The Porker, Chad Clevenger's street cart, is nearly ready to push pig. "We're going to have everything from tequila-habanero barbecue ribs and pork tamales to sweet-soy roasted pork belly with a cold soba noodle salad and smoked Kurobuta pork cheeks with feijoada beans and Verde Farms micro cilantro," says Clevenger, the chef/owner of Mel's Bar and Grill, 5970 South Holly Street.
"Our goal is to serve really good food that's cheap and generously portioned," he adds, promising that diners will be "in and out for less than $8." Although Clevenger is still awaiting final confirmation from the property owner, he's hoping that his cart, an old-school stainless steel box that was initially a K-mart hot-dog cart, will be up and running at 17th and California streets on Monday, June 7.
"Right now, I'm just rolling with it," says Clevenger, who's also aiming to unleash another set of wheels on the 16th Street Mall later this year. "There's a six-month waiting list, so it's going to be a while, but at some point, I'd love to have two carts."
Clevenger also hopes to hook up with the local salumi gods from Il Mondo Vecchio. "I'd love to use some of their cured meats for the sandwiches," he says, adding that he'll be dishing out a different pork-centric special each day. "The fact of the matter," explains Clevenger, "is that Denver needs good street food, and there's nothing better than pork, so I think we'll do well."
Despite the shrine to swine, Clevenger acknowledges that vegetarians exist, too: "We don't want to alienate vegetarians, so we'll offer one vegetarian dish each day," he promises. He'll also sell pork rinds and pork ears for pooches, while his people food, says Clevenger, will be a global romp of everything porky tricked out with Mexican, Spanish, Mexican and Asian influences.
When the 17th Street cart launches, it'll be open during the week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eventually, says Clevenger, "I want to park one of the carts in front of a downtown bar or club to feed all the late-night crowds."
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