Monday, August 15, 2016

Local Yocals farmHouse Downtown Des Moines, Iowa

I remember the old food court here was dark and had old tables and dated fixtures. There was a place serving pizza by the slice, another sold chicken, then there was a gyro spot. After the fire next door damaged this building, the area was renovated and reopened as Local Bites Food Court. The organizers went out of their way to find local vendors with new products that weren't already available in the skywalk area.

Location: 700 Locust St in the Local Bites food court below ground level.

Directions: You have to park in a ramp and take the skywalk to the Partnership Building then go down the stairs to the basement food court.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This sandwich looked good from the outside with the pork loin overwhelming the little burger bun. The meat was pounded into a thin layer which could not hold any moisture. The texture of the breading had a good crunch, and had a little bit of salt or seasoning. Served on a soft whole grain bun with lettuce, onion, pickle, and ketchup. Overall 7.2 out of ten.

Price: $5.75 a la carte

Farm Fries with dipping sauce.
Farm Fries are tossed with seasoned salt and served with garlic mayo dipping sauce for $2.50

Also on the menu: their specialty is the Farm Burger, and the rest of the menu changes. When I stopped in they had a lamb burger or a fried chicken sandwich.

The Farm Burger with bacon
Service: One person was taking orders while another was working the kitchen, and it was going a little slow during the lunch rush. I really don't like they way they stick everything into a brown paper bag.

Ambiance: This is a food court renovated and rebranded as Local Bites and opened this year with new vendors and long public tables. Local Yocals designed their stall to resemble a farm house kitchen with a shelf stocked with cook books and reclaimed barn wood holding up the menu.

Final Thoughts: I had visited Local Yocals at their farmers market stalls in the past and their burgers or hot dogs were always good. This is a vendor that goes out of its way to use words like "fresh", "local", "farm" or "Iowa" as often as they can on their menu. I wish their tenderloin was more memorable, and would recommend the farm burger to anyone trying this place for the first time.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Drake Diner in Des Moines, Iowa

The Drake Diner has a reputation as a place where Drake students go to eat with their families when their parents come to town for a visit. The menu graphics reinforce the family appeal of this place. The Drake Diner has a good thing going with all these Drake students and guests from the hotel next door, the place is busy and probably gets more people than any other spot in the Drake neighborhood.

Location: 1111 25th St near Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Directions: you turn south on 25th from University Ave while driving through the Drake neighborhood in Des Moines.

Online at: Website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: The tenderloin doesn't look big at first, and feels like just six or seven ounces compared to the bigger ones I've seen at other places. The breading has a great golden brown color and forms a fine thin layer but doesn't have much seasoning to it. The pork meat has a consistent texture like it was tenderized in a machine at the meat department, and the white pork loin meat was steamy and moist. This was an okay homemade tenderloin. Served with onion and pickle on a big soft toasted bun. Overall 7.3 out of ten.

Price: $9.49 with a side of accordion fries.

Also on the menu: They serve a lot of breakfasts with huge portions of eggs or pancakes or hash browns. Their lunch menu includes half pound burgers and other diner staples. Local specialties include a rarebit burger served open faced and topped with melted cheese or a deep fried cheese frenchie sandwich. Then there is a big ice cream and dessert menu.

Service: There is table service at the booths or counter service at the counter.

Ambiance: I think the building was built to resemble a classic diner from the fifties, there is a large counter area and booths and a patio area for seating. There is a lot of neon lighting.

Final Thoughts: This was a decent tenderloin at a diner famous for breakfasts and burgers. I still want to try the Rarebit burger sometime. I think I saw a plaque of recognition from the Iowa Cattlemen for their annual burger competition.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Raceway Cafe in Newton, Iowa

I had driven past the Raceway Motor Sports Cafe a few times but then I noticed a banner reading "Biggest and Best Tenderloin in Town." The racing themed sports bar has been open here since 2012 but hasn't been open on the previous times I've driven through on a Sunday or Monday.

