Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Menlo Cafe in Menlo Iowa

I had driven along the White Pole Road without ever really knowing the significance, just wondering why the poles were painted white. The road connects five small towns close to the interstate in West Central Iowa. On the main drag through Menlo, the coffee cup painted on the window is an indication that the Menlo Cafe is the local gathering place for small town people wanting a big breakfast.

Location: 502 Sherman St in Menlo, population 352, about forty miles west of Des Moines in Guthrie County.

Directions: Menlo is along a stretch of State Highway 925 known as White Pole Road, and is about 2 miles off of I-80. Menlo Cafe is along the main street through town.

Online at: no website for the Menlo Cafe, but check out the White Pole Road.

The Tenderloin: The sandwich felt like six or seven ounces of pork when I lifted it up. The meat inside was bright white and moist throughout. The fine textured breading had a light yellow color and just a touch of seasoning. Served on a huge flour-dusted bun with your choice of fixings, overall 7.8 out of ten.

Price: $6.00 with ridged potato chips.

Also on the menu: This place does breakfast six days a week, including a Sunday buffet. The usual burgers and sandwiches are here, along with daily specials. My research leading me to this place led me to believe there would be butterscotch pie on the menu. But the dessert board had only slices of cake

Service: There were a couple kids waiting tables when I was in. Each table had a pitcher of water frequently refilled.
Ambiance: This is a main street small town cafe that has been redone over the years and just looks out of date. The seating area is large and can accommodate groups.

Final Thoughts: The Menlo Cafe gives people the small town Iowa cafe experience in a place not far from Des Moines. If you want a more impressive tenderloin, you have to drive further west to get to the award winning places out that way.

Menlo Market & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

J & K Market in Centerville Iowa

I have to thank one of the comments on my last post from Centerville recommending this place. The J & K has been open since 1970 on the north side of the Centerville town square. Its clearly a family run place with pictures on the walls and newspaper articles detailing the history of J & K Market.

Location: 113 W Van Buren St in Centerville, Appanoose County, Southern Iowa.

Directions: Its on the northwest side of the ginormous town square in Centerville.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Whole Hog: Whenever I see a tenderloin loaded up on topping I have to grab it. The bacon, ham and cheese didn't make the sandwich great but were juicy and savory on top of the tenderloin. The breading was a simple seasoning mix with a great crunchy texture. The best part here was the soft tenderized and well trimmed pork loin. Overall 8.5 out of ten.

Price: $4.50 for the Whole Hog, the regular jumbo tenderloin is $3.50, fries are a dollar more. They are treating the entire town like family members with these prices.
Also on the menu: Part of the menu refers to J & K as home to the "Original  Woppers" which are a list of deli sandwiches. There are burgers, other fried stuff and specials that round out the menu.

Service: Casual deli counter service to get your order in, then pay at the front counter. The owners do local promotions on a local radio station and youtube videos with the daily specials. I think they also do boat tours of Lake Rathbun.
Ambiance: The J & K is an old grocery store in the town square. The aisles are not wide and the handwritten graphics cover large parts of the walls and windows. There are a couple tables and three chairs outside for seating.

Final Thoughts: The immediate comparison for me is to B & B Grocery in Des Moines.For some reason on my last trip through here I saw more than one storefront graphic advertising "jumbo tenderloin" sandwiches. With other restaurants in town using the exact same verbiage, "homemade jumbo tenderloin", I wonder if J & K supplies these for them. Either way, the prices are absolutely rock bottom for good hand-breaded tenderloins in any small town in Iowa.