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).

Joo Joo Restaurant and Karoake – Creve Coeur, MO – Eat, Drink, Sing, and Be Merry!

The New Year is upon us and mine is off to a fast and furious start.  My “real job” has provided some opportunity to travel and my next trip will likely be to Korea.  To ensure I’m prepared, I have already started my “research”.  What started as one exploratory trip with friends has turned into an insatiable appetite for Korean food!  Let me tell you a little bit about a place in Creve Coeur called Joo Joo.

Joo Joo (Restaurant and Karoake to be exact), is in a corner of a strip mall in Creve Coeur by Olive and Fee Fee.  It’s pretty unassuming from the outside and there isn’t much to look at on the inside.  The menu can be a little bit daunting for a Korean food virgin, so it’s best to go with friends that can help you order.  Better yet, check out some recommendations from awesome bloggers online (hint hint…).  Although all the staff are very helpful, some speak better English than others.  When ordering, keep in mind you will also receive banchan (side dishes) so you don’t order too much food.  In the last month alone, I have been four times.  Here are some of my highlights:

I love to start with the dduk pok ki. It’s spicy rice cakes served in a very flavorful sauce with a hard boiled egg.  I love to use this sauce to spice up the standard white rice that comes with the other meals.

rice cakes

My first love was the marinated BBQ Kalbi Beef Ribs.  You grill these yourself at the table.  It includes an egg stew (think watery scrambled eggs with green onion), lettuce, and sauces. If you are concerned about not knowing when to flip the meat or how long to cook each piece, don’t be.  The staff is close by watching to ensure that everything is going according to plan, they don’t hesitate to come take over.  For me this isn’t overpowering, I appreciate the help!  Here’s how to eat it:  take some of the freshly cooked beef, slap it in the lettuce leaf, and then add some of the bean paste.  You can’t go wrong.

kalbi

Lately my go-to-dish is the black pork belly.  It’s a special they have listed on their wall and I pray this dish does not go away!  It’s another “cook your own” dish, but this time it’s on a grill that cooks it on a slope so that the excess grease can drain.  If you love fatty pork dishes, this will be your jam.  The pork belly is also served with lettuce leaves and bean paste, but I prefer to dip it in the small plate of sesame oil, salt, and pepper they provide.  This dish does not help my blood pressure for sure!

black pork belly

Extreme close up to watch it start to sizzle!

black pork belly 2

If you are an adventurous eater, there is another special dish you should try: the Korean raw beef.  As it states, it’s raw beef served with ginger, pear strips, and a raw egg.  For fans of tartare, it should be no big deal.  You need to like the taste of raw ginger.  I found that the ingredients added a little sweetness.  The serving is quite large and it’s not a dish you want to take as a leftover so I would only suggest ordering if you have a group of 4 or more.

Korean raw beef

In case you can’t tell, I definitely have enjoyed my visits to Joo Joo. :)  Eating Korean BBQ is a fun experience, and I’m definitely looking forward to trying the hot pots on an upcoming visit.  Keep an eye out on Instagram and Twitter to see how they look!

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  Great family friendly restaurant if you are looking for something different.  If you haven’t tried Korean BBQ, this is a great way to experience it in a more relaxed atmosphere.  They have private Karaoke rooms that I have not tried…I haven’t crossed that boundary of Soju and Sapporo required for me to think I can sing… yet.

Southern – Midtown St, Louis, MO – Nashville Hot Fried Chicken

Guess who’s back, back again….  It’s been far too long, but it’s finally time for a new Dive Bars 2 Five Stars review!  What’s a better way to kick things back off than by talking about the Southern’s Nashville Hot Fried Chicken.

Southern

Before we get to that, let’s talk about the restaurant.  The Southern is a fast casual southern style restaurant.  The decor reflects what you would expect: wood, metal, country, and lots of paper towels.  It’s very simple and just ensures you are focused on the food.  When you arrive, you are greeted by this Mutha Clucka:

mutha clucka

What an amazing and confusing olfactory experience as you enter!  You have the smell of fried chicken from the Southern mixed with the aroma of Mike Emerson’s famous BBQ from next door.  If you weren’t hungry already, you are now drooling on yourself wishing there was a line where you could order both.  Just like Pappy’s, you wait in a line to order.  Pro tip:  get there when they open.  Fifteen minutes after they open, the line will already be to the door.

