Darrell's Place is an aluminum siding building with a gravel driveway parking lot and a giant antenna on the roof. Its at the "busy" intersection of highways 44 and 71 in Western Iowa, in a town with less than 300 people. The autobiographical stories on the walls tell of a farmer from near Exira who decided to open this restaurant back in the eighties, and its word of mouth reputation slowly spread throughout the small burgs of Western Iowa.
Location: 4010 First St in Hamlin, Audubon County in Western Iowa.
Directions: Take the Highway 71 exit from I-80 and drive north through Brayton and Exira and find Darrell's place in Hamlin at the intersection with Highway 44.
Online at: facebook page is HERE.
Price: It was $4.25 a la carte the last time I stopped in.
Also on the menu: The menu is big with fried appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and other entrees. But seriously, why bother with anything other than the tenderloin and dessert. I went with the Butterscotch pie picked out from the Pie Board and appreciated the creamy and sweet filling:
Ambiance: The walls are wood panels covered with everything from t-shirts to newpaper articles about the IPPA award to posters from the local high school sports teams. The seating includes a bar area and tables for groups.
Final Thoughts: The story of Darrell's Place is also the story of the IPPA Best Tenderloin in Iowa Award. The 2003 award was the first one given out, and the IPPA even published a list of places nominated for the award before giving out the top five. That list was the first real guide to finding breaded tenderloin sandwiches, and the IPPA contest with its exposure on rural AM radio still reaches the small town diners more than any modern internet search, newspaper articles, or restaurant review websites like yelp or urbanspoon. I have to wonder if Darrell's Place was the reason they started the award in the first place.