Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sandy's Grill in Huxley, Iowa

My network of informants recently told me of a new roadside grill in Story County with a menu item titled the Hubcap Tenderloin. Checking out their social media accounts confirmed this was a place I needed to visit.

Location: 504 E 1st St in Huxley, just up highway 69 from Ankeny.

Directions: This is just a block east of the main drag through town between Ames and Huxley.

Online at: Website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This is listed on the menu as Hubcap Tenderloin, and nearly everyone in the place was eating one. The white pork loin meat was thin cut and pounded into a wide disc of pork. The softness of the thin cut was exceptional, as most places with super thin loins wind up with stiff meat. The crackerlike breading was only slightly seasoned. Served on a very soft, buttered toasted roll. Overall 8.0 out of ten.

Price: $9.51 with a side of fries and a drink.

Also on the menu: Burgers and sandwiches make up most of the menu along with ice cream and desserts, and the macaroni and cheese is available as a side or main or even fried. The Wednesday special is Kumla.

Service: Its counter service with food brought to your table.

Ambiance: I would guess this building was once a Dairy Queen, there are old booths for seating. The renovation is between an old fast food grill with new paint and posters or Marilyn Monroe or James Dean on the walls.

Final Thoughts: Its always nice to find a new place in a small town so close to Des Moines. Sandy's is much better than the Dairy Queen or whatever used to be in this building, but I still don't know what Kumla is. I've now eat along Highway 210 and found good homemade tenderloins in Woodward, Madrid, Slater, and Huxley. I may need to find one in Cambridge or Maxwell now to make my trek across this road complete.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Mucky Duck Pub in Ames

The people who run the Mucky Duck pub in Ames have been at it for a while now. I have seen the ads for Ames British Foods in Cityview or Relish for years, and later their business was named The Chip Shop, and now the Mucky Duck. The sign above The Mucky Duck Pub has the name of all three entities.

Location: 3100 South Duff Ave in Ames, Story County in Central Iowa, about a half hour north of Des Moines.

Directions: You can take highway 69 north from Ankeny or turn south of Duff from Highway 30.
Online at: website is HERE

The Tenderloin: The breading had some seasoning but no taste notes stood out, and it had just a dry crunchy and dusty texture. The meat inside was also dry, and the whole sandwich felt dry. I left wondering if this could have turned out better with the fish and chips batter. I have found many of the best tenderloins to be made with the light airy batter that fish and chips are known for. I just think this is a missed opportunity of a sandwich. Served on a toasted Kaiser roll. Overall 6.5 out of ten.

Price: served with the extra thick french fries with above average salt and pepper.

Also on the menu: The fish and chips is the specialty, but they have a large menu with several British favorites that aren't available elsewhere in Central Iowa. Bangers and mash, Cornish pasty, scotch eggs English muffins, crumpets and more. Drinks include loose leaf English teas, a huge selection of imported beers. Part of the interior is Ames British Foods, which is a handful of shelves stocked with English foods.

Service: There was a guy with an English accent running the bar and taking orders and another person in the kitchen.

Ambiance: The building was once a gas station, and the remodel feels half done. The bar is bricks, the walls are covered with posters of The Beattles or the Queen. Seating is at the bar or tables. There are other British style pubs that do a better job with dark woodwork or booths or heavy stools.

Final Thoughts: I would come back to the Mucky Duck to try the Fish and Chips next time I am in town. My previous attempts to find a good tenderloin in Ames have come up with mostly disappointments and sandwiches that were not worth writing about.My next stop will probably be down the road on Highway 69 on the way back to Des Moines

The Mucky Duck Pub on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 1, 2014

Brick St Market Cafe in Bondurant, Iowa

This new grocery store in the eastern suburb of Bondurant has an interesting story behind it. You can read about the owners of the Brick St Market by doing a google search for "Bondurant Lottery Winners". Its always nice to see people investing in their communities, and they are taking a big risk by building this grocery store here. Brick St. Market actually isn't the only restaurant in the Des Moines area where lottery winners invested their winnings into their business.

Location: 114 Brick St SE in Bondurant, just north and east of Des Moines.

