Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Location: 306 Main St in Bayard, Iowa (population 536) in Guthrie County, about an hour and a half northwest of Des Moines.
Directions: Its just three blocks up main street from Highway 141.
Online at: http://www.amshacks.com/
The Tenderloin: You get an above-average size piece of moist tenderized pork loin here. The lady managing the place tells me this is made with her own special combination of seasonings in the breading. Served with all the fixings. This is a solid tenderloin, overall 7.5 out of 10
Price: $4.25 a la carte, or a dollar more in a lunch special with choice of side.
Also on the Menu: The usual bar foods with fried chicken and burgers.
Service: Its seat yourself at booths or at a bar, there were a few waitresses working several tables each. I came in at a busy time, so it took a while to order and then for the tenderloin to cook. I think the owner was working the bar and waiting tables.
Ambiance: This is a typical small town Iowa pub and grub with beer posters all over the wood-paneled walls, it was exceptionally busy with locals at the noon hour. The dim lights meant my photos were didn't do the sandwich justice. There is a banner with the words Loin Shack in big letters.
Final thoughts: I can safely say that this is the best place to eat while in Bayard.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Location: 405 Grant St. in Van Meter, just 8 miles beyond West Des Moines, in Dallas County.
Directions: You take the freeway past the Jordan Creek exit, and turn south to drive past the gravel pit. This pub and grub is next to an auto shop on the old main street in behind the Casey's in Van Meter.
The Tenderloin: This one has a nice golden brown color in its fine layer of breading. The meat is nice, juicy and thick.The first time I ordered one it came with an onion ring on top, but I haven't been given one on my subsequent trips. There was a leaning tower effect with all the toppings. Overall 8.0 out of 10
Price: $7.00 with a side.
Also on the menu: A typical pub and grub menu with fried stuff, burgers, and frozen pizza. The specialty is the Fat Randi burger with fresh ground beef.
Service: Table and bar service. The lady that owns and manages the place, Randi, isn't really fat.
Ambiance: Its a small town bar with tables to eat at and Tv's. The walls are covered with cheap beer puns like "liquor in front, poker in the rear" on painted signs.
Every year the cities of West Des Moines and Waukee seem to creep farther west, and since the new mall was built this town seems closer to Des Moines than it used to be. Van Meter may be turning into a bedroom community for people who work in West Des Moines, but Fat Randi's is an authentic small town pub and grub with a good tenderloin.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Location: 104 N Weimar St in Ventura (population 670), in Cerro Gordo County, about two hours drive north of Des Moines in northern Iowa.
Directions: You take the Clear Lake Highway 18 exit West from I-80. Turn south at the sign for Ventura and find the old main street behind the grain elevators.
Online at: http://www.thecolonyinn.com/
The Tenderloin: First things first, this one was huge, and it looked really good with the fixins on the side of the giant plate. It felt like at least twelve ounces before battering and frying. The big letdown was the lack of any seasoning in the batter. The meat was beaten a little too much, leading to a limp flopping sandwich. It has tons of natural pork taste in the bright white meat locked in by the battering and frying process, but not any other flavor on top of it. Overall 7.5 out of ten.
Also on the menu: A big menu with steaks, salads and burgers.
Service: Its table service, I visited when it wasn't busy.
Ambiance: This place has a hunting lodge style dining area with wood paneling and pictures of game animals. There are booths and a bar to eat at. There is a lounge area in the next room, somewhere is a banquet hall in this large building.
The menu here tells me this tenderloin once nearly won a best tenderloin in the state award. But their new website doesn't have it listed on the menu. Maybe its because the sandwich page hasn't been uploaded yet, but I don't know. The people who operate this restaurant also run the kitchen at the seasonally-opened PM Park on the opposite side of Clear Lake. Next on my list in Ventura is the Muskie Lounge with lakeside boat service. The Suzie-Q Cafe in nearby Mason City serves a battered loin with a lot more flavor mixed in. Further west in Algona I found a good breaded tenderloin. Either way, this area has plenty of good tenderloins.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Location: 600 E Main St. in Panora Iowa, in Guthrie County about an hour west of Des Moines.
Directions: This place on the east side of Panora has a big green sign in front on Route 44, the main drag through town.
The Tenderloin: The first thing you notice is the unusual cut, with small connective thin part in between a couple thick round chunks of pork. The breading is thick with little dots of black pepper visible. There was a some untrimmed fat on the edges but most of the pork was steamy and delicious. Served on a toasted bun. Overall 7.5/10
Price: $3.75 a la carte, a good value for an average-size tenderloin sandwich, or in a special with side and drink for $6.50. Also available grilled.
Also on the menu: the typical diner stuff like burgers and salads, there is a special Friday Night Fish Fry. This is the Cole Slaw:
Service: There are a lot of people moving around the kitchen here, its counter service with food brought to your table.
