Cleaver & Cork sets Thursday opening in the Power & Light District

Cleaver & Cork, at the former Maker’s Mark space at 1333 Walnut St., will open Thursday in the Kansas City Power & Light District.
Cleaver & Cork, at the former Maker’s Mark space at 1333 Walnut St., will open Thursday in the Kansas City Power & Light District. Special to the Star

Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge quietly operated in the heart of the Power & Light District for more than six years, tucked in between higher profile venues, before closing earlier this year.

Its replacement, the new Cleaver & Cork, will not be so low-key when it opens Thursday.

The Cleaver & Cork name is painted on the side of the building, splashed on awnings, and displayed on a sign hanging over Walnut Street.

Owners ECI — an affiliate of the Cordish Cos., the developer of the district — brought in Alex Pope of Kansas City favorite the Local Pig to serve as culinary director. Pope worked with James Beard Award-winning chefs Debbie Gold and Celina Tio at the American Restaurant before partnering in the Local Pig butcher shop and Pigwich, a “permanently parked food stand” in the East Bottoms, as well as a Local Pig in Westport.

“It’s a good opportunity to create a menu without the financial end and time obligations of opening a restaurant,” Pope said of his agreement with ECI.

Eric Willey, former general manager and sommelier at Westport’s Bluestem, is now managing partner of Cleaver & Cork and will oversee front-of-house operations and its wine program.

The cocktail and drink menu will include specialty wines, beers and 10 craft cocktails created by lead bartender Andrew Olsen, formerly of the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, including the Candidate (rye whiskey, Dolin Rouge, dry Curacao, and bitters) and the Latin Preserve (single estate tequila, Amontillado sherry, marmalade and lemon).

Maker’s Mark contemporary decor has been replaced by reclaimed Kansas barn wood. There’s even a light fixture made out of a meat rack and hooks.

Pope had been in talks to serve as culinary director of the restaurant since March 2014 and began fine-tuning the menu about two months ago. He’ll focus on fresh, high-quality ingredients from local sources in Kansas and Missouri, as well as fresh seafood that will be flown in daily.

Menu items will include starters and appetizers such as champagne poached prawns and braised pork jowl; salads such as roast beets with house-made mozzarella, balsamic vinaigrette, and pumpkin seeds; and desserts such as a pecan butter cake with bourbon ice cream.

Local Pig’s sausage soup made the cut. The restaurant also will have signature burgers, sandwiches and entrees such as the pork osso bucco, barbecue pork shoulder, and zucchini and oyster mushroom lasagna.

Cleaver & Cork plans to open at 4 p.m. Thursday at 1333 Walnut St.

The Power & Light District has recently been focusing more on local culinary talent. BRGR Kitchen + Bar replaced a chain operation. Patrick Ryan of Port Fonda designed the menu and trained the chefs for a revamped Tengo Sed Cantina. MeMa’s Old-Fashioned Bakery & Kitchen recently moved and expanded in the district.

Nick Benjamin, executive director of the district, said Kansas City would support well-executed local restaurants.

But Power & Light still plans to keep a strong mix of regional and national tenants, too.

Yard House will join the lineup when it opens a new 10,500-square-foot restaurant at 1300 Main St. in early spring.

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at JoyceKC.

Cleaver & Cork will be open from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, and 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The full dinner menu will be offered until 10 p.m. nightly. It is closed Sunday.

Happy hour will run from 4 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and a late night happy hour will be offered from 10 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.