Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pork Tenderloins, Ross' Grill, and Kitty's Cafe

My introduction to pork tenderloin sandwiches came at the long-gone Ross' Grill - a crowded little restaurant on the Baltimore side of the Muehlebach Hotel. They served platter-sized pork tenderloins there fried golden with a crisp grainy breading. The fried meat would overhang the sides of a typical hamburger bun by 2 or 3 inches on all sides, and was served with a paper cup of mayo flavored with a touch of horseradish.

I have no idea if Ross's served any sides; the sandwich itself was more than any reasonable person should have eaten. Anything more might have killed me. I don't know whether they had any other sandwiches on the menu, either; that would be like ordering something other than fried chicken at Stroud's, or not having chili at Dixon's. People probably did it, but I didn't.

The Ross' tenderloin has served as the Platonic form for tenderloins in my life. Greasy, huge, thick with breading, and not particularly spicy - a fried tenderloin in the Ross' tradition is an occasional craving, a masochistic challenge, or a masculine assertion that doctors aren't the boss of me. You can find similar (though inferior) versions in truck stops and greasy spoons throughout the Midwest.

But Kitty's Cafe, on East 31st Street, offers something different.

Rather than one massive tenderloin, Kitty's serves three smaller pieces, stacked on a bun. Rather than thick breading, Kitty's tenderloins are covered with a light batter reminiscent of tempura, and crispy as a potato chip. Rather than bland, Kitty's tenderloin sandwiches are bursting with chili sauce and raw onion (and we're not talking Vidalias here - Kitty's serves strong white onions in a coarse chop that make you and your office mates remember what onions were before they went acoustic).

While I didn't indulge yesterday, this is a sandwich with proportions that allow you to look at the side dishes. At Kitty's you have your choice of very good french fries or classical fried tater tots. Both come in generous portions, so splitting an order is the way to go. And, speaking of "to go", you should plan on eating your food elsewhere - a few stools offer waiting space for customers, not space for eating.

(Note/Confession: The photo is brazenly stolen from "The Making of a Foodie", who mentioned Kitty's in a nice write-up on “Sandwiches you need to get your hands on!” for Tastebud Magazine.)

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Blogger les said...

Ah, Ross' tenderloin; iconic indeed. I had 'em before and after their move to Baltimore--from Grand, if (failing) memory serves. The ambient grease buildup rivaled Bryants, and may have forced the move. Sides? No need, indeed. No room on the plate, in any event. You've started up the tenderloin yearning--I'll have to try Kitty's.

5/27/2009 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reincarnation of Ross' tenderloins can be found at Christy's Tasty Queen, 1405 S. 55th, KCKs. Hard to find, a place that is modest in its appearance, but the tenderloin will kill you. Especially if you are foolish enough to order it in a basket with fries and rings. They might as well have a defibrillator on site.

5/27/2009 12:08 PM  
Anonymous Nuke said...

Never heard of Ross' but I kinda like the sammich at Kitty's.

A guy I used to work with went to High School with the owner (who I believe survived a heart attack a couple years back) so we went a little out of our way to grab a tenderloin there every so often. It makes a nice break from the standard humongo-sammich.

5/28/2009 9:48 AM  
Blogger New Hoboken said...

No! it is the breakfast sandwich at Kitty's that is most extraordinary. Whether with sausage or bacon, it is marvelous, fresh and perfect, with a leaf of lettuce and chopped tomato. Not quite perfect, maybe, as I wish it were on health nut bread rather than white, but otherwise mmmmmmmm.

6/08/2009 4:17 PM  
Anonymous ML Britton said...

They did offer more than just a sandwich - Ross' menu when I ate there 79-80, offered the entire range of food from pork tenderloin sandwich to the pork tenderloin dinner (mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables with a slice of white on the side. The veggies were the standard mix of peas, corns and carrots in the freezer section. I only ordered the sandwich twice 'cause at the time I needed the veggies. I've yet to find a better pork tenderloin.

12/17/2010 10:38 AM  

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