Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Victory Lane Cafe in Des Moines, Iowa

Victory Lane has a sign with a car tire, and some window lettering that reads "pizza to go", its hard to tell whats inside this place while driving past.  The full name of this place is Victory Lane Motorsports Cafe and it is in a simple building on the East side of Des Moines.

Location: 3801 Easton Blvd. in Des Moines

Directions: You get to Easton by taking University east past the fairgrounds and turning north on East 29th or Williams St.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This felt like at least a half pound of pork in the sandwich. The breading was a thick layer that had little seasoning and badly needed some mustard. The pork inside was cut with the grain and not tender, and there wasn't much moisture inside. The bun was not toasted and the fixings were piled underneath. Overall this was an okay homemade bar food tenderloin. 7.2 out of ten.

Price: $7.29 with fries and a little extra for onion rings

Also on the menu: typical bar food burgers and fried stuff but with pizza and cavatelli.
I got some onion rings:

Service: This was bar service with a couple waitresses running the cafe on a busy Friday crowd when I was in.

Ambiance: The cafe is themed for watching racing and there are flatscreen televisions and racing gear everywhere. Seats are at table and at the bar, and they have a pool table.

Final Thoughts: Its been a while since I last visited a "neighborhood bar" and even longer since I've visited one on the East side of Des Moines. Most of the people here were getting the pizza or the cavatelli, and I might go with those on another visit.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Uptown Cafe in Jefferson Iowa

It feels like I've been driving back and forth to Jefferson and back forever. I remember eating a tenderloin at a place by the railroad tracks a long time ago, but its closed up now. My next spot is the Uptown Cafe between the state highway and the courthouse. This is actually the second Uptown Cafe since I started this blog, after another in Western Iowa.

Location: 108 W State St in Jefferson, Greene County in Central Iowa.

Directions: The Uptown Cafe is on State St between the courthouse and Highway 4 running north and south through town.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This was a big sandwich that was served on a big bun on a big plate. The breading had some crunch but not much of any seasoning. The pork loin was bright white on the inside and steamy moist inside. Served with all the fixins on a toasted ciabatta bun that I just do not understand. Overall 7.8 out of ten.

Price: $7.50 with a side.

Also on the menu: they serve full breakfasts, sandwiches with confusing names that reference things in the town of Jefferson, and a list of pies is written on the pie board.

Service: the service was slow when I came in but the waitress apologized for the delay without being asked about it.

Ambiance: this place was slightly renovated in the past couple years with some antiques on the wall and exposed wood. There are booths and tables and a separate dining room for seating.

Final Thoughts: I had visited this place more than once before without my camera and not much has changed over the years. There is still a pie board, the clientele is still local folks. I might have to step into Ferg's Restaurant in Grand Junction on my next trip through Greene County.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Olson's Bread & Breakfast in Norwalk, Iowa

I had seen Olson's Bread & Breakfast featured on KCCI's Cruising for Comfort Food, and had driven past without realizing it served lunch. A recent facebook post on their seldom updated timeline had the message "Our landlord wants his building back, soon our last day at the restaurant will be Oct. 18." So I figured I should make it in before then.

Location: 1400 Sunset Dr in Norwalk just south of Des Moines

Directions: Taking 63rd South from West Des Moines eventually turns into Sunset Drive in Norwalk, and Olson's Bread & Breakfast is on the east side of the main drag through town.

Online at: facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This one come from the darker end of the pork loin and the meat was hot and juicy. It had been pounded out and the bits on the edges had overlapped, while some parts were thin and others thicker. The breading was a good crunchy layer with no seasoning. The homemade bun was soft and toasted warm and the butter melted into the bun gave it a rich flavor. Overall 7.8 out of ten.

Price: $7.29 with fries

Also on the menu: lunch has burgers and sandwiches but the full breakfast menu is the most popular fare here.

Service: There was one waitress and another person cooking when I was in. The limited hours last from six in the morning to two in the afternoon from Tuesday to Saturday.

Ambiance: There are few seats at a handful of tables inside, the walls are covered with decorations that remind you of breakfast.

