When it comes to crafting a menu to match the vibe and setting of a bar, Porco presents one of the more unique opportunities and challenges. The tiki bar is situated in a nondescript building on West 25th but transports visitors to another world inside. A laid-back Polynesian interior, affable service from Hawaiian-shirted staffers and the colorful, potent cocktails have created one of the most fun destinations in town. What sort of grub best complements the cocktails and setting?
Owner Stefan Was bypassed the easy, predictable route of cheap Americanized Chinese food one might find at other tiki bars when he opened four years ago, opting instead for tacos and nachos dished up from what could charitably be called Porco's kitchen — a 10-by-10 corner of the building.
In 2016 Was announced a partnership with Brian Okin and Adam Bostwick to launch Polpetta at Porco, a meatball-themed concept that forced Was to build an actual kitchen. And while the Polpetta concept has been a success, and as they actively seek a permanent location for it, Was and Bostwick agreed it was time to expand Porco's menu. The food, of course, had to complement what Porco was already doing.
"We have so much fun and the food, it's the same with the cocktails," says Was. "We take the pretension out of craft cocktails. Just because we're doing everything correctly with fresh juices and housemade ingredients and quality spirits doesn't mean we can't have fun with it."
The timing was also right for Bostwick, who signed on full-time after the closure of Graffiti in Battery Park.
"Having him here gave us time to put an interesting spin on the menu," says Was. "We just started talking and we wanted to still serve the customers and keep the flow of what makes this place fun. He gets how nerdy and dorky we are and he's up for trying interesting things."
For now, that means a gloriously eclectic set of theme nights across the week.
"It's all about communal, shareable stuff, that's fun," Bostwick says. "With Porco, it's unique, you don't know if people will be at a table for 30 minutes or 4 hours, and on the weekends it's packed. So we talked about how do we make Monday through Thursday different and make sure it fits what Porco's all about."
On Mondays it's Porco throwback night, with tacos and Mexican.
Tuesday brings Havana Night, with items such as housemade cubans, egg and potato frittatas, the Porco Picadillo (spicy pork hash, olives, tomato and tortilla), and yellowtail mofongo (pan-fried yellowtail over smashed plantains with a seafood broth.)
Wednesdays are Yacht Rock nights, and the natural pairing, of course, is a raw bar in the middle of the restaurant with fresh-shucked oysters, tuna tartare and plus the "Big Boy," an all-beef bologna steak, fried egg, house cheese whiz and pickle sauce on a bun.
A lot of places do vegan nights, and Bostwick says they considered it for Thursdays. "But then, we thought, let's do the exact opposite. Let's do a carnivore appreciation night, basically." That now includes the Big Poppa, a 28-ounce beast of a porterhouse served with soft scrambled eggs, as well as killer meat boards, hillybilly style, that offer bologna pate, Ohio City Provision hot dog pigs in a blanket, smokies, jerkies and more.
Oh, and if you're worried about meatballs, they aren't going anywhere. "There will always be a meatball of some sort," says Bostwick.