He's got a nose for that
ALL IN THE LINE OF DUTY KC police rookies eat snoot as rite of passage
Eating pig snoot is a rite of initiation for KCMO police rookies.
By ARDIE A. DAVIS
Special to The Star
“It’s one of those classic old-time rites of passage.”CAPT. RICH LOCKHART
On his first night at Central Patrol as a bona-fide police officer, Brock Farris faced down a pig snoot sandwich. At first glimpse, Farris walked away with an “Oh no!” look on his face.
He was broke, so he asked other officers to lend him coins for a can of soda. No one forked up.
Later an officer showed up with a can of cold lemon-lime soda but kept it until Farris ate the whole sandwich — in front of a dozen peers.
Eating a snoot sandwich is a rite of passage for Kansas City police rookies, and they didn’t want Farris to shirk his duty and wash it down with the soda.
Farris started at the back of the sandwich, saving the nostril for last. Sixteen minutes later, after grimaces, “This is gross!” exclamations and a lot of encouragement, the entire sandwich was gone.
Courage trumped fear and repugnance. Officer Farris had earned the applause and cheers that followed.
Pig snoot sandwiches from the Tenderloin Grill, owned and operated by Ricardo Herrera, have been a KCMO police tradition since 1975.
“It’s one of those classic old-time rites of passage,” says Capt. Rich Lockhart, who ate his snoot sandwich at Johnny Agno’s, which was at 12th and Forest but is no longer in business.
Clarence Gibson, an investigator with the KCMO Police Department since 1967 and the go-to person for department history, remembers his. “Yes, I had my pig snoot, and I didn’t go back for seconds,” he says.
Pig snoots and police also share a brief history on the Kansas side of the metro area. In the early 1980s former Kansas City, Kan., police Detective Lee “Boss Hog” Orr operated Lee’s Hog House on North Seventh Street with his wife, Maxine.
Besides tenderloins, burgers and hot dogs, they sold “Rooters,” pig snoot sandwiches, and “Listeners,” pig ear sandwiches, for $1.50 and $1.40, respectively. But Kansas City, Kan., officers do not have a pig snoot sandwich rite of passage.
Nor is there a snoot-eating rite of passage in St. Louis, home of Smoki O’s and other pig snoot purveyors. The crispy pig snoots at Smoki O’s are barrel-smoked, chopped and sauced, and Otis Walker, proprietor, says police detectives, U.S. marshals, firefighters and CIA officers often stop by for a pig snoot/rib tip combo.
For the bold diner and the intrepid chef, pig snoots and other organ meats have always been on the menu. More recently, New York celebrity chef Mario Batali has been serving veal cheeks, although usually they’re tucked into ravioli, so few diners actually recognize them.
Closer to home, the late Jimmy Naben, founder of Kansas City’s Tenderloin Grill, used to get free snoots from the Swift meatpacking plant.
He started his business in 1932. Naben sold snoots, brains, tenderloins and hamburgers from a cart on Southwest Boulevard, across the street from today’s Tenderloin Grill.
When Ricardo Herrera was a kid, he bought tenderloin sandwiches from Naben. When Herrera bought the Tenderloin Grill from Naben’s grandson, he asked, “Do I have to serve brains?” The reply was, “No, but keep the snoots.”
Herrera kept them, but he lets them sell themselves: Cook snoots, and they will come.
They come from all over Kansas City and across the United States. “Don’t tell her that I stop here first!” says a customer from California who had just hit town for his annual mother-in-law visit. A snoot sandwich always comes first.
Seven minutes later he tells Herrera, “I’ll see you next year.” He waves goodbye with a satisfied smile.
Ben Porras, a security consultant with Jade Alarm, orders his pig snoot sandwich “with everything.”
“I’ve been eating snoot sandwiches here since I was 13,” Porras says before he chomps into his sandwich.
Jeff Graves comes to the Tenderloin Grill for a snoot lunch once a week. He started eating snoot sandwiches when he was 8 and liked them at first bite.
“I don’t like the ears,” he says. “Ricardo doesn’t serve the ears.”
Aficionados know, after all, that pig ears are gristly and crunchy.
Kansas City has many famous foods: barbecue, chili, hamburgers, catfish, fried chicken and steaks. We also have some great pig snoot sandwiches.
Pig snoots are revered by many, snubbed by others. Several local food experts and members of the Southern Foodways Alliance contacted won’t go near snoot, and most barbecue pitmasters also said they would never eat snoot.
Pig snoots are cooked a variety of ways — boiled, fried, grilled, roasted and barbecued, or a combination of methods. Ricardo Herrera of the Tenderloin Grill on Southwest Boulevard pressure cooks his snoots but is careful not to overdo the meat. “Do it too long, and they turn to Jell-O.”
Herrera’s snoots are sandwiched in a hamburger bun, garnished with horseradish, mustard, a special made-from-scratch hot sauce, slices of fresh tomato and onions. Just don’t ask for mayonnaise.
“This is a Mexican place,” Herrera says. “We don’t serve mayonnaise!”
Eau de barnyard came to mind with my first bite of snoot. I knew where that snoot had been rooting. It was better past the nostril. I have yet to get past the whiskers, however.
Officer Brock Farris says his sandwich tasted like fat and bacon.
Other Tenderloin Grill customers agree, and many regard Herrera’s horseradish, mustard, hot sauce, onions and tomato garnish as a perfect complement to snoot.
Two famous Kansas City barbecue pitmasters are pig snoot sandwich aficionados.
Chef Paul Kirk, KC Baron of Barbecue, has been eating snoot sandwiches since childhood. Another famous KC pitmaster, Jack Fiorella of Jack Stack Barbecue, comes to the Tenderloin Grill now and then for a snoot sandwich.
Adventurous cooks who want to master snoot cookery can learn from an expert. Chef Paul Kirk will teach snoot cookery in his Grilling 101 class, a charity benefit sponsored by the Great American Barbecue, on April 28 at Community America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan. Sampling is encouraged. For details, go to thinkbbq.com, or call Tracy Satterfield, (913) 422-9599.
If Kansas City is pig snoot heaven, St. Louis may be the pig snoot capital. A 60-pound box of snoots is more than a month’s supply at the Tenderloin Grill on Southwest Boulevard. But Smoki O’s in St. Louis sells at least 400 pounds of pig snoot/rib tip combos a month, and other barbecue houses in the city also sell the popular snoot/rib tip combo.
Ardie A. Davis is a freelance writer, a barbecue expert and the author of The Great BBQ Sauce Book (10 Speed Press). He lives in Roeland Park. Ardie A. Davis, Special to The Star