Directions: Just follow Hubbell Avenue out of town until it turns into Highway 65, Brick St is just on the edge of Bondurant.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: The local newspaper article claims the loin meat is softened with a tenderizing machine, and specifically states there is no pounding. The result is a very thick piece of consistently soft pork. The small layer of batter-like breading has a heavy dose of seasoning salt and a touch of pepper and maybe a little bit of something else. The bun seemed to be cut by hand, and while well toasted, the top was a little smaller than the base and things like proportions and ratios are important to me. Served with your choice of LTOP, overall 8.5 out of ten.

Price: $7.99 with a side. I went with the Sidewinder Fries:

Also on the menu: The cafe has a huge menu including breakfast, ice cream, burgers, deli sandwiches and a salad bar.

Service: The service on the day I stopped in seemed to be backed up by a huge group of locals who all arrived at once and sat together and ordered the same thing.

Ambiance: This is a newly built grocery store with a cafe area that includes a counter, booths, and tables for seating. The color scheme on the store and the baskets reminds me of Culver's.

Final Thoughts: This is as close as you can get to a small town award worthy tenderloin in the Des Moines area. They seem to be selling quite a few of these.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

County Line Tap Cafe just south of Des Moines

I think the County Line Cafe could be described as a "neighborhood bar". Its in a neighborhood just south of Southridge Mall, just across the city line from Des Moines. I'm not sure there is even a sign, just inside the door you can see some graphic with the name County Line Cafe, but most people who do know this place would call it County Line Tap.

Location: 10894 County Line Road in the wild unincorporated area just south of the County Line in Warren County.

Directions: You can reach county line road by following SE 14th south from Des Moines, County Line Tap is on the south side of the road.

The Tenderloin: These are made by hand and every one is different, but the one served to me was massively thick. Not exactly juicy, but still tender. The breading had some thick crackermeal bits and was finished with a dusting of salt. The only disappointment was a cold bun that just fell apart while eating. Served with your choice of LTOP. Overall 8.0 out of ten.

Price: $5.50 with chips

Also on the menu: burger, cheeseburger, grinder, sausage sandwich, and pizza. That's the menu.

Service: I have come here a few times since 2009 and its always the same guy running the bar and the kitchen.

Ambiance: this is a neighborhood bar decorated with racing and beer posters. There is a bar area with stools, and some tables for seating.

Final Thoughts: Its really tough to find neighborhood bars like the County Line because they are only really known to locals. Even just a cross the street from Des Moines, few in this city know about County Line. I am sure there are plenty of other places like this but they just are not easy to find.

 County Line Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 1, 2014

10th St. Station in Ft Madison, Iowa

The newspaper clippings on the side of the wall indicate that 10th St. Station was once one of the oldest Maid Rite franchises. Ft Madison is not far from where Maid Rite started, and the building is old, continuously serving lunch for over seventy years.

Location: 616 10th St in Ft. Madison in Lee County far Southeastern Iowa.

Directions: This is best reached by taking the Business 61 Route through town and turning north on 10th St.

The tenderloin: This was listed under a section marked "Award Winning" on the menu. I felt a little bit of juiciness when I bit the meat portion. The breading had no discernible taste and did not stick close to the meat. The whole sandwich felt like it had been in the freezer a little too long. Served on an untoasted loosemeat burger bun with your choice of fixins. Overall 6.5 out of ten.

Price: $5.50, also available in small size. I think the menu listing the price was out of date, my total with fries was about seven dollars.

Also on the menu: This is a former Maid-Rite franchise, so there are loose meat sandwiches, and some Mexican items like fried tacos or enchiladas. They had some pies on the pie board.

Service: Its counter service with payment at the register.

Ambiance: The building is old, the fixtures are old, its like stepping back in time. Seating is at a classic u-shaped counter.

Final Thoughts: The tenderloin at 10th St Station was not good enough to make me forget The Fort Diner or some other places in this part of Iowa. But I do like visiting the old former Maid Rites, and this is one of the oldest hamburger places in Iowa.

