area’s delicious dishes you don’t want to miss.

Diners at Oooh Wee It Is tend to stumble upon an unusual yet intriguing dish as they peruse the menu at Oooh Wee It Is soul food restaurant in Chatham: pot roast cupcakes.

Yes, you read that right.

If that’s not enough to get customers to commit to ordering the appetizer, then seeing servers walk through the bustling venue with a piping hot plate of a trio of these sweet-and-savory cupcakes usually tends to do the trick, co-owner Mark Walker said.

“That’s how it really sells,” Walker said. “Everybody wants it.”

Pot roast cupcakes are served at Oooh Wee It Is.
Pot roast cupcakes are served at Oooh Wee It Is.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

The appetizer is something people would usually see at a festival or out of a food truck — not necessarily at a sit-down restaurant. But the ingenuity of the dish and the balance of flavors makes it a perfect starter to set the tone for any meal at Oooh Wee It Is, which prides itself on serving “soul food with a twist.”

It’s one of the most popular bites, according to Mark’s wife, Shae Walker, the First Lady of Oooh Wee It Is. “It’s always trending; people love it,” she added.

But even Shae wasn’t necessarily sold on the idea of pot roast cupcakes when Mark first pitched it to her.

“I’m like, ‘Pot roast cupcakes?’ ” she questioned, bewildered, before Mark confidently laid out the blueprints of the dish. “I’m like, ‘Oh my God… this man!

“But when we did it, it was really good,” she admitted. “He has that gift, you know, like that creative part of just doing things a little bit different.”

Mark tried several variations of the cupcakes, including ones with sweet potatoes and others with macaroni and cheese. But the one served now was “just a hit.”

It starts with a homemade sweet cornbread muffin that has more of a cakey texture compared to the traditional muffins served with other dishes on the menu. Mark then takes a handful of mashed potatoes, which he pats down on the top of the cupcake, almost like frosting. Then, it’s the toppings. He adds scallions, cheese, caramelized onions, green peppers and — of course — the slow-cooked tender pot roast made in-house. It’s all topped off with a shower of gravy. The dish also comes with a side of gravy because people tend to like to add more as they dive in, Mark said.

Mark and Shae Walker are the owners of Oooh Wee It Is restaurant.
Mark and Shae Walker are the owners of Oooh Wee It Is restaurant.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Though they’ve only been open in Chatham (at the site formerly occupied by Mather Cafe) since March, Shae said they’ve had people come from far and wide to try their food. That’s why the Walkers said they’re expanding to other parts of the city in the coming months, with plans to open new locations in Wicker Park and Beverly this fall.

“If you give people something different, they will love it,” Mark said.

Oooh Wee It Is, 33 E. 83rd St. A trio of pot roast cupcakes is $9.99. Visit https://ooohweeitis.org.

Got a favorite dish from a Chicago-area restaurant? Let us know via email at: dishinonthedish@suntimes.com.