You best not look down your nose at a snoot sandwich.
The rise of nose-to-tail butchery — a philosophy that emphasizes using every part of a whole animal — has led fine dining chefs to champion the oddball parts that typically have been discarded as scrap.
The pig snoot sandwich has gained a following at the Tenderloin Grill, 900 Southwest Blvd. (where eating a snoot sandwich has been a rite of passage for Kansas City police rookies since 1975). For the uninitiated, the Tenderloin Grill originally sold the sandwiches out of a wagon starting in 1932.
Today the snoot tradition continues under the Herrera family. The modest but comfortable dining room is where barbecue expert Ardie Davis and his barbecue lunch buddies gather on a Wednesday afternoon at least three times a year for snoot.
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Now, I have eaten many things that make most squeamish eaters take a pass. Like roasted woodchuck with Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods.” And just days before sampling my own snoot sandwich, I ate a sublime beef tongue prepared with a traditional gribiche (a cooked instead of raw egg mayo), spicy greens and beets at the Antler Room.
But truth be told, I’ve been staring down that pig’s snoot for a while now. I plucked up the courage only thanks to peer pressure. My lunch buddies — Davis and Bill Chaney, whom I profiled last year in our barbecue series — both “get a craving” for it now and again.
To ease into the first bite, Davis doled out some liquid courage: a bottle of Pig’s Nose Blended Scotch Whisky from Scotland bearing this inscription: “Tis said that our scotch is as soft and as smooth as pig’s nose.”
Following an ample shot chased by a beer, I faced my nemesis. There was absolutely no mistaking what I was about to sink my teeth into: A proboscis — one nostril injected with mustard and the other hot sauce — served on a bun with a slice of tomato and onion.
“It leaves nothing to the imagination,” Davis says before gently coaching me to wrap the sandwich in paper “to hold it all together.”
I told myself not to look. Go ahead, just bite and chew. As the slight sting of hot sauce and horseradish sedated my tongue, I took another bite.
The texture was a bit rubbery but not totally unfamiliar. I have eaten feijoada, a pork and black bean Brazilian stew that traditionally got its flavor from ear, snoot and feet. The argument for my husband, a native of Brazil, and his brothers is whether the dish remains authentic if cooks add leaner cuts.
Snoot is a delicacy for some, perhaps an acquired taste (or texture) for others. Chaney, a master pit builder who built brick pit ovens for the Fiorella Jackstack restaurants, eats the occasional snoot sandwich with founder Jack Fiorella.
Chaney recalls that Swift & Co. used to give the snoots away. Lee’s Barbecue in Kansas City, Kan., used to sell snoot sandwiches. And then there was Agnew’s on Troost. A hunter, Chaney also sings the praises of fried squirrel, cottontail rabbit and barbecue coon.
“Henry Perry used to sell that,” Davis says of the raccoon, referring to ads placed by the man considered the founder of Kansas City barbecue.
Davis has also tried gator, beaver and Rocky Mountain oysters. During a stint as a waiter at the defunct Baby Doe’s, he even sold plenty of the deep-fried “oysters” because diners considered them an aphrodisiac.
“Nobody asked what they were,” he says, referring to the bull, pig or sheep testicles.
Tenderloin Grill managers Javier Arroyo and Christopher Garcia say on average they serve 10 to 20 snoots a week.
I can now add snoot to my list of strange-but-true eating experiences, but I have to admit I’m not sure I’ll become a regular anytime soon. My reticence to repeat snoot is the texture, which is rather spongy.
But Davis thinks snoot will eventually grow on me, and I will grant that are other more pedestrian foods that took their time to grow on me, like beer or green olives.
A text message from him later that afternoon read: “Heads up: when your tummy craves more snoot you’ll snort.”
Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning editor. She is a restaurant critic and the Chow Town blog curator. Reach her on Twitter @kcstar.com or @chowtownkc or on Instagram @chowtownkc.