Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fountain on Main in Reinbeck

Grundy County is the center of German immigration to Iowa. Back in 2010, some people from Ostfriesland region of Germany came to Grundy Center and signed a partnership agreement to encourage cultural ties and youth exchanges. With all these German descendants, I thought there would be more tenderloins in places like Gladbrook, Conrad, or Grundy Center. However, after the Townhouse in Wellsburg, I haven't found anything in my trips to Grundy County. Reinbeck appears to be a quiet small town close enough for people working in Waterloo or Cedar Falls. A recent drive through led me to check out this place on main street.

Location: 413 Main St. in Reinbeck, Grundy County, in Eastern Iowa. About 20 miles southwest of Waterloo.

Directions: You get to Reinbeck by driving on Highway 175, Main Street runs parallel but one block south.

The Tenderloin: This was described as a quarter pound homemade loin on the menu. The bun and vegetables to meat ratio was skewed towards the bun and veggies. The breading had a good crunchy texture and a good golden brown color. The meat was decent thickness and trimmed completely. Served on a toasted bun with your fixings, including Romaine lettuce. Overall 7.2 out of ten, an okay tenderloin.

Price: $7.00 with a side, I went with homemade chips.

Also on the menu: Full ice-cream selection, and hot food a little different than most other ice-cream shops. Panini sandwiches, salads, wraps, spinach stuffed or crab rangoons, and funnel fries topped with powdered sugar like at the State Fair.

Service: I came during the off hours, and two people were working the counter and the kitchen between them.

Ambiance: This place is the classic drug store ice cream shop remodeled into a restaurant. The classic counter seats are still there, or you can sit at a table. One side of the interior is filled with Reinbeck memorabilia.

Final Thoughts: Its really tough to give some sort of serious critical review on small tenderloins because the sample I eat is so small. In relative terms, a quarter pound of breaded pork loin is still a good size sandwich. This little ice cream fountain surprised me with its unusual menu and old fashioned interior.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

One-R's and the new St Olaf Tap

The tenderloin business, like the restaurant business, is no stranger to the forces of change. Places open, places close, chefs and restaurant owners come and go. There are no shortage of stories people tell about their favorite places turning into something different under new management. St Olaf Tap has been taken over by a guy who named Lary, spelled with one letter R instead of two. The new owner has changed some things, but there is still a gigantic tenderloin hidden here in the bluff country of Northeast Iowa. The sign still reads St Olaf Tap: Put Something Big Between Your Buns. This is my second trip to St Olaf, my previous visit was recorded here.

Location: 106 S Main St. in St. Olaf, Clayton County, Northeast Iowa.

Directions:From Elkader, take Gunder Road or Highway 13 north and turn on County Road B65 to reach St Olaf. The St Olaf Tap the only building that looks open for business on the block.

Online at: They have entered the information age with a facebook page here.

The Tenderloin: The previous incarnation of this sandwich was more like a lightly breaded pork steak that just drooped over the bun. This one has a piece of meat cooked firmer to keep its shape when lifted by the bun. Instead of a light and thin layer of breading, there is a crunchier layer with a little more seasoning. There is a big difference in juiciness, with the new model on the thinner and dryer side. Served with your choice of fixings. Overall 8.2 out of ten, still good.

Price: $9.95
Also on the menu: Lots of typical bar food and fried stuff, burgers, chicken, and Friday Fish Fry.

Ambiance: What a difference a coat of paint makes, this place is totally transformed. Gone are the torn up stools, and now you can see the high ceilings of this old building. There are new booths and a bar with a flatscreen television to watch.
Service: It was one lady running the bar and waiting tables, with a guy cooking in the back.

Final Thoughts: Its always tough to compare something you just ate to a memory of an experience a few years ago. The St Olaf Tap was one of the first real "destination tenderloins" to market itself as the biggest or the best in the world. From what I can tell, they have been doing it for a long time. The previous owner operator was not shy about discussing the frustration of running a restaurant in what he called a "dying town". The new owner has put in the effort and energy to make this a better place, but the tenderloin is just plain different.