Location: 2331 1st Ave East in Newton, Jasper County, Central Iowa. Its about 35 minutes drive from Des Moines on I-80.

Directions: You can take Main St east from downtown or take the exit from the race track and go north to Main St.

The Tenderloin: The first thing you notice here is the size. It feels like a good eight ounces pounded into a shape that doesn't quite fit into the to-go box.  The very thin meat was dry on one half and only a little moist in the middle. The breading formed a crunchy and crackerlike layer that had little or no seasoning. Served with your fixings on an untoasted bun. Overall 7.5 out of ten.

Price: $8.95 with a side

Also on the menu: There are burgers and bar foods like chicken wings, but also Italian dishes like pizza or grinders or daily specials.

Service: I ordered take out from the bar but there is table service also.

Ambiance: It was too dark to take pictures inside, but there is table and booths for seating, and a bar and patio when its warm outside. There is racing gear and beer signs on the walls and flatscreen televisions to watch sports.

Final Thoughts: This is the second tenderloin that I have eaten in Newton this year after trying the Midtown Cafe in the center of town. This tenderloin was better than the one at Midtown, but I am still looking for anything really exceptional in Newton and I haven't found it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

B-Bop's Burgers in Des Moines, Iowa

B-Bop's Burgers is a local chain with locations in Des Moines, the suburbs and Ames Iowa. They frequently win "Best Burger" polls in Des Moines and the chain predates the gourmet burger fad that has brought so many new burger places with high prices to the market in the past ten years. Just last year B-Bops opened its first location with indoor seating and counter for ordering on the South Side of Des Moines.

Location: 4500 Fleur Dr in the southwest side of Des Moines, Iowa.

Directions: This is just a few blocks north of the Airport on Fleur Dr.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: Described as "1/4 pound pork loin fritter". This had a layer of breading that was crunchy but also hard and flavorless. The tiny amount of soft meat inside was moist and grayish in color with the consistency of a sponge. Served on a sesame seed bun topped with shredded lettuce and onions mixed with ketchup, mayonnaise and tiny pickle slices. Overall 2.0 out of ten.

Price: I think the combo meal was $6.49 before tax but I didn't get the price of just the loin. I think its over three dollars by itself.

Also on the menu: The burgers from through a broiler and the fries were fresh and hot, they have a big vat holding chili.

Service: Its fast food counter service with your number called when your order is ready. Food is served in a paper bag even if you are eating inside, and you have to ask for ketchup.

Ambiance: This is a new concept built in the past year as a dine-in B-Bops and the tables are new and clean and there is outside seating too. The oldies music and a few fixtures hint at a retro diner meeting modern fast food.

Final Thoughts: This tenderloin was awful, get the burgers or the chili when you stop at B Bops Burgers. Even the chicken sandwich is noticeably better than the pork loin served here. The interior was clean and bright, the fries were hot and crispy, but don't get the tenderloin.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Office in Lenox Iowa

The Office is a small bar and restaurant on the main street of Lenox in Southwestern Iowa. The sign says "Try our Famous Tenderloins", and the IPPA named them a finalist for last years Tenderloin award.

Location: 122 N. Main St in Lenox, Taylor County in Southwestern Iowa.

Directions: you take Highway 34 from Creston and turn south on the County Road with the big Lenox sign.

Online at: facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: The first thing you notice is that this thing is huge. Its at least ten ounces before breading and frying. The butterfly cut and pounding had turned this into two big thick portions of pork loin with a thin area in the middle. The thick parts were juicy and the thin areas dry. The breading had a lot of seasoning salt that left a taste in my mouth. The trimming job left some hunks of fat on the edge. The overuse of the salt and the hunks of fat held this from being rated higher, its still a very good tenderloin. Served on a toasted flour dusted bun with your choice of fixings. Overall 8.5 out of ten.

Price: $6.45 for a sandwich this big its like they are giving it away.

On the menu: the names have office themes like The Secretary and include burgers and steak dinners.

Service: Its table service with one person serving all the tables when I was in.

Ambiance: The layout is odd with two storefronts and you have to walk into the dining area then into the bar to get service.

