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Getting “Snooty” about Barbecue

If you make your way to St. Louis, Missouri, any time soon, ask a local to show you one of their barbecue specialties: snoots. In both editions of the classic guidebook Real Barbecue (1988 and 2007), authors Greg Johnson and Vince Staten put it this way: “First we’d better deal with ‘snoots.’ Snoots are part of the soul-food barbecue scene in St. Louis that will stare at you at the C & K, as well as any number of other places in town and across the river in East St. Louis. Snoots are deep-fried pig noses.” At Smoki O’s, another St. Louis barbecue joint, they smoke their snoots for a couple of hours instead of frying them. Whether boiled, fried, or smoked, snoots get doused with barbecue sauce and are meant to be eaten right away.

Scarf it down before it sniffs you out. Photo by Ardie Davis.

Though snoots are strongly associated with St. Louis, they figure into the barbecue history of other U.S. cities. In the late 1920s, black street vendors hawked snoot sandwiches in Atlanta. By the 1930s, snoots were also sold in Harlem and were a nightlife staple on Memphis’s Beale Street. On the other side of Missouri from St. Louis, snoots aficionados like Ardie A. Davis (a.k.a. Remus Powers, Ph.B, Doctor of Barbecue) occasionally gather at the Tenderloin Grill in Kansas City for what they call “Snoot Wednesdays.” There, a snoot sandwich all the way is topped with mustard, hot sauce, horseradish, onion, and tomato. If you show up and happen to bring along a bottle of Pig’s Nose Scotch to pair with your snoots, don’t expect a lot of nosy questions. They’ll just ask you to pull up a chair.

Cooks prepare snoot sandwiches at Kansas City’s Tenderloin Grill.

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