Saturday, March 1, 2014

Darrell's Place in Hamlin, Iowa

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.

The Tenderloin: The cutting and trim job on the pork loin meat is meticulous and yields a smaller size piece of meat with a juicy and chewy texture. The sandwich feels like six ounces, much smaller than the jumbo loins sold elsewhere. The tenderizing is very consistent so there are no thin drys spots or tougher thick parts. Breading is a super fine and super thin layer of golden yellow with just a touch of seasoning that keeps the steam inside from escaping. Served with pickles and onions on an a small untoasted bun. Overall 9.3 out of ten.

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:
Butterscotch Pie
Service: This is a seat yourself table service restaurant, and a couple waitresses are spread throughout the dining area. The small town place gets busy and the food isn't fast, so be prepared for a little wait.

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.

Darrell's Place on Urbanspoon

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