Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wellmans Pub on Ingersoll and the Fatboy Tenderloin

Wellmans Pub is a neighborhood bar that has been on Ingersoll for as long as I can remember. I could have sworn I came here once for a special Garlic Chicken Pizza when this place was a little different. The people who own this place operate a few other bars, and I think they changed chefs and started a new menu here recently. Wellman's Pub on Ingersoll is related to Wellman's Pub & Rooftop, the trendy dance club and singles bar in West Des Moines.

Location: 2920 Ingersoll Ave. in Des Moines

Directions: Its right on Ingersoll Ave under the big sign.

The Fatboy Tenderloin: I can't remember the menu description but this thing came out sd a tenderloin with a layer of sliced ham, two slices of cheese and a pile of onion rings on top. There was a small container with what seemed like a special sauce for the onion rings. The tenderloin underneath it all felt like a good eight ounces, and was pounded out into a butterfly shape. The breading tasted like regular bread crumbs without seasoning. The onion rings, combined with sliced red onions on top meant lots of onion taste in this sandwich. Served with all the fixings on a toasted bun.

Price: $9.99 with a side, the Sweet Potato Fries in the pictures were a dollar extra. Still a good value for so much food.
Also on the menu: There is a Cajun seasoned tenderloin, as well as burgers, salads and other stuff.

Service: I came by during the off hours and there were more servers than people. I think the patio are gets filled during the summer.
Ambiance: I could have sworn this place was renovated at some point not too long ago. The old sports stuff seemed to have moved, it was more exposed woodwork in booths with a full bar and patio seating in warm weather.

Final Thoughts: Does this sandwich make any sense on any level? A tenderloin topped with ham, cheese and onion rings? I like having a tenderloin available on Ingersoll more than just about anybody else, but I think I will stick with a regular size sandwich next time.
Wellman's Pub on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bluebird Diner in Iowa City

While cruising through restaurant websites looking for places to try, this diner in Iowa City reminded me of a place I had visited earlier in Waterloo. Bluebird Diner has a mission to serve homemade comfort food made with fresh and locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Between this place and Newton's Paradise Cafe in Waterloo, Eastern Iowa seems to have a couple of better, new, retro self-styled "diners" than any of the new diners I have found in Central Iowa.

Location: 330 East Market Street in Iowa City, Eastern Iowa.

Directions: Its across the street from Johns Grocery on the north side of downtown Iowa City.

Online at: their website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: In the dim light that made my photos turn out bad, the sandwich had a medium size and shape that was between a mitten and the triangular loin cut. The white meat was cut with the grain and didn't feel like it had been tenderized. There was a good cracker crunch and just a little seasoning in the breading. The whole thing just wasn't tender enough. Served with all the fixings on a soft toasted bun. Overall 7.1 out of ten.

Price: $8.75 with a side, also available grilled or blackened. They gave me a mountain of lightly seasoned fries with my sandwich.

Also on the menu: Comfort food including a full breakfast menu with burgers, sandwiches and daily specials for dinner.

I sat right in front of the Cinnamon Rolls, and figured they were worth taking a picture:
Service: It looked like two student waitresses and a cook when I visited during the off-hours. The receipt included cute phrases like "It was our tweet to serve you" and "have a pheasant day!"

Ambiance: I think this building was a paint store when I went to school in Iowa City long time ago. The exterior was designed to resemble Edward Hopper's 1942 painting Nighthawks, my camera couldn't really capture the dark light after the sun went down. The diner in Nighthawks has no door, but the Bluebird has a door with a curtain inside.

Final Thoughts: I would come back to this place to try the breakfast items that sound good like the Biscuits & Gravy or the Egg Omelet choices. I haven't spent enough time trying tenderloins in Iowa City since I last wrote up Midtown Family Restaurant a couple years ago. My list of places to check includes Hamburg Inn No.2, Shakespeare's Pub, and a long list of small town cafe's in the area. Bluebird Diner on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roadside Inn Martensdale & the Famous Giant Loin

My travels around Iowa eating sandwiches has taught me that many places claiming to have a "famous" sandwich are in towns a little more famous for something else. According to their menu, this tenderloin was mentioned by a host on WHO Radio as being the best in Iowa. Martensdale has recently become locally famous for Martensdale-St. Mary's High School and their prolific baseball team which has won over eighty games in a row in a streak still going as this blog post goes to print.

325 N Highway 28 in Martensdale, about ten miles south of Des Moines in Warren County.

Directions: Take the HWY 92 Bevington exit East from I-35, or Highway 28 south from Norwalk. Look for the giant signage, but ask the hostess "Is this The Roadside Inn?" upon entering just to make sure.

