Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Porks in Winfield

Any place with a giant pig on the sign, on the menu, and everywhere else is a good hint of either BBQ or pork tenderloin inside. I was led here by reading Essential Iowa's suggestions. The Full name of this place is Pork's Hometown Restaurant, and it seems to be popular with the locals.

Location: 118 S. Locust St. in Winfield (population 1,131) in Henry County, in Southeast Iowa.

Directions: Winfield is on the not-so-beaten path between Wapello and Mt. Pleasant. Pork's is on the main street, County Road W66 just north of State Highway 78.
The Tenderloin: The first thing that hits you is the massive size of this thing, it must be at least 12 ounces of pork here before breading. The whole thing has good consistent thickness and is tender to the point of falling apart as you lift the edges. The crunchy breading separates from the pork inside easily, with big crumbs falling everywhere. Tiny chunks of fat weren't trimmed before cooking. The size makes this thing an incredible value and excellent sandwich experience. Served with fixins on untoasted bun. Overall 8.5/10

Price: $5.50 Extra bun is 85 cents, like the plating fee at fancy restaurants.
Also on the menu: As the only place to eat in a small town, there's a little bit of everything. Steaks, fish, burgers, salads, daily specials, and a full breakfast menu are on offer.

Service: Table service with attentive waitress.
Ambiance: Tables and booths to sit, a private room for parties, and various junk on the walls including pig images everywhere.

Final Thoughts: Literary types may remember Bill Bryson visiting here in the travel novel The Lost Continent. Winfield is the home of Bryson's grandparents, and he visited as a child. He returned in 2006 with a British television crew, and the Winfield Historical Society documented his visit in pictures and it looks like he had time to visit Pork's:
Bryson told the Mt. Pleasant News "To me, Winfield was the perfect little place," Bryson said. "To me, this was as good as life could be. Ball games, church socials and the like all contributed."

Pork's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Baker's Food & Fuel Des Moines (now defunct)

How could I forget this place on the road to Norwalk. Sure, it closed in late 2007, and could have used any publicity it could get. Rumour was this place was operated by some people connected to a major high-end restaurant chef in Des Moines. I probable should have added this review a long time ago. Watching tenderloin serving establishments close brings me no shortage of heartache.

Location: listed as 1643 R63 Hwy in Norwalk, this is right on the off ramp from the southern Highway 5.

Directions: You could get there by going south on 9th St in Des Moines or by taking the turnoff from the loop highway south of town. Look for the giant FOOD and FUEL sign.
The Tenderloin: I was greeted by a printed sign on the swinging doors advertising homemade tenderloins. This was a great hunk of darker pork meat with great taste that came apart easily. There were a couple places where the fat wasn't trimmed off, but the great variance in shape and thickness made it all good. Served on a large untoasted bun. The fixins bar for patrons bumped up the score with banana peppers and jalepenos in addition to the usual toppings. Overall 7.5 out of ten.

Price: $4.25, with fixins bar.
Also on the menu: Large menu included Grinder Sandwiches, "Hawg Wings", gizzards and pizza kept under hot lamps.

Service: You pick up your food from the counter, the fixins bar is behind you. You could call ahead to order pizza. When I found the hot food cabinet sans Tenderloins, the lady working the register agreed to make one. She then took three tenderloins with very different shapes out of the freezer storage. I got one fresh hot one, the other two sat under the heat lamp.
Ambiance: This was a spacious and well lit gas station with TVs stuck on the country music channel and a nice bulletin board.

Final Thoughts: Its a shame this place had to close. The tenderloin is about the best that you would ever be able to find with a tank of gas. I probable should have added this review way back before it closed, but I figured it was a case of better late than never. When places serving tenderloins disappear, it reminds me to keep supporting the small places that make eating tenderloins so much fun in the first place.