Monday, November 30, 2009

Fat Randi's in Van Meter

Van Meter is a small town of 866 people just outside West Des Moines, its most famous for being home to former major league pitcher Bob Feller and there is a billboard on the freeway advertising his "museum". You can see the town by looking past the gravel pit south of the freeway. An honorable mention in the top five tenderloins in Iowa in 2007 meant that I had to make the trek almost 10 minutes from West Des Moines to check out this sandwich.

Location: 405 Grant St. in Van Meter, just 8 miles beyond West Des Moines, in Dallas County.

Directions: You take the freeway past the Jordan Creek exit, and turn south to drive past the gravel pit. This pub and grub is next to an auto shop on the old main street in behind the Casey's in Van Meter.
The Tenderloin: This one has a nice golden brown color in its fine layer of breading. The meat is nice, juicy and thick.The first time I ordered one it came with an onion ring on top, but I haven't been given one on my subsequent trips. There was a leaning tower effect with all the toppings. Overall 8.0 out of 10

Price: $7.00 with a side.

Also on the menu: A typical pub and grub menu with fried stuff, burgers, and frozen pizza. The specialty is the Fat Randi burger with fresh ground beef.

Service: Table and bar service. The lady that owns and manages the place, Randi, isn't really fat.
Ambiance: Its a small town bar with tables to eat at and Tv's. The walls are covered with cheap beer puns like "liquor in front, poker in the rear" on painted signs.

Every year the cities of West Des Moines and Waukee seem to creep farther west, and since the new mall was built this town seems closer to Des Moines than it used to be. Van Meter may be turning into a bedroom community for people who work in West Des Moines, but Fat Randi's is an authentic small town pub and grub with a good tenderloin.
Fat Randi's Bar & Grill Inc. on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Colony Inn in Ventura

When one travels into the northern regions of Iowa, or further into Minnesota, the pork tenderloins are more likely to be battered instead of breaded. The attraction of Clear Lake means many people visit this area in the summer, and there are plentiful dining options near, or on, the lake. Ventura probably sees its population swell during the summer as people visit the lake. When driving into Ventura, the sign for this place near the entrance to town reads Colony Inn Restaurant and Lounge.

Location: 104 N Weimar St in Ventura (population 670), in Cerro Gordo County, about two hours drive north of Des Moines in northern Iowa.

Directions: You take the Clear Lake Highway 18 exit West from I-80. Turn south at the sign for Ventura and find the old main street behind the grain elevators.

Online at:

The Tenderloin: First things first, this one was huge, and it looked really good with the fixins on the side of the giant plate. It felt like at least twelve ounces before battering and frying. The big letdown was the lack of any seasoning in the batter. The meat was beaten a little too much, leading to a limp flopping sandwich. It has tons of natural pork taste in the bright white meat locked in by the battering and frying process, but not any other flavor on top of it. Overall 7.5 out of ten.

Price: $9.75
Also on the menu: A big menu with steaks, salads and burgers.

Service: Its table service, I visited when it wasn't busy.
Ambiance: This place has a hunting lodge style dining area with wood paneling and pictures of game animals. There are booths and a bar to eat at. There is a lounge area in the next room, somewhere is a banquet hall in this large building.

The menu here tells me this tenderloin once nearly won a best tenderloin in the state award. But their new website doesn't have it listed on the menu. Maybe its because the sandwich page hasn't been uploaded yet, but I don't know. The people who operate this restaurant also run the kitchen at the seasonally-opened PM Park on the opposite side of Clear Lake. Next on my list in Ventura is the Muskie Lounge with lakeside boat service. The Suzie-Q Cafe in nearby Mason City serves a battered loin with a lot more flavor mixed in. Further west in Algona I found a good breaded tenderloin. Either way, this area has plenty of good tenderloins.

Colony Inn on Urbanspoon