The "Famous Giant Loin": This thing was huge, it cam out on a plate covering both parts of the bun and the side of french fries. I could taste some seasoning salt and black pepper in the breading which stuck to the meat well but never had any crunch. The pork had good juiciness and was moist even at the edges that stuck out beyond the center. The fat hadn't been completely trimmed they way I like it. Served with your choice of fixings on a flour-dusted bun. Overall 8.2 out of ten.

Price: $9.49 for 1 Giant Loin with not one but two sides:
Also on the menu: Huge menu with broasted chicken, steaks, ribs, sandwiches, salads, hand dipped onion rings, and more that I didn't write down.

Service: Its table service in the dining area, or counter service at the bar.

Ambiance: This is an old building renovated a few years ago. There is a dining area with booths and a bar area with seats and a counter. The decorations are mostly for local sports teams.
Final Thoughts: The Roadside Inn is a classic Iowa side of the highway roadhouse with gravel parking lot and lettering that can be seen from outer space. Its closer to Des Moines than most of the other roadhouses I have made it to for giant tenderloins, less than ten miles down the road from the main street in Norwalk. I don't think this sandwich is more famous the the MSM baseball team, but I think the small community is happy with both.

Roadside Inn on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Old 30 Grill in Jefferson

The Old 30 Grill Cafe in Jefferson looks like so many other Lincoln Highway side of the road stops for food. I don't think this place has been open too long, but there isn't much information available out there.

Location:505 East Lincolnway Street in Jefferson, Greene County, in Central Iowa. At the end of the Raccoon River Valley Bike Trail.

Directions: Lincolnway is the old Lincoln Highway and this place is 3 blocks East of the giant bell tower in the middle of Jefferson.

The Tenderloin: A nice golden brown color with spots of seasoning made the breading look delicious. The meat had a clear butterfly cut in the middle, and the size was a good six or seven ounces. Steam from inside the soft white inside had moved the breading off of the meat. The tenderizing seemed to take any firmness out of the cut of loin, and the edges drooped over the bun. Served on an untoasted flour-dusted bun. Overall 7.2 out of ten.

Price: $6.25 with fixings and a side.
Also on the menu: The menu is big with burgers and fried stuff.

Service: There is table service available but I went with a to go box from the counter.
Ambiance: Its an old building that has been renovated into a restaurant. The interior had some tables and a bar with transportation themed decorations. I chose the take my to-go box to the park at the end of the bike trail right beside the cafe.

Final Thoughts: I think the sign below was trying to say WE HAVE THE BEST LOINS IN TOWN. But I will have to go across Jefferson and try the Uptown Cafe on my next trip to Jefferson to make my own judgement.
Old 30 Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Short Stop in New London

The Short Stop in New London is a small town drive-in just off the state highway in Southeast Iowa. A local newspaper article tells me that this place serves over a hundred of these a day during the busy summer months. The owners have help promotions giving one lucky person a free tenderloin every month for a year, but it always seems to happen when I am not in town.

Online at: It looks like somebody set up a facebook page when they sold their 50,000th tenderloin HERE.

Location: 600 East Main St in New London, Henry County, Southeast Iowa.

Directions: Its on the Eastern edge of town, Main St. has an exit from Highway 34.

The Tenderloin: The meat portion was huge, feeling like at least twelve ounces. The shape was about halfway between an oval and a rectangle. Breading had a huge amount of crunch and eating this sandwich sent crumbs flying everywhere. The meat was moist and a bit darker than some other loins, pounded thin and the ratio of meat to breading was a little lean. Served with all the fixins on a corn dusted bun. Overall 8.5 out of ten.

Price: $4.75, also available grilled,a good value.
Also on the Menu: Full breakfast with biscuits and gravy, an ice-cream menu, and lunch with sandwiches, burgers, and fried stuff too. The Elk Burger is the Henry County specialty.

Service: Its a walk-up with a window to put your order in.
Ambiance: Its a small town drive-in with a small dining area inside, with picnic tables outside and a big gravel parking lot.

Final Thoughts: From the sign on the wall, it looks like they have sold more than a few of these in the past few years:

Short Stop on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Red Rooster Grill in Iowa Falls

Iowa Falls refers to itself as The Scenic City of Iowa, for its view of the Iowa River and a handful of historic buildings in town. You can read HERE about the Red Rooster Drive-In that once stood at the intersections of Highways 20 and 65 before burning down and being rebuilt.

Location: 420 Oak St in Iowa Falls, Hardin County, in North Central Iowa.

