If the sight of Sharky's on Powers Boulevard ever made you flash back to adolescence, and particularly a naughty '80s movie, you're not alone. Phil Duhon, chef and owner of Oscar's on Tejon Street, had the same reaction when eyeing the longtime drinking-and-playing spot two years ago. So when Sharky's closed, Duhon moved in and called the place Porky's.
Visually, the cool beach-shack vibe remains in full effect. Passing the sandpit with volleyball nets and horseshoes, you can almost imagine coming in from the surf. But Duhon's also remodeled some of the building. He ripped down walls and restored the venue's long-lost airy feel, refinished some of the original tables, and added an awning and bar to the 1,400-square-foot deck upstairs.
He's also remodeled the menu, which mixes old Oscar's favorites and new items that fit the beach theme. Notably, he's kindly brought the east side a sweet place to enjoy extremely fresh oysters ($1.65 each). Huge and plump, they were perfectly shucked on my first visit, preserving their natural liquor and a beautiful taste of the sea in our landlocked town. Also a huge hit: the fresh-cut and twice-battered chicken fried mushrooms ($7.95), which were crunchy and needed no dipping.
With a name like Porky's, I was lookin' for the swine, and the pulled pork sandwich ($7.95) surprised. Instead of cooking with dry heat, Porky's slow simmers with onions and spices, then shreds and mixes with the house's own barbecue sauce. The tender meat bathed in a sauce mixture that packed some heat, while remaining tangy and spicy. Among delicious side choices: Tater Tots, side salad or the nicely done fresh-cut fries.
If you're not so into pork: The shrimp grinder ($8.95) was full of shrimp, though slightly overwhelmed by the toasted ciabatta bread.
After a first visit, we took Duhon up on his invite to an "all you can eat" whole pig roast ($7.95), which he plans to do periodically through the summer. A row of six pristine Harleys held our attention in the jammed parking lot, until the smell of roasting pork jerked it away.
We were offered a plate and told to head outside and serve ourselves. The pork had been roasting since 6 a.m., and now heaping chunks of tender meat and large slabs of crispy, crackling skin awaited. Everyone in line had the same glassy-eyed look. Although cooled by the windy day, this plus the accompanying baked beans and slaw was some seriously good food.
The only disappointment came post-pork, with the dry rubbed ribs ($9.95) that we ordered extra. Touted as something like crispy pork "wings," these end pieces proved dry and chewy, with little flavor.
Porky's also offers burgers, sandwiches and salads, many of which Duhon calls "bacon-influenced,"with either bacon or bacon "bites" (real bacon chopped into inch-sized pieces).
Property owner Todd Dorman still runs the site's Sand Pits volleyball league six nights a week, and Duhon plans to host activities when the league isn't in play. A parent of young kids, he hopes families will feel welcome, and offers Hula Hoops and sand buckets in the pits.
While certainly not aiming to re-create the teenage debauchery of Porky's, the film version, Duhon is happy to promote a casual atmosphere.
"I'm not serving cuisine here," he says. "I'm serving food."