Cook John Dodd of Christine’s Firehouse Bar and Grill (220 E. 20th Avenue, North Kansas City) slaps a three-inch thick slice of pork loin on the cutting board. He pounds the loin with an aluminum meat mallet as if he were the mighty Norse thunder god Thor wielding the mythic hammer Mjölnir. Within two minutes, Dodd has flattened and tenderized the pork into the makings of an epic tenderloin sandwich.
Christine’s Firehouse, named after new owner Christine Seymour, has developed a growing reputation for this sandwich, a mainstay on the menu ($7.95) and weekly Wednesday special ($6.95), primarily due to its size. If this sandwich were a developing storm system, meteorologists would break out the hyperbole and declare this pork tenderloin as “massive,” “monstrous” or a “pork-pocalypse.”
The sandwich lives up to the hype. It’s that huge.
“The previous owner served them smaller. He didn’t like customers taking home leftovers,” says Seymour, who bought the restaurant a year ago.
She worked at the bar and grill for the two previous owners. Under her direction, Seymour has made slight but important changes. Namely, she asked the cooks to cut the pork loin into thicker slices so it would be larger after being tenderized.
She insists, “I want the sandwiches to be bigger.”
The Firehouse sells at least 15 pork tenderloins daily and 25 or more each Wednesday. Each order is made from scratch. Dodd or Samantha Ryan, the other cook, flattens the cut of pork loin, coats it in seasoned flour, dips the meat in an egg wash and once again coats it in flour. The loin is deep-fried for approximately four minutes.
On a recent visit, Seymour brings a plate bearing the sandwich. A choice of steak fries, curly fries, beer-battered fries or tater tots are served on the side with lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayonnaise and horseradish sauce. These items are supporting actors. The bun is a sidekick. Clearly, the fried tenderloin is the star of the show. It covers 90 percent of the plate compared to the bun.
“Customers can buy an extra bun for an additional 50 cents,” says Seymour.
More often than not, they do. Additional lettuce, tomato and pickle come with a second bun for a buck. Regular customers almost always automatically receive a to-go box when ordering the pork tenderloin. It’s the moral to a story that no one has to spell out. Most people will take home enough leftovers for a complete second sandwich.
The outer crust of the pork tenderloin is crisp and well-seasoned. Each bite yields tender, juicy meat full of flavor. A fine dining restaurant would sell a similarly-sized cut of pork tenderloin, prepared in a different manner, for at least double the price.
It doesn’t take the fuzzy science of meteorology or the wisdom of a god to figure out the inherent value of the pork tenderloin sandwich at Christine’s Firehouse. With Seymour calling the shots as owner, customers can order the tenderloin and know they are in for an epic experience.