Order lunch from The Porker, chef Chad Clevenger's food cart at 17th and California streets, and you'll find food that bears no resemblance to the late Mel's Bar and Grill. And that's just fine with Clevenger, who shuttered the Greenwood Village restaurant a few months ago. He wanted a clean break.
Now, instead of cooking classic, borderline stodgy cuisine, Clevenger revels in the freedom that street food affords. His small menu—five dishes, two of which rotate daily, and a handful of sides—shows a creativity and spontaneity not afforded at Mel's.
Take the chilled soba noodle salad, which is tossed with colorful slices of mango, bell peppers, scallions, and cilantro. The Asian-style combination is refreshing and light—and can be enjoyed as is. Or, you can up the ante and add the marquee ingredient: sweet soy, slow-roasted pork belly. The meat is unctuous and decadent, and it elevates the dish from a satisfying lunch to a multifacted, memorable meal.
Despite trumpeting pork (hence that cart's name), I appreciate Clevenger's determination to serve an inspired vegetarian item each day. Recent offerings included an Olathe corn and black truffle tamale with mushroom-tomatillo salsa, and a dish with red quinoa, local corn, chayote, roasted peppers, radish, herbs, and chipotle-tomato broth.
Taste Clevenger's offerings at 17th and California street—and, through the end of the month, on Tuesdays at Civic Center Eats.