I started my meal with none other than deviled eggs.  I have ordered them at Old Standard, Juniper, and now the Southern.  The Pimento cheese is a nice twist to the norm and gives them a great flavor, they are fantastic.  If I was going to be nit picky, I would say add some crunch to them for a change in texture.

deviled eggs

Now to the star of the show!  I ordered the 2 piece dark, hot chicken plate.  The chicken is not over breaded.  Call me a wimp, but I only ordered the medium.  The medium has plenty of heat but allows you to enjoy all the flavors without the need to prove your manliness.  The heat builds over time, so wait for it.  It also hung around for at least 30 minutes after I was done.  They have different levels to choose from so the “hot heads” can get their fix.  Don’t ignore the bread under the chicken!  It soaks up the grease and is transformed into quite a treat for those that are members of the “clean plate club”.

chicken

My two sides were the mashed potatoes and the pickled beets.  Oftentimes the sides are a let down, however, I loved the seasoning of the mashed potatoes with the pan gravy.  Even though I hated the smell of my mom pickling beets when I was a kid, I have found that I actually do like them.  These were a great rendition of that family staple.

As I have said before, fried chicken is a polarizing topic.  Many people think that the style that their mom made sets the standard and can’t be beat.  While I can understand that logic, sometimes a new and different take can break through those stereotypes.  The Southern does just that with their hot fried chicken.  Combined with a neighbor like Pappy’s, and you have the perfect 1-2 punch.

Dive 2 Five Star Scale:  3.  Family friendly place that is very active.  The line gets long quickly.  Go right when they open if you want to avoid a wait.  The line does move quickly and the food comes out very fast.  I was amused by their music selection, especially Ice Ice Baby as an attempt to sooth all the burning taste buds.

Old Standard Fried Chicken – Fried Chicken and a Funny Song

Those who know me well know that I am obsessed with unique and strange music, as well as food.  Whenever I am going to eat or cook fried chicken, there is one song that gets stuck in my head every time:  Fried Chicken by MU330.  Now that I have that stuck in your head, you are in the right frame of mind to read about my experiences at Old Standard.

Old Standard

Old Standard is a tiny spot close to Ben Poremba’s other establishments Elaia and Olio.  It’s a very inviting space that serves some of my favorite comfort foods.  

Bar

Although this restaurant really focuses in on fried chicken, they have put together a great support cast of starts, breads / biscuits, and side dishes. 

I love the deviled eggs.  These have to be the fanciest deviled eggs I have ever eaten.  

deviled eggs

The toppings and combinations are really what made this dish memorable.  I especially loved the thinly sliced celery, it was a great combination of flavors and textures.  

They also have you covered when it comes to bread and biscuits.  The best thing about ordering bread and biscuits here is that you get to try them all.

bread

I could have eaten my beer coaster if I put enough of the lemon honey butter on it.  It was by far my favorite.

Now for the moment you have all been waiting for, the fried chicken.

fried chicken 2

I have been there a few times and each time I ordered a half chicken. The crispy skin is great and the chicken isn’t dry, so all in all, it’s a very solid offering of fried chicken.  However, I definitely wouldn’t say it’s the best in St. Louis. Despite that, it may be my favorite one to visit because of the great sides, drinks, and atmosphere.

Old Standard is another new and exciting restaurant proving that the St. Louis food scene has no signs of slowing down.  It’s a place I have tried several times and will continue to enjoy.  The best fried chicken in St. Louis could be a great topic of debate; I just hope that I can be on the blind panel that gets to choose the winner!

Dive to Five Scale:  3.  Who doesn’t like fried chicken?  Old standard has everything you need to satisfy your fried chicken craving. There are unique sodas for the kids as well as great boozy cocktails and local beers for the adults.  One tip is to use the No Wait app to save your spot in line!

Here is a random pick of PBR from one of my visits because that’s how I roll:

PBR

As a bonus, check this great offer to get pre-sale tickets to RFT’s Iron Fork event!

Old Standard Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

The Tattooed Dog – Wentzville, MO – It’s Burger Time!