Final Thoughts: I hadn't eaten a super jumbo tenderloin as big as this in a while. The nearby Elm's Club in Creston is the local legend with the IPPA Tenderloin Award and recognition from the Iowa Beef Council for their burger. The Office in Lenox compares very well.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sneakers Eatery & Pub in Fort Dodge, Iowa

I've been driving around Fort Dodge and surroundings for a long time now. I went to local legend Community Tap & Pizza and found an okay tenderloin, but I've kept looking. Now it seems like plenty of places have come and go over the years in the downtown area and the commercial strip. I hadn't heard of Sneakers Pub until a few months ago, and it looks like the building used to be a different restaurant. I still don't understand the appeal of naming a bar after a pair of shoes, or having shoes in the sign.

Location: 1317 Central Ave in Fort Dodge, North Central Iowa.

Directions: Central Ave is just East of downtown Ft Dodge and can be reached by taking the Business 20 turn off and turning north on 12th St or 15th St.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This was a large cut of pork loin, at least eight ounces. The breading formed big crunchy flakes on all parts of the meat. The pork loin was dry on the edges and soft and juicy in one part, but the fat hadn't been trimmed well. Served on a giant toasted bun. Overall 7.4 out of ten.

Price: $9.25 with a side

Also on the menu: The menu is huge with burgers, wings, a "world famous rueben", fish, tacos and everything you've seen at sports bars before.

Service: There was one server working the bar and dining areas who was a little overworked when I was in.

Ambiance: This is a sports bar with a huge bar area and televisions and sports stuff tacked onto the walls.

Final thoughts: Sneakers was a nice sports bar with an alright breaded tenderloin. I haven't found a real good one in the city of Ft Dodge yet. Just a short drive from Ft Dodge I have found good tenderloins in Clare or in Paton or Ogden.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Belmond Drive-In in Belmond Iowa

The Belmond Drive-In has a tenderloin on the sign, and its 2016 IPPA Best Tenderloin in Iowa Contest plaque on the wall. Then they have a sign reading Best Tenderloin in a window, and then the shirts they wear say "Hand Breaded Tenderloins" and "Full of Awesome".

Location: 215 River Ave S in Belmond, Wright County, Northern Iowa.

Directions: you take Highway 69 North from Des Moines past Webster City and this place is on the south side of town.

The Tenderloin: This felt like one of the smaller sized loins, maybe less than seven ounces. The breading had a good golden brown color with hints of seasoning but nothing that tasted strong. It formed a very thin and slightly crunchy layer over the white loin meat. What made this tiny tenderloin good was the consistent tenderness and juiciness in the meat. Served on a higher quality toasted bun with the usual fixings. Overall 8.9 very good

Price: $5.88 after tax

Also on the menu: The menu has the basics of burgers, a melt sandwich, and hot beef with ice cream shop items for dessert.

Service: There was one person working tables and one person cooking when I was in.

Ambiance: The interior is covered with Belmond-Klemme Mustang gear, seating was available at a small counter or tables.

Final Thoughts: This tenderloin is a case of good things sometimes coming in small packages. This is my first stop in Wright County, and I hope to get back in this area when the weather warms up and more places are open.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Midtown Cafe in Newton Iowa

 A lot of places have come and gone over the years in Newton but this little place with the words CAFE visible on the square has been around for as long as I can recall. This is an older diner that specializes in burgers and breakfasts that had a bunch of families eating here when I visited.

Location: 120 1st St North in Newton, Jasper County in Central Iowa.

Directions: this is on the East side of the square across the street from the County Courthouse.

Online at: facebook page is HERE.

The Tenderloin: The description simply states that this sandwich is big enough for two. This came with two buns and a side along with the fixings. The first thing is that this is big and well bigger than the usual eight ounces that most places describe as "jumbo". The problem was that this seemed to lack moisture inside and the edges were especially dry. The middle had some good white pork loin meat that was soft enough to chew through easily. The breading was crunchy but not tasty and the whole thing felt like too much time in the freezer had sucked the moisture out. Overall 7.0 out of ten.