Final thoughts: I usually don't go crazy for breakfast only places but in the past couple months I found some okay tenderloins at Julie's Homestyle Cafe in Oskaloosa and now in Olson's Bread & Breakfast. I don't know if this place is really closing or if it will find a new place soon.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Barnyard Family Restaurant in Chillicothe Iowa

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia tells me that the city of Chillicothe is pronounced Chill-uh-CAW-thee, and that 97 people live here. Well those people are lucky because they live in a town with a place named The Barnyard open four days a week. The Barnyard also operates a Tenderloin Experss Trailer in nearby Ottumwa on certain days when the restaurant is closed.

Location: 215 Market St in Chillicothe, about ten miles north and east of Ottumwa, Iowa

Directions:from Highway 63 between Ottumwa and Oskaloosa, take the T-67 road from the Chillicothe exit, then turn on Count Road H21 that turns into Market St in Chillicothe.

Online at: facebook page is HERE.

The tenderloin: This tenderloin started with a giant hunk of pork loin pounded into a triangle shape. The thickness was good and the white meat kept a good amount of juice in parts. The breading wasn't strongly seasoned but had a great flaky crunchy texture. Served on an untoasted bun Overall 8.4 out of ten.

Price: $5.75

Also on the menu: they have tenderloin with toppings and the usual fried stuff, burgers, and specials for dinner like steak.

Service: It was table service and it took a while even thought I was the only person there for lunch.

Ambiance: There were tables and a bar for seating, and the walls had old pictures of Chillicothe.

Final Thoughts: I don't get to towns as small as this that often anymore, and Im always looking for new places. I would definitely recommend stopping in the Barnyard if you are in Chillicothe from Wednesday to Saturday or tracking down their trailer. I can't think of a better one in the Ottumwa area.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Julie's Home Style Cafe in Oskaloosa, Iowa

I once visited a restaurant with a long rant printed on the menu about the difference between "homemade" and "home style". That was a long time ago, and I still can't help but think that menu writer was obsessed with the pedantic. Julie's Cafe has the words "Home Style" front and center on their sign, and I can't help but observe that nearly everything inside seemed to be homemade.

Location: 216 S Market in Oskaloosa about sixty miles from Des Moines.

Directions: Market St in Highway 63 just south of the main drag through Oskaloosa.

The Tenderloin: This was the classic triangle shaped loin cut pounded out to cover and entire lunch plate. The thin meat had lost nearly all moisture. The breading had some good seasoning and crunch but with no chewy meat inside. The bun was like a diner roll and hadn't been toasted. Overall 7.3 out of ten.

Price: $5.00 with a bag of chips.

Also on the menu: the lunch menu is hot beef and tenderloins and a daily special then a dessert board. The breakfast menu includes bowls of cereal and the classic diner eggs and bacon breakfasts.

Service: It was table service when I stopped in for lunch. I should not that they are only open until 1:30 on weekdays and close after breakfast at ten on Saturday.

Ambiance: This is an old diner that hasn't been redone in a long time with wood paneling and an old counter and booths for seating.

Final thoughts: The signage and uniforms for Julie's Cafe seem to emphasize the hot beef sandwich and the pies. I think I would try one of those next time I am in Oskaloosa. This place seems to attract lots of locals for its breakfasts too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Smokin' G's BBQ Restaurant in Marshalltown, Iowa

I've had some mixed luck when it comes to finding a good tenderloin in Marshalltown. Cecil's Cafe had left me unimpressed a long time ago, then I tried a sports bar inside a hotel by the highway that didn't impress me either. The latest contender is Smokin' G's BBQ Restaurant, open since last year in the main street area a block from the courthouse.

Location: 25 W Main St in Marshalltown, about 45 minutes northeast of Des Moines.

Directions: Taking Highway 330 from Des Moines to Highway 30 into Marshalltown, turn north and drive to the courthouse and turn left to find Smokin' G's.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This had a decent half pound size pork loin in a roughly triangular shape. The inside was darker loin meat with a good amount of juiciness. I picked up a hint of pepper and seasonings in the breading, but there wasn't any real crunch on this one. Served with all the fixins pinned down with a toothpick. Overall 7.3 out of ten.

Price: $9.95 with a side, but its a special on Tuesday with a drink and side for $9.50

Also on the menu: The huge menu starts with bbq meats, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, and fried appetizers. They even have a couple eating challenges.

Service: Its full service with a hostess and seating at tables and booths. The lunch rush crowd meant the food and check took some time when I visited.

