Food & Drink

The Pig & Porter offers unique dishes, craft cocktails

Restaurant opens in NewBo district

Andrew May (right) checks an order as sous chef Jake Wegmann prepares a dish on the open prep bar at The Pig & Porter, a new restaurant in NewBo in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, July 9, 2016. Co-owners Will Monk and Chef Matt Melone want to bring a new dining experience to Cedar Rapids by changing the way people order and bringing new flavors to their dishes. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Andrew May (right) checks an order as sous chef Jake Wegmann prepares a dish on the open prep bar at The Pig & Porter, a new restaurant in NewBo in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, July 9, 2016. Co-owners Will Monk and Chef Matt Melone want to bring a new dining experience to Cedar Rapids by changing the way people order and bringing new flavors to their dishes. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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Don’t go to newly opened NewBo eatery The Pig & Porter looking just for pork and beer. You can get those things, but they are just the tip of the restaurant’s culinary offerings.

The menu features small, medium and large dishes, meant to be shared, family style. The large plates can serve two or more people — choices include a whole smoked chicken topped with salsa verde and served with sweet corn and biscuits; roasted bass with cucumber, Thai herbs and cherry tomatoes or pork loin with piccata, roasted potatoes and broccoli with confit lemon.

Small plates include choices such as deviled eggs, sweet pea falafel or fried plantains, while medium plates include pork belly pancakes, sweet corn gnocchi and a tuna and watermelon salad. This week, they will add a Sunday brunch.

“We want to try to do things that are a little familiar but offbeat,” co-owner and head chef Matt Melone, 25, said.

He and the other co-owner, general manager Will Monk, 29, recommend ordering several dishes for each table to share.

“It creates an experience, it allows you to put your phone down and talk to people,” Monk said.

The duo opened the restaurant July 5 in NewBo Station, a new construction building next to NewBo City Market. The Pig & Porter has 2,400 square feet on the ground floor adjacent to T-shirt store Raygun.

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Melone and Monk did much of the build-out work themselves, spending long hours laying concrete for the floors and building the wooden tables. Art on the walls came from their own homes.

“This is definitely our baby,” Monk said.

The two previously worked at downtown restaurant Cobble Hill, along with The Pig & Porter sous-chef Jacob Wegmann, 29. Monk studied business at the University of Iowa but knew an office job wasn’t for him. He and Melone began talking about opening their own restaurant two years ago. Soon, their plans became more than talk.

“It was kind of a joke — let’s open a restaurant,” Melone said. “Then two years later, we’re here.”

The restaurant’s bar has a small wine list and craft beers on tap alongside cocktails. Bar manager Jake Niederhauser, 30, designed several of the choices, such as the Smoked Manhattan, made with a smoking gun, and the Buzz & Fuzz, a bright pink drink featuring Tito’s Vodka, lemon, honey, raspberries, mint and egg white. He described the rest of the drink menu as, “Prohibition cocktails paying hommage to the classics,” with choices like an Old Fashioned, Side Car or Sazerac.

The restaurant’s name is meant to convey something about the culture of the eatery. A porter in this case refers to someone who carries heavy loads, whether dishes in a kitchen or luggage on a train.

“We wanted to remind all our staff that not one person is more important than anyone else. Everyone is a porter,” Monk said.

The “Pig” part of the name references their desire to serve local food when it makes sense to do so, such as produce from Cedar Rapids urban farm Matthew 25.

The menu is small and printed in house, so it is designed to change regularly, depending on seasonality and as the chefs develop new dishes.

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“It’s definitely a living document that we can change constantly,” said Melone.

Eat Up!

WHERE: 1028 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids

WHEN: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 3 to 10 p.m. Thursday, 3 p.m. to midnight Friday, 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday

DETAILS: (319) 200-4414

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