Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rich's Muskie Lounge in Ventura Iowa

I always associated Muskies with Muscatine in Eastern Iowa. I guess this fish is everywhere. Ventura is a small town right next to Clear Lake. Its population swells in the summer as visitors from the area move into tightly packed houses next to the lake. Please note, Muskie Lounge and many others in town are open only seasonally. Driving through in winter will only find a CLOSED sign and an empty dock.

Location: 702 E Lake St. in Ventura, on Clear Lake in Cerro Gordo County in Northern Iowa.

Directions: Lake St rings around Clear Lake and is reached by taking Highway 18 past the city of Clear Lake into Ventura. Look for the giant carved Muskie fish in the parking area.

The Tenderloin: The rich, buttery, toasted french bread is what sets the tenderloin here apart. There is something about a soft and fine white bread that makes is a good bun for breaded pork tenderloin. Its right up there with the classic corn-dusted Kaiser bun or the flour-dusted Rotella buns in Central Iowa.  I would not be surprised if the same breading was used in the fried fish the Muskie Lounge cranks out. The meat here felt like untenderized but well trimmed portion of the darker side of pork loin. This was juicy and chewy in texture. Overall 7.8 out of ten.

Price: $7.50
Also on the menu: the specialty is the nightly fish fry including all you can eat Alaskan Walleye, but there is a large menu including the usual fried stuff, the Muskie Burger, and Torsk.

Service: Its local old ladies running the show, not especially fast but nobody is in a hurry at these lakeside places. They get really busy during the summer season and don't always do carryout.
Ambiance: There is a dining area inside with mounted muskie fish and angling themed decorations and large booth seats with views of Clear Lake, or you can eat outside or even on a boat during the season.

Final Thoughts: The Clear Lake area always seems to have a good vibe in the season. People from the area come here to have a good time and relax, and I've enjoyed eating my way through the tenderloins in the area. I found an alright sandwich at The Other Place down the road.  I have had PM Park, on the other side of the lake, on my list for years now. I just never seem to get there when its open, but maybe I can make it there next season.
Muskie Lounge on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dam Bar & Grill in Troy Mills Iowa

One sign claims this bar is home to the finest tenderloins in Troy Mills, another reads The Best Dam Tenderloin in Iowa. It may be referring to the best tenderloin near a dam, or on a dam, or in a town by a dam. There are a lot of dams in Iowa, so this is no small distinction.

Location: 5898 Main St in Troy Mills, an unincorporated community in Linn County, Eastern Iowa.

Directions: Troy Mills is on the road between the towns of Walker and Coggon, not exactly the most well-traveled route. The intersection of County Highway D62 and Troy Mills Rd is about 24 miles north of Cedar Rapids, accessible by county roads with no real direct route from the highway.


The Tenderloin: I saw the lady in the kitchen grab a rolling pin when I ordered the sandwich.I'm guessing the meat was pressed down before frying to get a good chewy texture. The moisture was good for such a thin tenderloin, and the breading was just a thin coating of golden brown with a hint of pepper. The trim job by whoever cut the meat was impressive, not a hint of fat in a giant loin. Overall 8.3 out of ten.

Price: $8.45 also available in medium and small sizes.
Also on the menu: The bar has drinks with goofy names like Hot Sex and the bartender wears a shirt reading "I had Hot Sex at the Dam Bar." There is the usual fried stuff and burgers, along with a Wing Night and Fish Fry.

Service: I was in during the off hours and there was a lady at the bar and another person cooking. Each were making conversation with the local regulars.
Ambiance: This is a small town bar with an outdoors theme in the decorations along with countless beer signs, some pictures of Troy Mills and sports trophies. There are tables and a bar for seating.

Final Thoughts: I've been to plenty of these small town bars and the Dam Bar was a good clean place with friendly service and a good loin. Its right up there with Butch's River Rock Cafe in Oakland Mills when it comes to eating a tenderloin near a dam.