“The journey of a thousand pounds begins with a single burger.”
Chris O’Brien 

If the above statement is true, I’m in serious trouble.  How many posts on burgers can one blog have?  For me, the answer is now 13 and counting.  The most recent shares my experience from the Tattooed Dog in Wentzville, MO.

The Tattooed Dog advertises itself as “upscale dive grub”.  The burger selection is impressive; and the reason for my visit.  However, they feature some pretty interesting sandwiches as well.  Can I interest you in some fried chicken sandwiched between two apple pancakes?

menu

For my lunch, I chose the Benedicto for the simple reason that it has a fried egg on top!

Burger

It was a solid burger.  I liked the greens to help me feel OK for not eating healthy.  The pretzel bun was also a great touch.  There are two things that would have made this burger even better.  One, if you ask if I want “pink or no pink”, I expect it to be pink as requested.  Luckily, it was not overdone so much that it was dry.  Two, I should have requested my fried egg over easy.  That’s my personal preference and I didn’t think to ask.

The Tattooed Dog delivered a solid burger and it’s a nice change to the fledgling restaurant scene in Wentzville.  I like the uniqueness of the menu and I’m sure I will try other burgers in the future.

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  When I saw “upscale dive pub”, I was expecting a dark location with a large bar.  I was surprised at all the windows that lit up the place during lunch.  It’s also surprisingly kid friendly and did not feel like a bar atmosphere at all.  The only really “divey” part was the bathroom.  The walls were painted an awkward brown color…

The Tattooed Dog on Urbanspoon

Death in the Afternoon – St. Louis, MO – Power Lunch

“So far, about morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.” – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

I’m a long time member of Blood and Sand and one of my greatest struggles is the distance between my home, my work, and that restaurant.  That same issue kept me from trying Death in the Afternoon, until I scheduled a PTO day for indulgence.

View of Death in the Afternoon from City Garden

View of Death in the Afternoon from City Garden

Death in the Afternoon is located in one of my favorite treasures of St. Louis, City Garden.  I was ecstatic when the owners of Blood and Sand took took over that location.  They are a lunch and brunch spot that takes full advantage of their view.  Their menu is ever changing but there are items for most palates.  I enjoy the nod given to some of my favorite Asian fare like the steamed buns and ramen.

Death in the Afternoon is located in one of my favorite treasures of St. Louis, City Garden.  I was ecstatic when the owners of Blood and Sand took over that location.  They are a lunch and brunch spot that takes full advantage of their view.  Their menu is ever changing but there are items to satisfy palates.  I appreciate the twist on some of my favorite Asian fair, such as steamed buns and ramen.

First up was the hummus.  With the addition of the roasted vegetables, this was definitely not your plain Jane hummus. Where was this idea of using zucchini on top while my family’s garden was exploding with extra produce???  As far as hummus goes, this version is a very solid offering.

hummus

Next up is one of my guilty pleasures:  Japanese steamed buns.  Remember my gushing over the pork belly buns that I devoured at Booker and Dax in NY?  Although these do not replace those in my heart, they have a lot to offer.  I went with two each of the pork belly and mushroom steamed buns.  They are served with a side of pickles and daikon carrot slaw.  I loved experimenting with the different flavor and texture combinations.  While I would order these again, they are on the pricey side at $5.50 a bun.

steamed buns

My last dish was the Cubano sandwich.  Who doesn’t like a sandwich that has multiple types of pork!?  Personally, I know that I have been craving one since I recently (finally) saw the movie Chef.  I know this isn’t a movie blog, but it’s a great watch if you love food.  Anyway, this sandwich didn’t disappoint.  The bread was crunchy, and you still have the prerequisite yellow mustard and pickles.

cubano

Death in the Afternoon is a great lunch spot with a view.  If you are lucky enough to work in the area, it’s a must.  I can’t wait to try the brunch and their Bloody Mary.  I would love to see what they could do with a banh mi as well.  Hint hint.

DITA 2

Dive 2 Five Scale:  4.  I think all the power suits and business lunches made me go with a 4 on this.  It has a trendy vibe in a great location.  It’s a little more than your typical lunch but as they say, you get what you pay for.

Death in the Afternoon on Urbanspoon

Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill – St. Louis, MO – We’ve Got the Urge…Do You Have It?