Ambiance: This place looks dull from outside but the interior is brightly lit and has a big mural of the bike trail covering a wall. There are tables inside and covered picnic tables for outside when the weather is good.
Final Thoughts: This place has a welcoming ambiance and is a great place to visit while passing through Panora. Its the best tenderloin I have found in Panora, after trying the Coyote Grill and 44 Drive-In already, the next place on my list is the restaurant at the Panorama National just north in Lake Panora.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Location: 1529 253rd St in unincorporated community of Oakland Mills in Henry County, just five minutes drive from Mt. Pleasant in Southeastern Iowa.
Directions: You reach Oakland Mills by going south on Franklin from Old Highway 34, or take Jefferson St. south from Mt. Pleasant. The Cafe is across from the dam, good luck. The Tenderloin: This is a very large slice of pork loin pounded into the usual tenderloin shape clearly filling the plate. The thickness varies, so it was probably pounded by hand. The breading tasted like cornmeal with only the slightest seasoning. There was plenty or pork hanging over the bun. Overall 7.75/10.
Price: $4.25, a la carte,a good value, served with a steak knife. Also on the menu: Homemade pies are the specialty, so are burgers including an elk burger and hamburger salads.
Service: Its seat yourself with a busy waitstaff, one had a shirt with the definition of the word "tenderloin" printed on the back. Ambiance: This is a small old building that has been renovated a couple times to expand the dining area. The booths and tables are small, so is the counter. Outdoor seats are available also. There is no longer fish bait or live worms right next to where everyone eats.
Final Thoughts: From the cafe you will hear the century-old dam that once powered the mill serving a prosperous community. While the mill closed a long time ago, it looks like the fishing and outdoor activities bring their share of visitors to Oakland Mills. The road from Mt. Pleasant has some new houses and is paved the entire way to the main intersection of the small community. I may never know how this new cafe compares to the old Oakland Mills Store, or its tenderloin. But the place was filled with locals when I stopped in, many were getting the tenderloin.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Location: 100 8th St SE in Altoona, just east of Des Moines.
Price: $5.25 .
Service: Its counter service with the whole show run by teenagers when I visited.
Final Thoughts: This might be the most family-friendly tenderloin place in Central Iowa. Its the only homemade one I have found so far in Altoona, although I may have to try Claxon's Smokehouse or the Prairie Meadows Concession Stand to see if they serve homemade tenderloins.
Monday, September 7, 2009
UPDATED WITH NEW VISIT AND NEW PHOTOS SUMMER 2014: I was able to make it back and I wasn't satisfied with my first batch of photos. I had always stopped in when I was in too much of a hurry to eat in or when the Augusta Restaurant was closed. The new loin they served me was so tenderized that it broke into two pieces while cooking. The bun was just okay but the mayonnaise adds a little bit of a tasty rich extra bite on the top.
ORIGINAL is POST FROM 2009
The Iowa Pork Producer's Association releases an award for the best tenderloin each year, and this place won in 2008. Many agree that this is probably the best of all the tenderloins to win the annual award for "best tenderloin". Its at a place founded by a couple of Louisiana natives who moved to Iowa after Hurricane Katrina. Oxford was once "famous" for the book The Oxford Project, which took photos of the people here in 1985 and then again in 2005. Now its home to a great tenderloin.
Location: 101 S. Augusta Ave. in Oxford, Iowa (population 705 in 2000 census). Its about 15 minutes west of Iowa City.
Directions: You can take I-80 from Iowa City or Highway 6 from the Coralville Strip to reach the county road that forms Augusta Ave., the main street through Oxford.
Online At: http://www.augustarestaurant.net/
Price: $10.00, served with hand-cut fries or sweet-potato chips. Its still not the most expensive tenderloin in Iowa.
Also on the menu: There is a full homemade Cajun menu including Crawfish Beignets fresh cut steaks.
Service: Its only table seating inside with wait staff that must come from across the corridor area.
Ambiance: You pass through a curtain to enter a dimly lit dining area with Louisiana color scheme of purple with accents of green and gold.
Final Thoughts: This place is close enough to the population centers in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids to have this kind of place in such a small town. Having a couple of migrants from Louisiana come here and make the best tenderloin ever kind of pokes a hole through any logic in the idea that only Iowans can make these things right.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Location: 555 Walnut St in the 3rd Floor Food Court at the Kaleidoscope at the Hub Building.
Price: $4.35, with fixins or $7.50 in a combo meal.
Service: Its just a counter, you wait for your number to be called.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Price: $6.65, with fixins and a side.
Final Thoughts: This was referred to on the menu as a fritter but its clearly a homemade tenderloin. The folks at BK's can be proud of this one.