Directions: Its right on Highway 65, the main drag through town, look for the sign with a giant rooster.

The Tenderloin: The menu mentioned proudly that this sandwich was listed as one of the best in the state of Iowa back in 2004. It felt like about eight ounces when I lifted it up. The cut and tenderizing processed had turned the loin into an elongated shape. The whole thing retained a ton of juice after it was cooked. Served on a small toasted bun. Overall 7.6 out of ten.

Price: $4.75 a la carte, fixings extra.
Also on the menu: Full breakfast, loosemeat burgers and pizza burgers seemed to be the highlights. They were sold out of pies during my visit.

Service: It was seat yourself with table service and three old ladies running the show when I stopped by.
Ambiance: The outside is plain, but the inside has cute old fixtures, and old counter area and booths for seating. the decorations are mostly pictures of Red Roosters.

Final Thoughts: The cinder block building with the CAFE lettering and fading sign don't exactly draw the visitor inside. The promise of fresh breakfast, tenderloins, and pie should. When in Iowa Falls, its tough not to be entranced by the beauty the Princess Grill and Pizzeria just around the corner, which will probably be my next stop here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Boonie's in Earlville

The sign in front of Boonie's reads "Fine Food & Good Friends", and this small town cafe seems to be the meeting place for this community in Eastern Iowa. A recent top five finish in the IPPA Tenderloin rankings put this tiny place on my to-do list earlier this year.

Location: 107 Northern Ave. in Earlville, Delaware County, Eastern Iowa.

Directions: Northern Ave. is the main drag through town, take the County Rd. X35 from the Highway 20 off-ramp.

The Tenderloin: The butterfly cut in the middle left parts inside very thick. The whole thing had a good size that felt like eight ounces before cooking. The breading left a significant crunchy texture outside the good size of pork loin meat. Served with your choice of fixings on a corn-dusted bun. Overall 8.0 out of ten.

Price: $4.95 with chips.
Also on the menu: The regular menu was typical cafe fare with Ruebens and Roast Beef Sandwiches, but the daily specials and desserts were on the Pie Board:
Service: There was one waitress and another guy cooking while I stopped in, each was attentive and the place is kept clean and efficient.
Ambiance: This is another small town get together place, its seat yourself table service with a bar area as well.

Final Thoughts: I had not previously found anything special between Dubuque and Manchester. There is no reason not to stop at a place like this while on the Eastern end of Highway 20.
Boonies on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Corner Station in Templeton

The stretch of Highway 71 in the middle Western Iowa cuts straight through some of the least traveled and rarely visited parts of Iowa. Its one lonesome road. But it has one cafe after another with a great breaded tenderloin sandwich. Templeton is north of the Chatterbox Cafe in Audubon, The Red Barn in Exira, Farmers Kitchen in Atlantic, and Darrell's Place in Hamlin. Each one serves homemade food to dedicated locals. A recent award from the IPPA made me head to this small cafe that didn't even have an OPEN sign outside. The Corner Station closes at four in the afternoon, so get there early.

Location: 18152 Highway 141 in Templeton, in Carroll County, Western Iowa.

Directions: The only building on the south side of the main road, Highway 71/141 between Carroll and Audubon. Its an unmarked white building with just the lettering of the word CAFE on the window.

The Tenderloin: First on my mind was the small size and a butterfly cut that made the meat portion extra long. Breading added good flavor to the crunchy outside of the loin. The warm moist and consistently tender meat was just right. Served on a small bun with your choice of toppings. Overall 8.8 out of ten.
Price: a great value at $3.75 a la carte.

Also on the menu: Its a real simple menu with burgers, a pizza burger, patty melt and other sandwiches. Also a full breakfast in the morning.

The waffle fries: Nothing accentuates the tender taste of the pork loin like the crispy fried goodness of criss-cut fries. I could eat these all day:
Service: There is a counter or table service, you pay at the register counter near the door.

Ambiance: The building is part of an old auto repair garage, with a limited grocery selection in one area. The dining room has tables and a small counter with a menu board and wood-panel walls.
Templeton Rye:
The town of Templeton has become known as the home of Templeton Rye Whiskey, the prohibition era drink with a 21st century marketing campaign. It has been known to disappear from store shelves for months at a time. I understand it can be used in cooking or could be mixed with BBQ sauce for an extra kick. My time in Templeton was short, so I only snapped a quick photo of their buildings on the edge of town:
Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when the "mobile speakeasy" was parked a block away from where I live in Des Moines. While its great that they were promoting the whiskey, I would have preferred to have the Corner Station and its tenderloin move down to Des Moines instead.
Corner Station on Urbanspoon