Sunday, July 1, 2012

Little Chicago Pizza & Gyros in Mason City

After repeated trips to Mason City, I felt the need to update my post about the Suzie-Q Cafe. Then a recent Urbanspoon comment left by user reviewer named Jim made me consider trying another Spic-N-Span tenderloin just a block down the street in Mason City. Little Chicago Pizza and Gyros gives little indication that there is any tenderloin inside. The menu board doesn't even list the tenderloin, its only on the folding takeout menu. I think I read in the newspaper website that Little Chicago took its Spic-N-Span batter recipe from the owners of Sluggo's, which occupied the same space, but now I can't seem to find the article.

Location: 11 2nd St NE in Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, in Northern Iowa.

Directions: Its right in the middle of downtown Mason City, about 8 miles from I-35, Highway 65 is the north-south street on either side.

The Tenderloin: This is described on the menu as "Spic-N-Span style", dipped into their special batter. I have to make it clear that I didn't do any side-by-side comparison with the Suzie-Q, but this tenderloin was in batter without any kind of spicy note. It felt more like classic seasoning salt mix. What stood out was the softness and juiciness of the loin inside. The steam in the pork meat and the tenderizing made the whole sandwich soft. Served on a kaiser bun with your choice of fixins, Overall 8.0 out of ten.

Price: $4.29 also available "Gangster Style" with fries in a combo for a little extra.

Also on the menu: Burgers, pizza, they have a spinning cone of Gyro meat, and other Italian sandwiches.

Service: Just basic carry-out service, nothing to write home about.

Ambiance: I walked in the door and saw the counter and just a couple tables and a cash register counter in front of the kitchen and menu board. Their facebook page shows a dining area but I must have missed it.The classic gyro meat supplier poster with the Greek woman looks out the window, and patriotic posters cover the interior walls.

Final Thoughts: I may need some locals from Mason City to help me out here with some questions I have after eating here. Was there once a diner named the Spic-N-Span in downtown Mason City, in the area that is now a downtown mall? What happened to that place, did it close over 30 years ago and people still want Spic-N-Span tenderloins? Are there more Spic-N-Spans out there for me to try?
Little Chicago Pizza & Gyros on Urbanspoon


  1. Yes. There was a diner on 2nd St SE called Spic N Span. The mall is there now. I vaguely remember the place getting torn down for the mall. But I never went in there.

  2. Dale Cory owned the Spic N Span and it was on 2nd St SE in a small brick building with counter stools and not much else. There was always a big pot of chili cooking in the corner but the tenderloins were what everybody came in for. They were a nice pork cutlet dipped in a crunchy peppery-tempura style batter and then fried in the oil. They came usually with onion, mustard and pickle and were wrapped in wax paper. When you got a bag of them "to go", the brown bag was speckled with hot oil by the time you got home. They were good!!! It closed in about 1978+/-

  3. I worked at the Sound Emporium at 2nd and Federal, and remember walking over to the Spin n Span and picking up tenderloins by the bag. We fondly referred to them as "gut busters".

    I've never tried Suzie-Q's (or Little Chicago's) tenderloins, and have no idea how they compare.

  4. My grandfather originally owned Spic N Span. My aunt recently found the original recipe for the Spic N Span tenderloin. My grandfather retired long before I could try his recipe, and I've never had the Suzie Q version, but my father told me that there was frequently a long line for Grandpa's famous tenderloin.

  5. My grandfather owned Spic N Span. My aunt recently found the original recipe for the Spic N Span tenderloin. I never had the pleasure of tasting the original myself, because my grandfather was disabled by several strokes before I was old enough to appreciate the food. I've also never had a Suzie Q tenderloin. But my father fondly relayed memories of a line outside the door at Spic N Span. There must be something to the myth.

    1. Hi,
      Any chance you would consider sharing your grandfather's recipe? My mother was from Mason City, we lived in Waterloo. As a small child, we would take a drive to Mason City just to have a tenderloin at Spic 'n Span! I remember your grandparents well.
      Thank you.

  6. Hey OzzyC, have you shared the recipe anywhere? Maybe you should share it on the Pursuing Tenderloins facebook page. This kind of thing is very important to a small number of people.