I’ll admit I was a little nervous about visiting Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill.  Music by Steve Ewing and the Urge whisk me back to my youth.  I have seen the Urge perform countless times on many different stages and have fond memories (for those I can still remember).  My nervousness stemmed from having my bubble burst about a St. Louis icon.  Steve Ewing has always been a kind person that takes his time out to talk to anyone.  I always appreciated seeing how much he enjoyed performing no matter the crowd size.  Enough about this bromance I have for Steve Ewing; let’s talk about some hot dogs.

Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill is a small shop with limited seating.  Steve’s features Nathan’s hot dogs, and clearly the focus is on hot dogs with a variety of different topping combinations.  But what exactly makes a good hot dog?  For me, it’s all about having that “snap” when you bite into the dog.

During my first visit I tried two different dogs, the Gorilla Mac & Cheese Dog and Steve’s Famous Chili-Cheese Dog.

mac n cheese

The mac n cheese was creamy, and for me the combination of cheese and hotdogs is a match made in heaven. I love to make queso and I almost always have hot dogs the next day so I can put that leftover queso to good use.  This was the top dog of the visit for sure.  Did I forget to mention they used bacon as a topping?  Who doesn’t love bacon???

chili dog 2

Next up was Steve’s Famous Chili-Cheese dog.  The song remains the same for the hot dog and the bun.  Although this was not my favorite of the evening, it was still a great dog.  You can haveraw or sautéed onions.  I went sautéed, as raw tends to overpower the taste. I was very happy thatthe bun could stand up to the chili without turning into a mushy mess.

Steve’s Hot Dogs on the Hill has been very successful.  So much so, that they have now opened asecond location in Tower Grove.  After my first visit, I can understand why.  Anyone have a recommendation on what dog tops the Gorilla Mac &  Cheese?

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  Clearly,  this is a kid friendly place.  That staff is always hustling but will take the time to help you with your selections.  There is street parking and limited drink selections, but the hot dog selections more than make up for it.

Steve's Hot Dogs on the Hill on Urbanspoon

Steve's Hot Dogs Tower Grove on Urbanspoon

Plank Road Pizza – Cottleville, MO – Rollin’ in the Dough

“Pizza makes me think that anything is possible” – Henry Rollins.

With all this talk of superfoods in terms of their health benefits, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the other benefits of “superfoods”, like pizza.  I’m sure the Tony Horton’s of the world cringe at a statement like that, but let’s face it, we need to indulge in things every once in a while.  Like that one time in Topeka, Kansas where I ate 19 slices of pizza at a buffet…no wait a minute, that was just GROSS.  Clearly I indulge in high calorie foods more than I should, but foods like pizza are good for the soul.

Anyway, enough about me and my thoughts on how pizza improves life and the universe.  This review is about an extremely smart choice I made recently to have lunch at Plank Road Pizza.  Plank Road Pizza recently opened in Cottleville and hasn’t broken onto the scene quite yet, but their time is coming.  All the key parts are there:

  • Cottleville is adding new restaurants quickly and is making this area in St. Charles relevant in the food scene
  • They are focused on being local and are damn proud of it
  • Last, but not least, they make a killer pizza.

Using my typical MO, I went for the namesake “Plank Road Pizza” for my inaugural visit.  It’s a chicken bacon club pizza that includes everything you would expect from a chicken bacon club sandwich, but piled on a pizza.

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Maybe better yet, a view from my mouth:

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So what makes a pizza “killer”?  In my opinion it comes down to how the toppings are paired and having the perfect dough.  What I noticed first about this pizza was the dough.  It was crispy on the bottom but had some tooth to it, just the right amount of chew.  This dough and its’ preparation is key for Plank Road Pizza’s success.  The toppings were paired together nicely and I appreciated the presentation.  However, I did spread them out once it arrived to get the proper coverage.  If I had to pick a negative, a few pieces of the chicken were a little dry. I’ll admit though I had to be nit-picky just to find anything negative to say.

So there you have it, you have been warned.  Plank Road Pizza has all the items in place to be a force in Cottleville.  I would suggest you give it a try while it is still new and somewhat of a hidden gem.  I don’t expect that to last long.

Seriously, stop reading and go there now!

Not so subtle subliminal messaging.

Not so subtle subliminal messaging.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  Plank Road Pizza makes great use of one of the oldest buildings in Cottleville.  I love the use of reclaimed wood throughout the building.  I really want to come back and hang out on the patio with one of the local beers they serve.

