Sunday, November 1, 2015

Uptown Cafe in Jefferson Iowa

It feels like I've been driving back and forth to Jefferson and back forever. I remember eating a tenderloin at a place by the railroad tracks a long time ago, but its closed up now. My next spot is the Uptown Cafe between the state highway and the courthouse. This is actually the second Uptown Cafe since I started this blog, after another in Western Iowa.

Location: 108 W State St in Jefferson, Greene County in Central Iowa.

Directions: The Uptown Cafe is on State St between the courthouse and Highway 4 running north and south through town.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This was a big sandwich that was served on a big bun on a big plate. The breading had some crunch but not much of any seasoning. The pork loin was bright white on the inside and steamy moist inside. Served with all the fixins on a toasted ciabatta bun that I just do not understand. Overall 7.8 out of ten.

Price: $7.50 with a side.

Also on the menu: they serve full breakfasts, sandwiches with confusing names that reference things in the town of Jefferson, and a list of pies is written on the pie board.

Service: the service was slow when I came in but the waitress apologized for the delay without being asked about it.

Ambiance: this place was slightly renovated in the past couple years with some antiques on the wall and exposed wood. There are booths and tables and a separate dining room for seating.

Final Thoughts: I had visited this place more than once before without my camera and not much has changed over the years. There is still a pie board, the clientele is still local folks. I might have to step into Ferg's Restaurant in Grand Junction on my next trip through Greene County.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Olson's Bread & Breakfast in Norwalk, Iowa

I had seen Olson's Bread & Breakfast featured on KCCI's Cruising for Comfort Food, and had driven past without realizing it served lunch. A recent facebook post on their seldom updated timeline had the message "Our landlord wants his building back, soon our last day at the restaurant will be Oct. 18." So I figured I should make it in before then.

Location: 1400 Sunset Dr in Norwalk just south of Des Moines

Directions: Taking 63rd South from West Des Moines eventually turns into Sunset Drive in Norwalk, and Olson's Bread & Breakfast is on the east side of the main drag through town.

Online at: facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This one come from the darker end of the pork loin and the meat was hot and juicy. It had been pounded out and the bits on the edges had overlapped, while some parts were thin and others thicker. The breading was a good crunchy layer with no seasoning. The homemade bun was soft and toasted warm and the butter melted into the bun gave it a rich flavor. Overall 7.8 out of ten.

Price: $7.29 with fries

Also on the menu: lunch has burgers and sandwiches but the full breakfast menu is the most popular fare here.

Service: There was one waitress and another person cooking when I was in. The limited hours last from six in the morning to two in the afternoon from Tuesday to Saturday.

Ambiance: There are few seats at a handful of tables inside, the walls are covered with decorations that remind you of breakfast.

Final thoughts: I usually don't go crazy for breakfast only places but in the past couple months I found some okay tenderloins at Julie's Homestyle Cafe in Oskaloosa and now in Olson's Bread & Breakfast. I don't know if this place is really closing or if it will find a new place soon.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Barnyard Family Restaurant in Chillicothe Iowa

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia tells me that the city of Chillicothe is pronounced Chill-uh-CAW-thee, and that 97 people live here. Well those people are lucky because they live in a town with a place named The Barnyard open four days a week. The Barnyard also operates a Tenderloin Experss Trailer in nearby Ottumwa on certain days when the restaurant is closed.

Location: 215 Market St in Chillicothe, about ten miles north and east of Ottumwa, Iowa

Directions:from Highway 63 between Ottumwa and Oskaloosa, take the T-67 road from the Chillicothe exit, then turn on Count Road H21 that turns into Market St in Chillicothe.

Online at: facebook page is HERE.

The tenderloin: This tenderloin started with a giant hunk of pork loin pounded into a triangle shape. The thickness was good and the white meat kept a good amount of juice in parts. The breading wasn't strongly seasoned but had a great flaky crunchy texture. Served on an untoasted bun Overall 8.4 out of ten.

Price: $5.75

Also on the menu: they have tenderloin with toppings and the usual fried stuff, burgers, and specials for dinner like steak.

Service: It was table service and it took a while even thought I was the only person there for lunch.

Ambiance: There were tables and a bar for seating, and the walls had old pictures of Chillicothe.

Final Thoughts: I don't get to towns as small as this that often anymore, and Im always looking for new places. I would definitely recommend stopping in the Barnyard if you are in Chillicothe from Wednesday to Saturday or tracking down their trailer. I can't think of a better one in the Ottumwa area.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Julie's Home Style Cafe in Oskaloosa, Iowa

I once visited a restaurant with a long rant printed on the menu about the difference between "homemade" and "home style". That was a long time ago, and I still can't help but think that menu writer was obsessed with the pedantic. Julie's Cafe has the words "Home Style" front and center on their sign, and I can't help but observe that nearly everything inside seemed to be homemade.

Location: 216 S Market in Oskaloosa about sixty miles from Des Moines.

Directions: Market St in Highway 63 just south of the main drag through Oskaloosa.

The Tenderloin: This was the classic triangle shaped loin cut pounded out to cover and entire lunch plate. The thin meat had lost nearly all moisture. The breading had some good seasoning and crunch but with no chewy meat inside. The bun was like a diner roll and hadn't been toasted. Overall 7.3 out of ten.

Price: $5.00 with a bag of chips.

