Tenderloin Grill, Kansas City, MO – You Sniff Me, I’ll Sniff You Back

My weekends have involved lots of trips through Kansas City and opportunities to try new restaurants.  My most recent trip took me to a restaurant surrounded by taquerias and South American food; Tenderloin Grill is located just minutes from KC’s popular Power and Light district.  The family has been serving sandwiches the same way since they started out of a wagon in 1932.  Their slogan is “the times have changed but we haven’t.”

Tenderloin Grill is known for their hand-battered pork tenders as well as their pig snoots. They are both sandwiches that are dressed the same way: mustard, in-house hot sauce, horseradish, onion, and tomato.  They will ask if you want their standard dress, so there is an option to leave things off.  I had to give both a try.

First, let’s talk about the pork tender sandwich.  It is lightly breaded to add some flavor but not overpower the pork.  Obviously it’s going to be on the greasy side; it’s a fried chunk of pork for Pete’s sake!  If you order the standard dress for the sandwich, be prepared for some heat.  The hot sauce they make in house is flavorful and lives up to being called “hot”.  Pair that with the horseradish and your sinuses are going to have that familiar nose-tingling burn.  Thanks allyl isothiocyanate.

pork tender

If staring at two pig nostrils doesn’t bother you, why not try a snoot sandwich?  Unlike their crispy cousins served in St. Louis, these are pressure cooked and then boiled. The snoot had more meat on it than you would think. If you have texture issues, this may not be for you. It lands somewhere between tender pot roast and jello on the texture scale.  This was the first sandwich I have ever eaten that sniffed me back!  For me, this sandwich was more of a gimmick.  Trying it allowed me to renew my man card for the year.

pig snoot
All of their sandwiches come with hand cut fries.  Those that remained crispy were fantastic, however, about half the bag was soggy. 🙁  If they had a little bit more consistency, they would be a great side for sure.

Tenderloin Grill turned out to be a unique stop as I drove through KC.  The pork tender sandwich was great and now I can say I have had pig snoots both St. Louis and Kansas City styles.  It’s a fun little diner that believes in doing things the old school way is the only way.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  It’s definitely more on the “divey” side of things in a good way.  It has that diner feel and is very simple.  You can watch the food being cooked right behind the counter.  You will use a lot of napkins because these sandwiches leak mustard and hot sauce everywhere.  Maybe it should be BYOB (bring your own bib).

RJ’s Bob-B-Que – Lamb Ribs, Pig Tails, Bison, and More!

During a recent road trip to Kansas, I was slowed by an ice storm on my way back.  While passing through Kansas City, I decided to get fuel for both the car and myself before getting back on the treacherous roads.  Since it was Kansas City, the choice was clear.  It’s time to try a new BBQ restaurant.  This time, I tried RJ’s Bob-B-Que.

When you pull up to RJ’s, you will find that it is a shack on a side street.  Once you are inside, it’s a small shack.  The walls are decorated with lots of ribbons and awards from competitions and there are oldies playing in the background. They have so much love for John Wayne that an entire wall is dedicated exclusively to the face of “The Duke!”

Enough about the decor, I was there to check out their “Bob-B-que”.  Their menu will set them apart from most barbecue joints, with interesting features such as lamb ribs and pig tails.  As you all know by now, I’m a very adventurous eater, so I was excited.  I ordered the pig tails, brisket soup, and lamb ribs.

I must admit that any place serving pig tails is going to struggle to impress me after what I’m used to from the Libertine.  They are battered and fried, which reminded me of calamari.  Definitely use the Sriracha that they put on the edge of the bowl to give them some kick.  I prefer them to have a crisper outside; these were much chewier.

pig tailsNext up was the brisket soup.  This reminded me of a creamy minestrone but with brisket.  On a cold day like the one I was experiencing this was a great way to warm back up; a very solid choice.

One of their highly acclaimed dishes is the lamb ribs.  I am a huge pork fan so it was a stretch for me to try this rather than going with what I love.  There is a pretty clear difference between pork and lamb ribs.  These were very tender and yes, “fall off the bone,” but they were also very fatty.  For some reason I couldn’t stop eating the cheesy corn bake.  It is nothing fancy, but it reminds me of something someone would bring to a family gathering.

lamb ribs

RJ’s is not your typical Kansas City barbecue place.  They feature some unique menu items like pig tails, lamb ribs, bison, and many other palatable offerings.  It would not be a place to which I would make a special trip.  There is just too much other barbecue to sample and some old favorites that are too hard to pass up.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  It’s a shack so it’s definitely a 2. You are getting barbecue in a dive, but the service is quick and friendly.  There are plenty of TV’s showing sports, plus it is family friendly.  I think I could do without the golden oldies.  🙂

RJ's Bob-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Gobble Stop Smokehouse, Creve Coeur, MO – Where’s the Beef? Nevermind, It’s Not Needed!