Price: $8.99 with a side

Also on the menu: Diner food classics like burgers or sandwiches. There is a full breakfast selection with an dish named The Annihilator, and more than one food challenge.

Service: its seat yourself table service with tables and booths and a counter in the back.

Ambiance: This is an old space with old fixtures and furniture in an old building known as The Midtown Building.

Final Thoughts: I had driven through Newton so many times over the years that I couldn't count. but finding a good tenderloin has eluded me. I had tried an old diner beside the Maid Rite, and I wanted to stop at a racing themed bar on the East side of town. But that place was closed on a Sunday when I was driving through, like how many racing themed bars are closed on Sunday? I remember when there was an Argentine steakhouse called Gauchos just a block of the square and I never made it in and now its been gone for ten years now.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Westside Family Restaurant in Grinnell Iowa

I haven't had the best of luck searching for tenderloins in Grinnell. I had a lousy tenderloin at the Dari Barn years ago, and lots of places have come and gone since then. Westside Restaurant seems to have persevered as a family dining option on this part of Grinnell for a long time now.

Location: 229 6th Ave West in Grinnell Iowa about an hour east of Des Moines.

Directions: This is on old Highway 6 on the western side of Grinnell.

Online at: Website is HERE.

The tenderloin: The cut was a little on the thin side but the meat was moist throughout. The breading had a light crunchiness and not much taste but had a good golden brown color. Served on a soft bun with your choice of fixings overall 7.5 out of ten.

Price: $6.95 a la carte

Also on the menu: full breakfast in the morning, homemade pies and a huge lunch and dinner selection like steaks or burgers or seafood.

Service: Its table service by some long serving waitresses.

Ambiance: The website says this location was a A&W Drive-In a long time ago, and it looks lika a dated eighties or older renovation. There are booths or tables in the dining area.

Final Thoughts: My attempts at finding a good tenderloin in Grinnell had been mostly frustration, I think I had one at a pizza place a long time ago, and I had tried Montgomery's Sandwich Shop but they didn't have a homemade loin. I may have to try the racing themed bar down the road in Newton on Highway 6 for my next stop.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Wobbly Boots Roadhouse in Clive, Iowa

Any time I visit a place with "Roadhouse" in the name I almost expect to see a wild bar scene with Patrick Swayze drop kicking a bunch of bad guys. My experiences have never really met those expectations. But Wobbly Boots is a chain of BBQ restaurants from the Lake of the Ozarks area which is kind of close to where Roadhouse was set. I've never heard anything good about this place, but they have a homemade tenderloin on the menu so I had to give it a try.

Location: 1301 NW 114th St in Clive, Suburban Des Moines Iowa. I usually have bad luck in side of the highway high traffic areas between chain restaurants like this place in Clive.

Directions: This is in between some other chain restaurants a block north of the intersection of 50th St and University in West Des Moines.

Online at: website is HERE.

The Tenderloin: This was a large piece of pork loin cut and pounded into a consistent if slightly thin tenderloin sandwich. The crunchiness was good and consistent throughout although I couldn't taste anything in the breading. The meat inside was warm and bright white and good softness. This is better than the tenderloin I ate at another chain The Other Place. Served with LTOP on a large soft toasted bun. Overall 7.7 out of ten.

Price: $9.99 with a side of fries but I paid extra for

Also on the menu: The smoked meats are most of the menu but there are also burgers and salads and flatbreads.

Service: There is table service or bar service and it was like any other chain restaurant.

Ambiance: This space has been a different chain restaurant and was newly renovated a year ago when Wobbly Boots opened. There are televisions and exposed woodwork with old barn wood.

Final Thoughts: I have to warn people that I've never heard anything good about this place other than the tenderloin or the onion rings. Some people tell me that they don't reheat the meat from their smoker properly when they serve it so it all tastes a little off. The wings I had once tasted like they had too much smoke, and a lot of the side dishes were forgettable or worse like they were just bad.