Ambiance: This is a main st building with a recent renovation into a BBQ spot with western themed decorations.

Final Thoughts: I think my next stop in Marshalltown should be the 13th St Inn if its still open, it had a "for sale" sign on its facebook page so I don't know whats going on there. Maybe I need to go to the Haverhill Social Club just south of Marshalltown too.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Agency Cafe in Agency, Iowa

The Agency Cafe doesn't look like much from the outside, it has a gravel driveway and a faded sign reading CAFE. the waitresses wear shirts that say HOWDY on the front and "Some Things Don't Need To Change" on the back.

Location: 510 W Main St in Agency, Iowa, just outside of Ottumwa.

Directions: From Ottumwa, take Highway 34 West to the Agency off ramp that turns south to Agency, continue through the town and take a right on Main St to find the Agency Cafe at the edge of town.

Online at: Facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This is listed on the menu as the Big Boy Loin, and the hunk of pork loin felt like eight ounces and was in the classic triangular shape. The breading had a great cracker like crunch but not much in the way of seasoning. The white loin meat was moist in parts and steam got into the breading. Served on a soft toasted bun with your choice of fixins. Overall 7.6 out of ten.

Price: $6.75

Also on the menu: The menu is small with a smaller loin, burgers, chicken fried steak, and daily specials. Desserts include pies and cinnamon rolls. The meats come from the local meat locker.

Service: There is table service and a counter for paying, the other customers seemed to be local regulars.

Ambiance: Big letters reading HOWDY are painted on the wall, along with farm scenes. There is a counter and tables for seating.

Final Thoughts: I hadn't found a good loin near Ottumwa before and its always good to visit a real small town cafe. My next stop will probably be on the other side of Ottumwa in the small town of Chillicothe.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Lucky Pig Pub & Grill in Ogden, Iowa

The IPPA gave away its Best Tenderloin award in October of 2014 to a small town pub in Boone County. The Lucky Pig Pub & Grill has been serving up food and drinks in this location since 2011. The branding of the pub has a long written out explanation about what a "lucky pig" is in Germany. 

Location: 113 W Walnut St in Ogden, Boone County, in Central Iowa.

Directions: Ogden is just past Boone on Highway 30, take the offramp and go north through town and turn right on Walnut St in the center of town.

Online at: facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: The breading was like a batter that has a bright and golden brown color, and the texture forms a solid layer that wasn't crunchy on either of my visits. It had a little bit of a spicy flavored taste. The loin meat was thin yet soft with good moisture but not quite juicy. Served with your choice of fixins on a kaiser bun. Overall 8.4 out of ten.

Price: $9.95 with a side, I went with the Onion Rings:

Onion Rings

The Wholly Pig: I saw this ridiculous topped tenderloin on the menu and had to try it. This was a breaded tenderloin on top of some sliced ham, with bbq pork and strips of bacon with bbq sauce and melted cheese. The whole deal was one heavy pile of food even without the side of fries.

Also on the menu: The menu is huge with fried stuff, giant burgers, wings, appetizers, salads, steaks, pizza and specials.

Service: Its table service with a wait for seating when things get busy.

Ambiance: The interior is a big improvement from the bar that used to be here. This is a newish remodel of the old sports bar, with large tables for seating.

Final Thoughts:  I had visited this same space in Ogden several years ago when the building was occupied by BK's Sports Bar, which moved here from the other side of the main street. But that was a long time ago. The tenderloin here is as good as any in the Central Iowa area, if you don't mind driving past Boone to get here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Seneca Street Saloon in Webster City, Iowa

 Seneca Street Saloon and Pizza is a block off the main commercial street in Webster City and their menu is posted in front of the door. It lists a hand breaded tenderloin for $4.25 so I had to stop in and check it out for myself. A local newspaper claims this is the first sports bar in Webster City, and they sell a lot of pizza here.

Location: 919 Seneca St in Webster City, in North Central Iowa.

Directions: The main turnoff for Webster City from Highway 20 takes you up Superior St and if you turn after the park you will be a block away from Seneca St Saloon.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin:The breading had some crackermeal that seemed to get a little toasty during its time in the fryer. Part of the meat was juicy, part was on the dry side. This was about average for a bar food tenderloin in small town Iowa. Served on a warm bun with your choice of fixins. Overall 7.0 out of ten.