Can you believe it, time for another BBQ post! Gobble Stop Smokehouse in Creve Coeur opened in 2012 and I was confident it was going to fail.  Why?  They serve only turkey and chicken.  How can you have a BBQ place without any pork or beef offerings?!?!?  Since they found a way to survive, I figured I better finally give it a try.  Once I did, this place quickly earned a spot in my regular rotation of dining options.

The dish I order the most frequently is the smoked wings.  Take a peek at this:

gooblestop wings

The wings have a perfect smoky flavor without being dried out. They serve them with a sweet sauce that they will put on for you or you can have it on the side.  They do have a spicier sauce available if you request it.  After eating these wings I don’t see a need to ever eat a breaded and fried wing again. One time I was so excited I didn’t wait to get home, I just opened the box outside at one of their tables and went to work!.

I have tried a handful of the sides and all were satisfactory.  There really hasn’t been one that will steal the show from one of the turkey or chicken main dishes.  I typically stick with the baked beans or their creamy potato salad (pictured above).

St. Louis does get some love for its BBQ, but in my opinion not enough.  When you can have a restaurant that only does chicken and turkey and it survives, we are unique.   Is it enough to make me swear off pork?  I wouldn’t go that far!.  It is good enough for me to not miss it, and I clearly must not be the only one that thinks so.  I have had days where I’ve had to move to a third or fourth option because my old standbys are already sold out. Some of the other dishes I like are half smoked chicken, pulled chicken, and the turkey ribs.  This is my favorite place to eat in Creve Coeur.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  Gobble Stop is located in an older strip mall at Fee Fee and Olive.  It’s a strip mall that I have driven passed daily for 2 years and didn’t see any reason to stop until now.  The inside is clean and small.  The owner usually is the person taking your order.  I see a bright future for this restaurant but I hope they don’t move to a different location!

Gobble Stop Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Melt – St. Louis, MO – Waffles Aren’t Just for Breakfast Anymore

Looking for something completely different?  Melt on Cherokee street could be just what you are looking for.  Melt specializes in waffles, but not your frozen Eggo waffles.  They serve both sweet and savory types of waffles.

From my preliminary research, I was set on getting the Wake ‘N Bake.  The Wake ‘N Bake has bacon or sausage cooked into the waffle.  It’s topped with cheese and an egg, cooked to order.  The server stated that it was a “safe choice” for a first visit.  She also shared that repeat customers quickly start to trust them and move on to something more adventurous.  DAMN…I think she was trying to pull my man-card.  I quickly changed my order to the Little Piggy.  Not only that, but I had her throw an egg on top!  The challenge was on!


The Little Piggy is a waffle topped with pulled pork, homemade coleslaw, and cheddar cheese.   While the BBQ sauce was sweet, the green onion really shined on the dish.  One piece of advice; just because there is syrup on the table it doesn’t belong on all waffles!  Luckily that was only a one bite mistake so it didn’t ruin my meal.

Melt has an exciting selection of waffles.  The combinations range from fruit or chocolate on some of the sweet waffles to chicken, pork, or brisket on some of the savory varieties.  I look forward to exploring the menu more on future visits.  How brave will you be?

Dive 2 Five Scale: 2.  Time for me to step on my soapbox.  Cherokee Street is a great area in St. Louis.  I recently was discussing this restaurant and I instantly received an eye-roll when I mentioned its’ location.  I don’t understand people who limit their options by singling out an area for one reason or another.  What a waste!  Stepping off soapbox…

When I walked in, I can honestly say the eclectic atmosphere and mismatched furniture was overwhelming. There was a lot to take in, including pinball and shuffleboard! However, once I was settled at the table, the atmosphere was very laid back with a knowledgeable and helpful staff. If this is your first visit to Cherokee Street, take some time and explore! STL Style  and Firecracker Press are just two of the fun stores that have a lot of St. Louis pride.

Melt on Urbanspoon

Carl’s Drive In,St. Louis, MO – Burgers with an Edge

Recently I read a list of the top 10 burger places in the US and it inspired me to pay homage to the one closest to where I call home, Carl’s Drive In.

Carl’s is a tiny place with only 16 bar stools.  They serve burgers smashed on the grill so they have delightfully crispy edges.  For good reason, the terms “burger” and “crispy” typically don’t end up in a sentence together.  This burger is the exception to that rule.  I’m instantly whisked away to burger nirvana at the first crispy bite.  They are pretty small patties, I typically order a triple cheese.  Anything less a double should be considered a kid’s meal.


