Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Red Barn in Exira

After reviewing by backlog of tenderloin visits and pictures, I noticed a striking omission. Western Iowa along I-80 has a dense cluster of five small cafes serving award worthy tenderloins. Is there something in the water here? Perhaps. Between Kimballton, Elkhorn, Atlantic, Exira, and Hamlin are enough great tenderloins to satisfy any craving.

Location: 613 W Washington St, Exira, Iowa, population 810, about halfway between Des Moines and Omaha.

Directions: Take the Highway 71 exit, and go north from I-80. This cafe is on the secondary highway outside Exira, about six miles north of the Interstate.
The Tenderloin: This one looked good and tasted good. The tenderloin was good size and extended far beyond the bun. The fine breading had few crumbs and no grease. The white meat inside was tender and soft. Served on a toasted bun with optional fixins, they loaded mine with onions. Overall 8 out of 10.

Price: $3.45, fixins $0.25 more, still a huge bargain also available grilled.
Also on the menu: Fried chicken, sandwiches and a full breakfast menu.

Ambiance: Its the inside of a mobile home. There are not nearly enough seats for people who want to dine here. Dust from the busy grain bin outside left a layer of stuff on my car and clothing. Locals gossip with employees in the small quarters that resemble a person's kitchen. Other patrons were ordering the tenderloin as well.
Service: One server and another cooks, both never far from the patrons.

Final Thoughts: This is a place that should have a price for locals and another one for tourists. Its just not fair that out-of-staters could enjoy a tenderloin this good for less than three and a half dollars. This dive serves a tenderloin equal to any of its neighbors in this serious tenderloin region of Western Iowa.

Red Barn on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Northside Cafe in Winterset

My work takes me to town squares like the one in Winterset quite often. Many have cafes and diners just like this one in the historic parts of town. This place has been operating since 1928, in a building built in 1876. The one thing that sets this place apart is its cameo appearance in a movie released more than a decade ago.

Location: 61 W. Jefferson St. in Winterset Iowa, about 20 minutes drive south and west of Des Moines.

Directions: Take the Highway 169 Exit south from I-80, leading straight into Winterset. This is on the North side of the town square in Winterset, facing the courthouse.
The Tenderloin: This one falls into the category of thin cut pieces of pork loin. The breading is cooked better and browned more on one side. The breading was a little dusty and had not grease dripping off. This is a little on the thin side and is not big. Overall, a not-impressed 5.5 out of ten.

Price: $4.25 with all the fixins.

Also on the menu: A full breakfast menu with sandwiches for lunch and dinner specials

Service: Its seat-yourself with an attentive wait staff.

Ambiance: This has a great town square cafe ambiance. Vintage photos cover the walls over the woodwork. There are booths and a counter to dine at.
Final Thoughts: This is a cafe with great ambiance in the main square of Winterset. For a better tenderloin, head south the the Starlight Cafe. There is only so much you can say about being able to sit in the stool where Clint Eastwood once sat. I found a grainy clip of the scene on Youtube, I doubt they had to change anything to get the '65 setting right: