As part of the Cortex Innovation Community complex, The Chocolate Pig opened just last month inside Venture Café’s Innovation Hall, to offer locally inspired, elevated comfort food for lunch and dinner and creative desserts to users of the drop-in workspace and other hungry visitors.

The restaurant, in St. Louis’s Forest Park South East neighborhood, represents the latest from the municipality’s 23 City Blocks Hospitality Group. (That group also owns The Caramel Room at Bissinger’s, Handcrafted by Bissinger’s, Lumen Private Event Space and 23 City Blocks Catering.) Executive chef Patrick Russell and executive pastry chef Tyler Davis oversee the kitchens.

According to 23 City Blocks’ vice president of marketing, Amanda Bradham-Little, The Chocolate Pig gets its name from the company’s cocoa-bean roots combined with Russell’s nose-to-tail cooking methods. The restaurant fills 3,000 square feet and seats 120. HOK, the St. Louis-founded international architecture/engineering firm, served as architect for it, while Brett Clark of Ladue’s Savvy Surrounding Style carried out the vision for the sleek interior design.

The contemporary space complements the architecture of the area, with thoughtfully planned textures, curves and geometric patterns. Industrial pendants illuminate a dessert bar, where sweets are crafted in the dining area. According to Clark, neutral tones throughout the room provide a backdrop to showcase the kitchen’s colorful dishes.

Highlights from the dinner menu include mainstays such as a grilled bone-in pork chop with miso mustard, candied sweet potatoes and braised collard greens. A bacon flight with herbed white chocolate ties the concept together, featuring bold flavors such as beef belly bacon with sweet soy, quick kimchi and sesame.

For lunch, guests can choose from items including The Hot Mess – a roasted sweet potato topped with pork barbecue, white cheddar, crispy kale and buttermilk dressing. Beet ceviche, an inventive, shareable dish available throughout the day, features garlic and lime-marinated beets, avocado purée, pickled jalapeños, cilantro and crispy tortillas.

Playful nostalgia-inspired desserts include treats like Milk & Cereal, with malted milk ice cream, caramelized pork rinds, dulce de leche and caramelized bananas. The Peanut Butter Bomb, another highlight, features a dark chocolate, peanut butter and berry bomb with peanut butter cookie crumble and a warm mixed-berry compote. The bar, meantime, tempts guests with six rotating drafts, wine and a selection of such cocktails as the 30 Minute O, with Jamaican rum, overproof rum, crème de banane, white cocoa, lemon and egg yolk.

So don’t just drool over this story – corral The Chocolate Pig for a treat before catching A Christmas Story from The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

“I’m excited to share my style of food and my influences,” Russell says. “We’re hoping to offer something totally different than what other people are doing. We’d like to be unique and innovative like the Cortex and constantly evolve.” 

The Chocolate Pig, 4220 Duncan Ave., St. Louis, 314-272-3230,