When you go, you must pair their burger with Carl’s homemade root beer.  They serve it in an ice-cold frosty mug.  The root beer alone will have you coming back.  They serve standard “out-of-the-bag” fries that are on the thick side.  The fries are still an adequate side and do not detract the focus from the burger.

Carl’s Drive In is a place that I get a craving for every month or two.  There isn’t another place like it. This place is on my must do list for anyone that visits.  I agree that it deserves a spot in any top 10 burger lists due to its’ uniqueness and their ability to crank out top-notch burgers.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  The typical complaints for this place are:

  • It’s too small and I have to stand.
  • The wait staff can be a little “gruff” or “direct”.
  • It’s cash only.

Personally I think those are very petty reasons to miss out on a St. Louis institution.  I have never had to stand to eat.  They are extremely efficient in rotating people through the 16 bar stools.  Most people that go there have been several times so they do expect that most people know what they want when they are asked.  Do your homework, arrive ready, and enjoy the one-of-a-kind experience.

Carl's Drive in on Urbanspoon

Olivette Diner – St. Louis, MO – Don’t Forget to Bring Cash

If you stumbled across this post while searching for a recommendation of a healthy breakfast dish, go ahead and hit the back button.  This post is about the bananas foster waffles at the Olivette Diner.  This is as close to eating dessert for breakfast as I have tried.

So what is the bananas foster waffle breakfast?  It’s hot waffles topped with bananas, vanilla ice cream, and Olivette Diner’s homemade banana, brown sugar, and cinnamon sauce.

bananas foster waffle

Wow.  The first bite was intense.  It’s sweet and extremely decadent.  If you can resist the urge to tear through it quickly, let that ice cream melt some.   I must say it was big enough that I almost couldn’t finish it…almost 🙂

I will definitely be back to try this meal again.  The booth I sat in faced pictures of the backside of people sitting on the diner stools.  There were some big butts and I cannot lie. With an calorie packed breakfast like these waffles, I could see how you could end up like that.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  This is your typical greasy spoon awesome American diner.  They were efficient and the food was quick.  Make sure you bring cash or a check, they don’t take anything else.

Olivette Diner on Urbanspoon

World’s Fair Doughnuts, St. Louis, MO – A Step Back In Time

What’s the perfect pick me up on a dreary morning?  For me, nothing better than a fatty, sugar filled doughnut.  On a recent morning like that, I found myself at World’s Fair Doughnuts.

When you pull up you notice a few things: 1)  This is a tiny place.  2) There is limited parking. 3)  There is an older Mercedes outside with “DONUT” on the license plate.  Now that’s dedication!

outside 2

Once you walk in you will see there is no seating.  There was a good selection of your typical doughnuts (glazed, twist, apple fritters, long johns, iced, etc.).  There wasn’t anything too adventurous like you might see at Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, OR or Doughnut Plant in NYC (my two all time favorite doughnut shops).

I ordered a chocolate long John and a small twist.  The chocolate long John had just the right amount of icing.  I even let my 1-year-old son try a few bites.  When I asked him if he liked it, he smiled and waved his arms wildly.  I’m pretty sure he gave it his seal of approval.  After eating the long John I tore into the small twist before even remembered to snap a picture.  Both were very tasty.

long john

My visit to World’s Fair Doughnuts brought me happiness in two ways.  First, a full belly from good doughnuts.  Secondly, it was nice seeing a family shop with such a long history still thriving in today’s culture.  I would definitely recommend a trip by WFD if you are in the area or you can do as I did and make it a special trip.  You will be happy you did.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  This is basically just a small building that cranks out good doughnuts.  You can see one guy in the back making doughnuts and two women up front helping customers.  There are no frills and nothing to hide.  It doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t.  It’s very reasonably priced.  Just make sure you bring cash, that’s all they take.

World's Fair Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

Panhead Billy’s, Kingdom City, MO – KA-CHOW, Did I Find a Real Life Radiator Springs?

I’m not known for being someone who loves poetry.  However, as a child I memorized “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. It’s something that continues to pop into my mind from time to time.  Recently I was wondering if I was going to find a hidden gem on that “road less traveled” on a recent road trip back from Kansas City.

Along old Highway 40 in Kingdom City, I stopped by Panhead Billy’s Smokehouse BBQ and Tavern.  Taking the right turn onto highway 40 I was quickly reminded of the animated movie “Cars”.  Here was small stretch of highway that had an out of business gas station, abandoned motel, Nostalgiaville, and Panhead Billy’s.  Clearly all affected by the “progress” brought in by I-70.

Abandoned motel on old Highway 40.