Also on the menu: the lunch menu is hot beef and tenderloins and a daily special then a dessert board. The breakfast menu includes bowls of cereal and the classic diner eggs and bacon breakfasts.

Service: It was table service when I stopped in for lunch. I should not that they are only open until 1:30 on weekdays and close after breakfast at ten on Saturday.

Ambiance: This is an old diner that hasn't been redone in a long time with wood paneling and an old counter and booths for seating.

Final thoughts: The signage and uniforms for Julie's Cafe seem to emphasize the hot beef sandwich and the pies. I think I would try one of those next time I am in Oskaloosa. This place seems to attract lots of locals for its breakfasts too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Smokin' G's BBQ Restaurant in Marshalltown, Iowa

I've had some mixed luck when it comes to finding a good tenderloin in Marshalltown. Cecil's Cafe had left me unimpressed a long time ago, then I tried a sports bar inside a hotel by the highway that didn't impress me either. The latest contender is Smokin' G's BBQ Restaurant, open since last year in the main street area a block from the courthouse.

Location: 25 W Main St in Marshalltown, about 45 minutes northeast of Des Moines.

Directions: Taking Highway 330 from Des Moines to Highway 30 into Marshalltown, turn north and drive to the courthouse and turn left to find Smokin' G's.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This had a decent half pound size pork loin in a roughly triangular shape. The inside was darker loin meat with a good amount of juiciness. I picked up a hint of pepper and seasonings in the breading, but there wasn't any real crunch on this one. Served with all the fixins pinned down with a toothpick. Overall 7.3 out of ten.

Price: $9.95 with a side, but its a special on Tuesday with a drink and side for $9.50

Also on the menu: The huge menu starts with bbq meats, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and fried appetizers. They even have a couple eating challenges.

Service: Its full service with a hostess and seating at tables and booths. The lunch rush crowd meant the food and check took some time when I visited.

Ambiance: This is a main st building with a recent renovation into a BBQ spot with western themed decorations.

Final Thoughts: I think my next stop in Marshalltown should be the 13th St Inn if its still open, it had a "for sale" sign on its facebook page so I don't know whats going on there. Maybe I need to go to the Haverhill Social Club just south of Marshalltown too.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Agency Cafe in Agency, Iowa

The Agency Cafe doesn't look like much from the outside, it has a gravel driveway and a faded sign reading CAFE. the waitresses wear shirts that say HOWDY on the front and "Some Things Don't Need To Change" on the back.

Location: 510 W Main St in Agency, Iowa, just outside of Ottumwa.

Directions: From Ottumwa, take Highway 34 West to the Agency off ramp that turns south to Agency, continue through the town and take a right on Main St to find the Agency Cafe at the edge of town.

Online at: Facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This is listed on the menu as the Big Boy Loin, and the hunk of pork loin felt like eight ounces and was in the classic triangular shape. The breading had a great cracker like crunch but not much in the way of seasoning. The white loin meat was moist in parts and steam got into the breading. Served on a soft toasted bun with your choice of fixins. Overall 7.6 out of ten.

Price: $6.75

Also on the menu: The menu is small with a smaller loin, burgers, chicken fried steak, and daily specials. Desserts include pies and cinnamon rolls. The meats come from the local meat locker.

Service: There is table service and a counter for paying, the other customers seemed to be local regulars.

Ambiance: Big letters reading HOWDY are painted on the wall, along with farm scenes. There is a counter and tables for seating.

Final Thoughts: I hadn't found a good loin near Ottumwa before and its always good to visit a real small town cafe. My next stop will probably be on the other side of Ottumwa in the small town of Chillicothe.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Lucky Pig Pub & Grill in Ogden, Iowa

The IPPA gave away its Best Tenderloin award in October of 2014 to a small town pub in Boone County. The Lucky Pig Pub & Grill has been serving up food and drinks in this location since 2011. The branding of the pub has a long written out explanation about what a "lucky pig" is in Germany. 

Location: 113 W Walnut St in Ogden, Boone County, in Central Iowa.

Directions: Ogden is just past Boone on Highway 30, take the offramp and go north through town and turn right on Walnut St in the center of town.

Online at: facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: The breading was like a batter that has a bright and golden brown color, and the texture forms a solid layer that wasn't crunchy on either of my visits. It had a little bit of a spicy flavored taste. The loin meat was thin yet soft with good moisture but not quite juicy. Served with your choice of fixins on a kaiser bun. Overall 8.4 out of ten.

Price: $9.95 with a side, I went with the Onion Rings:

Onion Rings

The Wholly Pig: I saw this ridiculous topped tenderloin on the menu and had to try it. This was a breaded tenderloin on top of some sliced ham, with bbq pork and strips of bacon with bbq sauce and melted cheese. The whole deal was one heavy pile of food even without the side of fries.

Also on the menu: The menu is huge with fried stuff, giant burgers, wings, appetizers, salads, steaks, pizza and specials.

Service: Its table service with a wait for seating when things get busy.

Ambiance: The interior is a big improvement from the bar that used to be here. This is a newish remodel of the old sports bar, with large tables for seating.

Final Thoughts:  I had visited this same space in Ogden several years ago when the building was occupied by BK's Sports Bar, which moved here from the other side of the main street. But that was a long time ago. The tenderloin here is as good as any in the Central Iowa area, if you don't mind driving past Boone to get here.