Plank Road Pizza on Urbanspoon

Gordon’s Stoplight Drive-In – Crystal City, MO – Quadzilla, King of the Burgers!

The word is out about this place and it’s one of my favorite stops heading south on I-55.  Of course I’m talking about the one and only, Gordon’s Stoplight Drive-In in Festus!  Yes, I’m on a burger binge – this is my third burger related review in a row!

For those that love Carl’s Drive In, these burgers are pretty similar.  They are small balls of ground beef that are smashed onto the grill.  They are very thin patties so you will need multiple to make a reasonable size burger.  The double seems to be the standard, but I always like to take things up a notch. For that reason, I went for the…Quadzilla!

Quadzilla with fries

Quadzilla with fries

As you might expect, the Quadzilla is a meal that has a burger with four patties.  It also comes with fries and a drink for $8.88.  Not a bad price and it does fill you up.  You have options for all the standard ingredients for burgers, but they also offer mayo.  I have had it with and without, and actually prefer it with mayo.  Insert Canadian joke here…

Quadzilla with onion rings

Quadzilla with onion rings

These burgers come out piping hot.  You must resist the urge to take a bite immediately.  I have tried both the onion rings (for an upcharge) and the fries, but I would suggest sticking to the fries.  I think the fries need more salt, but that is obviously something you can correct.

This is my go to “fast food” restaurant when heading down I-55 to see family.  It’s not a huge detour off of I-55 and it’s worth the extra few minutes.  The people are friendly and the food remains unchanged for years.  My only regret is that I still have never tried one of their shakes.  Be on the lookout for an update on Twitter or Facebook because I will complete that task soon!

There isn't a lot of info online about this place.  Here is the lunch / dinner menu.

There isn’t a lot of info online about this place. Here is the lunch / dinner menu.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  This is a family friendly restaurant.  There are only bar stools for seating, or you can place a carry out order at the window.  It is cash only but there is an ATM in the corner in case you forget.

Stop Light Drive In on Urbanspoon

Home Wine Kitchen – Maplewood, MO – Burger Night!

I have been receiving emails showing Home Wine Kitchen’s weekly menus ever since my first trip to Table.  While there have been many that have intrigued me, I never found myself taking that extra step and trying the place out.  In one of the more recent emails, something caught my eye: Burger Night.    For $15 you get a burger, one side, and local craft beer.  Sign…me..up!

Let me first give you some details about Burger Night.  It runs every Sunday from 3 – 9 P.M.  During that time you can get the burger special with either their famous house burger or the ever changing market burger.  Each burger has a specific side that it comes with and they select one beer for the night.  Sounds pretty simple right?

Instead of making the potentially tough decision, I gave both burgers a try.  First up, the award winning house burger. The house burger was topped with bacon, cheese, garlic aioli and an egg.

house burger

All burgers are prepared medium rare unless you specify differently.   The burger was very soft and juicy.  There was no chance this was over cooked.  The egg was just the way I like it, very runny.  I’m in love with this burger.  For this reason alone, I already know I will make a return trip.  I did feel bad for the house made chips.  Even though they were a great side, nothing stands a chance on a plate next to this burger.  

The market special was the Texas burger.  It was topped with BBQ sauce, onion rings, and blue cheese.

Texas Burger

This one was also cooked as expected. I had tried the house burger first so this one was not as exciting for me.  It was heavy on the blue cheese so most of the other flavors were lost.  I did enjoy the polenta fries and want to try to make my own at home.

My first visit to Home Wine Kitchen’s Burger Night was a great success.  This will not be the last time I will have their house burger.  This burger would be in my top 5 for St. Louis.  What would be in your top 5 list?

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  I hit burger night early and it was easy to get in. The burgers take 15 minutes to prepare, but it’s worth every second.  I was impressed with the service as the server was very attentive.  He also asked about my thoughts on both burgers.

One thing to note, I bet I have walked past Home Wine Kitchen several times.   It’s in a great location on Manchester in Maplewood, but the exterior isn’t overly flashy.  You have to pay attention or you may miss it.  The inside is rustic with a lot of wood.  It’s warm and inviting.  

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Home Wine Kitchen on Urbanspoon