As I pulled in the gravel parking lot and up to the metal building I was pretty sure I had found myself a sure 1 on the Dive 2 Five Scale.  However when I entered I was surprised by the time and effort was put into this place.

After settling in at the bar, I asked for recommendations.  The bartender first mentioned brisket that just finished in the smoker the previous night.  I ordered it with a side of fries.

The brisket was tender enough to cut with a fork.  Thank goodness, since I wasn’t given a knife. 😀  Maybe I looked like a shady character and couldn’t be trusted with one.  The fries were fresh cut on site.  As I have found with other fresh cut fries, they were on the soft side.  I prefer a crispy outside but these weren’t bad.  They were seasoned well.  There was only BBQ sauce so that kept things simple.  It was on the thin side, but with a nice subtle after-burn.

Panhead Billy’s is a typical small town BBQ restaurant.  It would likely get lost in the mix with Pappy’s and some of the other great BBQ in St. Louis.  However this is a good stop when you have that craving and are traveling along I-70.  It’s also a nice place to stop and support a local business.  This was the road less traveled that I will be traveling again.  After doing some research, I think on my next trip I will try their BBQ chips.  They sound tasty!

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  As I said, from the outside I expected to score it a one.  It was just simple.  Inside the wooden tables and chairs were a nice touch.  The chairs were over-sized and heavy.  I was really surprised how nice (and clean) the men’s bathroom was.  It’s more of a bar, but I would not hesitate to take my son there.  It wasn’t really a sports bar, but had two TV’s for those of us interested in the college football games.

Panhead Billys on Urbanspoon

Katz Deli – NYC, New York – The Birthplace of My Love of Pastrami

When taking a trip to New York City, you must try one of their amazing deli’s.  For me, I go to the one of the staples since 1888, Katz.

When I go, only get one thing; their famous pastrami sandwich.  Going to Katz is an experience from start to finish.  When you arrive you can choose to be served at a table or get a ticket and head to the counter.  I always opt for the ticket.  You then stand in line at the cutters waiting to give them your order.  Once you do order (the pastrami, you know you will) you are given a few slices to sample while your sandwich is constructed.  I use the word “constructed” because this is a big sandwich.

The sandwich is simple, yet unbelievable.  It’s only pastrami, rye bread, and yellow mustard.  When you have such juicy meat and plenty of it, why mess with it?  WARNING:  You will get messy eating this sandwich.  The pastrami will leak out through the bread and down your hands.  You will hardly notice as your focus will be to continue stuffing your face.

This is food porn.

Katz Deli was the first place I truly enjoyed a pastrami sandwich.  I had tried other local varieties throughout the country but it was never a “go-to” item for me.  Since my first trip to Katz, I have been hooked.  Take some time when you visit to see all the pictures of celebrities on the wall that have been there experiencing the same great sandwich.

Dive to Five Scale – 2.  Let’s be honest, anything served cafeteria style is a little divey.  Nothing wrong with that.  You may have to be a vulture to pounce on a table as soon as it comes available.  You may even have to share.   You have security at the door.  It’s an old building that just keeps cranking out quality sandwiches they have for decades.

Katz's Deli on Urbanspoon


Cousin Hugo’s, Maplewood, MO – A Local Bar Burger

Every neighborhood has one.  It’s that local watering hole that practically has assigned seating for the regulars. Cousin Hugo’s in Maplewood is that kind of place.  I had picked this place out based on their rating on Urbanspoon when I was doing a search to satisfy a burger craving.

We arrived just after opening on a Saturday.  The bar was empty as the waitresses and bartender were still getting set up.  We chose one of the over-sized booths in the bar area.     Looking around you notice beer signs and college football on the TV.  Many of the walls are the older style wood paneling   Some of the regulars walk in shortly after and are teased for “being late”.  It welcomes you in as your typical local bar.

They have laminated menus on all the tables.  One of the best ways to judge a bar’s food (and to satisfy my quota) is to try their burger.  The standard burger at Cousin Hugo’s is 5 oz.  I am known to eat a little more than the average person so I ordered the double.

Double cheeseburger. Also known as the “open wide”

They serve their burgers medium well.  I typically order them medium rare but went with the flow.  The burger comes with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and caramelized onions.  I can see why they call it the “open wide”.  It was a large burger.  It was still juicy for being well done.  All the toppings were fresh.  I opted for the onion rings on the side.  They were the thicker style beer battered type.  Overall it was a filling meal with no complaints.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 2.  Very friendly bar with lots of locals.  Old style captains chairs, beer signs, and wood paneling make it a blast from the past.  Although they were kid friendly early on a Saturday morning, I’m curious if it would be much later.  Great local bar full of character that every neighborhood would be lucky to call their own.

Cousin Hugo's on Urbanspoon