10th Street Station on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nick's Tenderloins Army Post Des Moines, Iowa

Nick's Tenderloins, or Townhouse Tenderloins, has been going by some different names. I don't always know the relationship to the original Townhouse Supper Club in Wellsburg, which I visited several years ago. The mobile unit was parked on Army Post Road a few years ago, in front of a Pawn Shop. It has been spotted at race tracks across Central Iowa since then. There have also been Townhouse Tenderloins location opened in Cedar Falls which I have never visited. Nicks opened on Southwest 9th St a couple years ago as Nick's Restaurant "featuring the Townhouse Tenderloin and Italian Beef". The move to Army Post has taken them to the former Tavern Pizza location.

Location: 1106 Army Post Road in Des Moines, Iowa.

Directions: Its on the south side of the road that is like the south side of Des Moines.

Online at: Facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: Every place serving a Townhouse Tenderloin is giving you basically the thickest tenderloin in Iowa. I can't think of a thicker one, its tenderized white pork loin meat kept in a very thick shape. The meat is steamy and moist but not juicy. The breading is another thick layer of heavy crunch, it gets applied a little too thick in some places. Served on a warm, lightly toasted and very soft bun. Overall 8.9 out of ten.

Price: $7.25 for the King size, also available topped with ham and cheese, chili and cheese, or even in an eating challenge.

Also on the Menu: The tenderloins are the star, but there are appetizers, Italian Beef sandwiches, and pizza.

Chili Cheese Fries: These were just accordion fries topped with a bean chili and cheese sauce, nothing to write home about.

Onion Rings: These were cut thick and breaded in the same crunchy stuff as the tenderloin, tons of onion juice packed into each one. Great portion size and value.

Service: The older location had a counter, but this place has table service. There is also a tap serving beer.

Ambiance: This building was a dated family pizza place for a long time. The renovation has kept some of the dated fixtures but added beer bucket light fixtures and those tin antique-looking signs that aren't really antiques. The blank sign is still on the outside of the building, and the whole place just has a half finished feel to it. I would describe the graphics, signage, and font as unconventional.

Final Thoughts: I had put off getting to the new location for so long because the other Townhouse Tenderloin vendors outside of Wellsburg had opened and closed or didn't seem worth visiting. The new location is big, with tons of seating and a huge parking lot. This is a good addition to an area with only so many good places to eat.

Nick's Tenderloin and Italian Beef on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ford's Pub & Grill in Eddyville, Iowa

A review on Urbanspoon recommending the tenderloin at this small town brought Ford's Pub to my attention a few years ago. The sign reads "The Place to Meet and Eat!" and has a graphic of a beer mug and a burger.

Location: 603 Main St in Eddyville in Wapello County between Ottumwa and Oskaloosa in Central Iowa.

Directions: Eddyville is reached from Highway 163 and Fords pub can be found by taking the offramp and finding the corner of seventh street and Main.

The Tenderloin: The crackerlike breading formed a consistent and thin layer of crunchiness to the entire loin. It took a nice shade of golden brown on each of my visits. The trim job wasn't perfect, but that didn't bother me this time. The inside was warm and juicy white loin meat. The cut of loin meat took a roughly triangular shape. Overall 8.1 out of ten.

Price: $5.50 a la carte

Also on the menu: This was mostly the usual bar food of burgers and fried stuff, one of their burgers is named the Oinker Burger.

The Whole Hog: I tried this a while back, a breaded tenderloin topped with sliced ham, bacon, melted cheese, and barbecue sauce. Served on texas toast, this was worth the extra two dollars if you are really hungry.

Service: It was bar service and I just stayed at the bar on my two visits.

Ambiance: this is a large bar and grill for a small town like Eddyville. The walls are covered in beer signs or various sports gear including a large area dedicated to Oskaloosa native Tyler Sash.

Final Thoughts: I could not help but notice the miniature dirt racing track next door to Ford's Pub. Its like a dirt track that people race stock cars on, but its really tiny. Do they race bumper cars on it? My internet searching only brought me to a drag strip outside of town.

Ford's Pub & Grill on Urbanspoon