Price: $4.25 dining in or $4.75 for take out.

Also on the menu: they have bar food appetizers and sandwiches and the specialty is homemade pizza.

Service: I just got takeout from the bar, but they will deliver in Webster City.

Ambiance: There was a lot of wood paneling and an old bar. Beer signs and sports stuff covers the walls.

Final Thoughts: I have been through Webster City plenty of times and never found a good tenderloin. Its a good drive from here to find a better one than at Seneca Street Saloon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Little Red Food Truck in Des Moines, Iowa

I was able to try a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich at The Spot Food Truck last year, and one from Chuckie's Iowa Tenderloin Truck at the Iowa State Fair the year before, and even earlier at the mobile unit of the Townhouse Supper Club when it came to Des Moines several years ago. The latest food truck to sell breaded pork tenderloins is the Little Red Food Truck parked downtown for this summer.

Location: They have only been around for a couple months and may move around, check their social media page to know where they will be.

Directions: You can drive downtown on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and they will probably be in the sculpture park area where the other trucks are parked.

Online at: facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This was described as pork ribeye loin meat, and the bright white meat was very juicy. Panko bread crumbs gave this sandwich a classic crunchy texture. The first problem was that the loin meat was not entirely coated in the breadcrumbs, parts were just bare meat. Another was the trim job that left hunks of fat in the loin meat that were a little too big. The panko had a little salt in the taste, so something could have been added. Served with your choice of fixins on a soft bun. Overall 7.30 out of ten.

Price: $7.00 a la carte

Also on the menu: fresh turnover pies, gourmet tacos with fish or fried flour shells, and soft drinks.

Service: Just a walk up food truck service. There were two people inside when I stopped by.

Ambiance: I found the truck when it was parked on a sidewalk across from the sculpture park.

Final Thoughts: This isn't the first food truck to try selling tenderloins in Des Moines, and there is another truck with tenderloins on the menu parked across the street. Fixings some problems with the sandwich could make this one competitive with the other tenderloins in town.

Monday, June 15, 2015

BW's Burgers in West Des Moines, Iowa

A few months ago the facebook page of The Rusty Duck in Dexter announced they would open a bar and restaurant in West Des Moines named BW's Burgers Shakes & Spirits. The Rusty Duck in Dexter had once won an award from the Iowa Cattlemen for having the best burger in Iowa, and had a runner-up award from the annual IPPA tenderloin contest. I would guess that BW is the initials of the owner of the two places.

Location: 3701 EP True Parkway in West Des Moines, Iowa

Directions: This is in a strip mall with three other restaurants that haven't been here very long, you can get to EP True by taking Grand Ave. from Des Moines.

The Tenderloin: This one had a wide oval shape with a butterfly cut in the middle. I had been here before and had a different shape. Each loin I've had here has been very thick and juicy. I've heard pounding noises from the kitchen, but the texture of the meat feels undisturbed by tenderizing. The meat inside is a bright white loin meat, and the breading is a thin crunchy layer with a hint of pepper. Served on a large and soft toasted bun with your fixins. Overall 8.2 out of ten.

Price: $10.00 with a side of fries. I got mine with cheese sauce:

Menu Board

Also on the menu: The menu isn't big but has steak sandwiches and burgers and other bar foods with some specials listed on the menu board

The Ultimate Cheeseburger
The Ultimate Cheeseburger: I would guess this is similar to the burger that was awarded by the Iowa Cattlemen or Beef Association at the Rusty Duck. This is topped with peppers and onions and melted cheese cooked to your preference, I go with medium well. Served with fries for about twelve dollars.

Nachos on special
 I was in again and they had a Nachos Special on the menu board, and it was a pile of tortilla chips with Italian Sausage and melted cheese and raw jalepeno peppers. This wasn't a regular menu item and it felt like an appetizer for a group of four or more.

Service: There is a take-out counter and table service.

Ambiance: This space has had a couple restaurant tenants, the last one being a place trying to sell loosemeat burgers and hot dogs. The dining area has tables, and the patio area is open for the season.

Final Thoughts: I had been to Dexter a few times over the years, but the Rusty Duck is only open evenings and I never made it inside. If the burgers here are the same as the ones these guys serve in Dexter, then I would be interested in coming back to try one someday.