Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sugar Shack in Altoona

The Sugar Shack is an ice-cream place in an old shopping center in the older part of Altoona. I often imagine these place as being filled with sugar-charged little kids screaming at each other. Its usually not my cup of tea, but a homemade tenderloin on the menu made this a place for I had to visit.

Location: 100 8th St SE in Altoona, just east of Des Moines.

Directions: 8th Street is the main drag through the suburban community of Altoona, you can take Hubbell Avenue in Des Moines to reach it.
The Tenderloin: This one had good size and clearly stuck out from the bun. The white meat was pounded thin, but was close to the "pork jerky" level of toughness. The edges were especially dry, perhaps it was overcooked. This gets a slight deduction for the cold bun. Overall 6.0/10.

Price: $5.25 .
Also on the menu: Full ice-cream menu with burgers and other junk food.

Service: Its counter service with the whole show run by teenagers when I visited.
Ambiance: This is a family friendly ice-cream place with bright colors and tacky 50's decorations that look like they were bought at the mall.

Final Thoughts: This might be the most family-friendly tenderloin place in Central Iowa. Its the only homemade one I have found so far in Altoona, although I may have to try Claxon's Smokehouse or the Prairie Meadows Concession Stand to see if they serve homemade tenderloins.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Augusta Restaurant in Oxford

UPDATED WITH NEW VISIT AND NEW PHOTOS SUMMER 2014: I was able to make it back and I wasn't satisfied with my first batch of photos. I had always stopped in when I was in too much of a hurry to eat in or when the Augusta Restaurant was closed. The new loin they served me was so tenderized that it broke into two pieces while cooking. The bun was just okay but the mayonnaise adds a little bit of a tasty rich extra bite on the top.


The Iowa Pork Producer's Association releases an award for the best tenderloin each year, and this place won in 2008. Many agree that this is probably the best of all the tenderloins to win the annual award for "best tenderloin". Its at a place founded by a couple of Louisiana natives who moved to Iowa after Hurricane Katrina. Oxford was once "famous" for the book The Oxford Project, which took photos of the people here in 1985 and then again in 2005. Now its home to a great tenderloin.

Location: 101 S. Augusta Ave. in Oxford, Iowa (population 705 in 2000 census). Its about 15 minutes west of Iowa City.

Directions: You can take I-80 from Iowa City or Highway 6 from the Coralville Strip to reach the county road that forms Augusta Ave., the main street through Oxford.

Online At:

The Tenderloin: The size is probably just under the super-jumbo average of about 12 ounces, stretching across the takeout box. But this doesn't mean a sacrifice of quality for size. A theme here is high-quality ingredients. The bread crumbs are huge and get separated from the loin easily. Its a great cut of poirk loin, well tenderized yet firm and bright white inside. Served on a fresh toasted bun with tomato, mayo, and red onions. Overall 9.5/10.

Price: $10.00, served with hand-cut fries or sweet-potato chips. Its still not the most expensive tenderloin in Iowa.

Also on the menu: There is a full homemade Cajun menu including Crawfish Beignets fresh cut steaks.

Service: Its only table seating inside with wait staff that must come from across the corridor area.

Ambiance: You pass through a curtain to enter a dimly lit dining area with Louisiana color scheme of purple with accents of green and gold.

Final Thoughts: This place is close enough to the population centers in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids to have this kind of place in such a small town. Having a couple of migrants from Louisiana come here and make the best tenderloin ever kind of pokes a hole through any logic in the idea that only Iowans can make these things right.

Augusta on Urbanspoon