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

Monday, September 1, 2014

Jerry's Main Lunch in Burlington, Iowa

The sign still lists an five digit phone number from forever ago, and the media reports Jerry's has been open since 1946. Jerry's Main Lunch has been featured recently in Edible Iowa River Valley, the Burlington Hawkeye newspaper, and WQAD television in the Quad Cities in a feature about landmark restaurants.


Location: 501 S Main St. in Burlington, Des Moines County in Southeast Iowa.

Directions: You have to take Main St south from downtown and Jerry's is on the West side of the street.


The Tenderloin: The crackerlike breading expanded from the loin meat and left an empty space that made the sandwich look bigger. It felt like a good seven ounces of pork, and the meat was steamy and hot. There was a hint of black pepper on the outside. Served on a soft toasted bun with your choice of fixins. This was more about the experience of eating in a classic old diner than the actual breaded pork tenderloin. Overall 7.2 out of ten.

Price: $4.70 also available in smaller size.

Also on the menu: the specialties are the Breakfast Mess and the Jerry Burger, the menu is mostly standard diner fare with daily specials and homemade pies.

Service: Its counter service and the food is made right in front of you.


Ambiance: Its a brick diner building from almost seventy years ago with fourteen seats on an L-shaped counter. The walls are covered with photos or old newspaper stories, and you can buy a t-shirt while you are here.

Final Thoughts: There aren't many places with as much history or family tradition as Jerry's Main Lunch. I think the family were talking about furniture when I stopped in during the off hours. When I see Jerry's thriving it makes me surprised that nobody is trying to make it work at the old Valentine Diner parked beside the river in Muscatine. Just a reminder you can see my list of tenderloins near Highway 61 HERE.


Jerry's Main Lunch on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 15, 2014

Shorts Burgers Eastside in Iowa City, Iowa

The original Shorts burgers and Shine in downtown Iowa City has been massively successful and earned mentions in every local media outlet and the New York Times. They have built up a reputation as the best burger place in Iowa City with a huge selection to choose from.


Location: 521 Westbury Dr on the East side of Iowa city in Eastern Iowa.

Directions: Its near the intersection of Scott Boulevard and Rochester Ave or the Herbert Hoover Highway on the far east portion of Iowa City. There isn't much else out here so you can see the place from the boulevard before navigating the side streets.

Online at: Website is HERE.


The Tenderloin: The problem here is that the cut of pork loin seemed to never have been tenderized. This was one chewy sandwich from start to finish. The batter formed a decent crunch that melted away without any real beer flavor. Served on a durable bun that felt calibrated for heavy juicy burgers. This seemed like an extra item tacked onto the menu. Overall 6.4 out of ten.

Price: $10.00 with a mountain of handcut fries that are the real star of the show.

Fries are good
Also on the menu: I counted 24 specialty burgers, 13 chicken sandwiches, and six black bean burgers. The East location has expanded appetizers and chicken wings.

Service: It seemed like students running the show while I stopped in for lunch.


Ambiance: The interior design is great with nice wood fixtures on the bar and booths, with exposed metal and televisions everywhere.


Final Thoughts: The location in a strip mall between Middlebury, Eastbury, and Westbury Roads feels like the geography of being nowhere. I know this area will fill up someday but right now its just emptiness. The original and East location are still places I would go for a burger. My next stop in Iowa City will probably be at Iron Hawk downtown or Shakespeare's Pub.
Short's Burgers Eastside on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Spot Food Truck in Des Moines, Iowa


There have been taco trucks in Des Moines for a long time, and you can see my progress towards eating them all HERE. But where are the other food trucks? The Spot has stepped into this vacuum in 2013, and this summer they are joined by Magnolia Kitchen. Last year I visited a truck originally from Dewitt in Eastern Iowa, Chuckies Tenderloins, which drives all over the western half of the USA selling tenderloins. Recently The Spot started putting a tenderloin into their rotation of specials and I had to track them down. 

Location: I think they are at a different location for five days out of each week this summer.

Directions: You have to visit their website to see where they are at.

Online at: Website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: The loin meat only felt like six ounces and was in a long triangle shape. The meat retained a huge amount of juiciness. Bits and pieces of seasoning were clearly visible in the breading and strong taste. This was a sandwich that insisted upon itself, it really did not need the final layer of salt on top of the tenderloin. Served on a roll with romaine lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise. Overall 7.9 out of ten.

Price: $6.50

Asparagus side.
Also on the menu: The menu changes but they usually have an Al Pastor burger and sides like pasta salad or macaroni and cheese.

The Completo: This is their Latin American hot dog. The Spot is supposedly the first food truck that isn't serving tacos or pupusas but some of the taco trucks serve hot dogs.

The Completo
Service: You order at a window and they try to get your attention when the food is ready.

Ambiance: Its parked in parking lots in anonymous office blocks or near bars downtown.

Final Thoughts: Des Moines might be a little late to the Food Truck trend. I think the regulations force the food trucks to have an agreement with a business or land owner and access to a restroom. It seems clear that both the trendy food trucks and the taco trucks have to shut down or fly south for the winter. That makes getting out and finding them when the weather is warm so important.