Eat & Drink

Dish With Gish: Pigging out on Kansas City’s pork tenderloins

The “Killer Tenderloin” at Paul & Jack’s Tavern features an 8-ounce hand-breaded pork cutlet. The sandwich comes with full-strength horseradish on the side.
The “Killer Tenderloin” at Paul & Jack’s Tavern features an 8-ounce hand-breaded pork cutlet. The sandwich comes with full-strength horseradish on the side. The Kansas City Star

Kansas City may be known for beef brisket and burnt ends, but many cafes here are proudest of their breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches.

One of the oldest is the Tenderloin Grill, 900 Southwest Blvd., which has been serving its namesake sandwich for 83 years. “We use the same recipe the original owners used in 1932,” says Ashlee Ruhl, who runs the restaurant.

The $4.69 sandwich starts with pork that’s boned, trimmed and breaded in-house. After a dunk in the deep fryer, the juicy tenderloin is wedged into a hamburger bun with yellow mustard, horseradish, onion, tomato and a generous pour of housemade hot sauce, which is available to go in 8-ounce bottles for $3.50.

The Tenderloin Grill, which sells about 100 pork tenderloin sandwiches a day, recently trotted out a new sandwich called Tenderger — a tenderloin with a burger on top for $8.39.

Kitty’s Cafe is known for tempura-battered pork tenderloins. The cash-only cafe at 810 1/2 E. 31st St. makes its version by stacking three thin, crispy slices of battered pork on a bun with lettuce, onion, tomato and housemade hot sauce that adds a nice bite. With its tall construction and slick layer of red sauce, the $5.50 sandwich can be messy to eat — grab extra napkins.

At Christy’s Tasty Queen, a drive-in at 1405 S. 55th St. in Kansas City, Kan., the butter-toasted buns barely contain the plate-sized breaded pork tenderloins ($6.85), which curl up at the edges and cup a saladlike layer of mayo-dressed shredded lettuce and onion. Owner Marla Christy says she also serves a grilled pork tenderloin that’s not breaded or fried.

Dagwood’s Cafe, 1117 Southwest Blvd. in Kansas City, Kan., serves flat, thin and crispy tenderloins that jut from the bun on all sides. The $5.99 sandwich comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and mayo. Horseradish is served on request.

Paul & Jack’s Tavern, a sports bar at 1808 Clay St. in North Kansas City, serves its “Killer Tenderloin” with a cup of sinus-clearing horseradish on the side. The massive $8.99 sandwich features a fresh 8-ounce pork cutlet that’s handbreaded and fried, then served on a large bun with fries and toppings, including red onion, tomato and crinkle-cut pickles.

One breaded pork tenderloin is not enough at the Mixing Bowl Noshery, 520 Southwest Blvd., which serves three versions of the sandwich. The Crossroads District Tenderloin Sandwich ($9.50) is made by dipping a fresh pork cutlet in egg yolk batter and a flour mixture, then deep-frying it until the inside is juicy and the outside is golden and crunchy. The sandwich comes with one side — fries, onion rings, potato salad, coleslaw and creamy mac and cheese made with Velveeta are among the options.

The Mixing Bowl also serves a 4-ounce “petite” tenderloin ($7.99) designed for smaller appetites and a Three Little Pigs sandwich ($9.99) that tops a pork tenderloin with sliced ham and bacon.

For tenderloins served with a side of atmosphere, follow the crimson Coca-Cola sign to Paul’s Drive-In, 1008 Osage Ave. in Kansas City, Kan. Like Christy’s Tasty Queen, Paul’s is a blast from the past where you order inside at a counter, then dine outside or in your car. While you’re waiting for your order, you can play arcade games such as Bass Fishing Challenge or a racing game called Cruis’n Exotica.

Paul’s pork tenderloin costs $6.05 and comes in a basket of golden fries and onion rings. Manager Jim Harris says the pork loin on the sandwich is tenderized and smashed with a meat mallet before it’s coated in a batter with a funnel cake-like taste and texture. Harris says customers are always asking for the batter’s recipe.

“It’s just sugar, salt, flour, milk, baking powder and eggs,” he tells them. The proportions are a secret.

At Pigwich, the yolk-yellow, permanently parked sandwich truck behind The Local Pig, 2618 Guinotte Ave., you can dine al fresco — even on a rainy spring day — on the covered patio’s wooden picnic tables.

Pigwich serves its popular pork tenderloin only on Thursdays. The sandwich costs $7, or $8 with chips and a drink, and isn’t made with the traditional pork loin.

Manager Sam Mynderse says Pigwich uses a cut from the Boston butt, or shoulder, because “it has more fat and flavor.”

The pork is seasoned with bread crumbs made with French baguettes, thyme and rosemary before it’s fried and wedged into a Farm to Market pretzel roll with arugula, homemade dill pickles and made-from-scratch ranch dressing.

Mynderse says Pigwich’s Thursday tenderloin special is tied with Tuesday’s brisket special for most popular of the week: “We usually sell out by noon.”

Sarah Gish writes about dining in Kansas City twice monthly for Chow Town. To reach her, call 816-234-4823 or send email to sgish@kcstar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @sarah_gish.

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