When you hire a guy who currently owns and operates the Local Pig and Pigwich, it should be no surprise that pork features prominently into the new menu at Cleaver & Cork (1333 Walnut Street). The Local Pig’s Alex Pope worked with executive chef Andrew Heimberger to develop the menu for the restaurant that opens Thursday in the former Maker’s Mark space in the Power & Light District and pork is a key component of the meat-centric concept.
“We wanted to create a Midwestern-style menu that has a lot of nice touches,” Pope, the Culinary Director for Cleaver & Cork, says. “It’s not a gastropub or a steakhouse. It’s just a nice restaurant where we’re using the best products we can get in creative ways.”
The owner of the local butcher shop (Pope recently took over the former Bridger’s Bottle Shop space in Westport as a second location) found inspiration in different cuts of pork, eschewing the standard pork belly on the starter menu for braised pork jowls.
“Pork jowls are unapologetically fatty and rich. They’re just a touch different,” Pope says.
Pork also stands alongside a burger and pulled chicken on the sandwich menu. Bacon finds a way as evidenced by the fried oyster and bacon sandwich, inspired by the Cochon Restaurant in New Orleans.
“The smokiness of the bacon and that hot pepper jelly plays off the sweetness of the oysters. It’s a little spicy, a little sweet and fatty,” Pope says.
Smoke is also a key flavor at Cleaver & Cork with everything from beets to salmon being smoked on hickory wood in an Alto-Shaam upright smoker. Smoke is part of the Midwestern-style, alongside cheese curds that are Pope’s nod to his native Wisconsin.
“I never had a place where I could put cheese curds on the menu, but then we grabbed these zucchini bread and butter pickles and it just took off,” Pope says.
“Andrew has done a great job and he’s been crucial in getting everything together. He’ll be the one taking care of everything day-to-day,” Pope says.
The general manager is Eric Willey, previously the general manager at Bluestem, and Andrew Olsen (formerly of The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange) is heading up the bar program.
Cleaver & Cork will be open from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The phone number is 816-541-3484.[Images via Cleaver & Cork]