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The Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich of Indiana & Iowa (Sandwich Week)

Posted by CMH Gourmand on August 9, 2017

BPT Sandwich

The Breaded Pork Tenderloin is big in Indiana and Iowa – big as in size and big as in popular. These sandwiches can sometimes be found in other parts of the Midwest, especially in Illinois, which is sandwiched between these two pork powerhouses, but there is no place that displays the level of devotion to this sandwich greater than Indiana and Iowa. It has been estimated that breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches are served in at least fifty percent of Indiana restaurants. This sandwich is also listed on many menus in Iowa. In Indiana and Iowa, customers will ask for a tenderloin sandwich assuming it is breaded and that it is pork (an assumption that can lead to disappointment when traveling out of pork country). People in both states take pride in their prized sandwich and are politely dismissive of other state’s claims of pork prowess. Where is the true home of the Breaded Pork tenderloin Sandwich? It is really too close to call – this sandwich belongs to both Hawkeyes and Hoosiers.

Many experts place the birthplace of the pork tenderloin sandwich in Huntington, Indiana and credit Nicholas Freinstein as the founding father of this heartland creation. He opened a restaurant, Nick’s Kitchen in 1908 after years of peddling his sandwiches on the street. Legend has it that his brother Jake, having lost function of his hands to frostbite after an unfortunate wintertime carriage accident, used the stumps of his forearms to tenderize the pork. Today, pork tenderloin purveyors have found alternate means to tenderize the meat but it is still as good.

The basic breaded pork tenderloin sandwich generally starts a large cut of pork loin. The meat is tenderized until it is the desired thickness, usually 1/4 inch thick but sometimes up to a 1/2 inch. The breading is customarily a simple mix of water, flour, salt and pepper. Some places will add cornmeal or another special ingredient but the standard is to keep it simple. The sandwich is typically fried or deep-fried. The tenderloin is always significantly bigger than the bun which is typically a hamburger bun or sometimes a Kaiser roll. The condiments of choice are basic – usually pickles, often onions, and occasionally lettuce. In Indiana – expect mustard and/or mayonnaise while in Iowa it is most often mustard and/or ketchup. What a difference a few hundred miles can make. The sandwich is always a meal and taking some to go will have no negative effect on ones reputations with the locals.

(disclaimer: the sites below were last fact checked in 2005)

Mr. Dave’s
102 E Main St.
North Manchester, IN 46962
Closed Sunday

Mr. Dave is Dave Klapp. He opened this cozy little spot in 1962 on the corner of Market and Main. The pork tenderloin sandwich has been a local favorite for decades and is frequently mentioned in newspaper articles and national magazines. The sandwich won several contests and awards including the Pork Producers Appreciation award in 1990. Dave’s son Kevin is running the restaurant now and continues to stay busy frying up tenderloins. Customers order at the counter or drive through window and after a short wait they can eat inside, at a picnic table, or on the go. The sandwich is popular outside of town with over 1000 shipped around the country each year.

Nick’s Kitchen
506 N Jefferson St.
Huntington, IN 46750
260 356 6618
Closed Sunday
Open 6 AM to 2 PM

Huntington has the Dan Quayle Museum – but on a more historical note the town is home to Nick’s Kitchen – the originator of the Breaded Pork Tenderloin sandwich. In 1969, the restaurant was purchased by the Bailey family, and is now owned by Jean Anne Bailey. Jean Anne continues to serve the sandwich as it was at the turn of the 20th century. The motto of the restaurant is on the wall – “We don’t do fast food, we just do great food fast!” Diners can hear the tenderloins frying in the kitchen whether sitting at the counter or farther away in a booth. Service is quick and efficient but not rushed – it does take a little time to make homemade food.

Nickel Plate Bar and Grill
8654 E 116th St
Fishers, IN 46038
317 841 2888

The Nickel Plate Bar and Grill is on the right side of the tracks – the side with one of the best-breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches in Indiana. The Nickel Plate is more bar than grill and is located right at the railroad crossing. In 2005, Indy Men’s Magazine picked the tenderloin at the Nickel Plate as the best out of 64 entries. The tenderloin served in this sandwich is thicker than most and has cornflakes incorporated into the batter. The sandwich is served on a corn-dusted roll and served with a side dish. Customers in a hurry can order at the bar or get the sandwich to go. Fishers, Indiana is located just outside Indianapolis outerbelt (465) off I 69 so the Nickel Plate makes a nice side trip for anyone going cross-country on Interstate 70.

Red Onion
3901 W State Street
Sheridan, IN 46069
317 758 0424

Pork Tenderloin sandwiches are often described as two-fisted sandwiches. At the Red Onion, this type of description may be an understatement. Their oversized tenderloin still hangs out from the giant, double sized hand made bun so even eating halfway through is an accomplishment. Mere mortals or people adverse to leftovers would be better off ordering the junior tenderloin which is much more manageable. The Red Onion serves up to 900 of these sandwiches each week – that is a lot of pork and a lot of carry out containers.

Darrell’s Place
4010 1st St.
Hamlin, IA 50117

Darrell’s Place is an easy place to miss even though it is located in a very small town. If it were not for the sign, it would be easy mistaking this restaurant for some other type of business and just drive by. Finding Darrell’s is well worth the effort. In 2004, the Iowa Pork Producers Association proclaimed that Darrell’s Place had the best breaded pork tenderloin in the state. For the next several months, hundreds of people made the pilgrimage to Darrell’s to find out if this was true. The traffic has died down a bit but people keep making the journey to try out this sandwich and it is hard to believe anyone would be disappointed. Darrell hand cuts the pork loins himself and makes a very simple breading out of flour. The tenderloin is a bit thicker than the typical pork tenderloin sandwich and the breading is a little lighter and flakier than what is usually encountered. The sandwich at Darrell’s did earn the acclaim it received. Darrell’s is off the beaten path but it is worth the drive. For travelers with a little extra time – consider doing the scenic drive on SR 44 starting around Lake Panorama.

George the Chili King
5722 Hickman Road
Des Moines, IA
515 277 9433
515 255 9950
Closed Sunday

George Karaidos Sr. won a newspaper sponsored chili contest in the early 20th century so he was dubbed the Chili King, the name stuck. He opened this Drive-in / Diner in 1952 and not much has changed since then. Randy Karaidos is now the king of this castle, which still offers carhop service. If you want to eat inside, there is counter seating available in front of the grill. In addition to chili, this place is also well known for good pork tenderloin sandwiches. This restaurant makes a version of the pork tenderloin that takes this sandwich up a few points on the cholesterol scale. The Fat Man is a tenderloin with ham and cheese added as well as lettuce, tomato, onions, and more condiments. The tenderloins are frozen but deep-fried when ordered and cook up in less than 5 minutes. George’s is a local institution and worth a visit whenever visiting Des Moines.

Hamburg Inn #2
214 N Linn St
Iowa City, Iowa 52245
(319) 337-5512

Once upon a time, there were three Hamburg Inn’s. Now there is only one, which is Hamburg Inn #2. This restaurant is a favorite with local residents as well as Iowa State students and alumni. It has been featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles as well as radio and television programs. Numerous celebrities including two presidents have dined in the Hamburg Inn. The Panther family has continued the Hamburg Inn tradition of serving great comfort food at a reasonable price. The gigantic menu features a good-sized breaded pork tenderloin sandwich that is best washed down with one of their renowned pie milkshakes. I tried the apple pie milkshake and it was the best I milkshake of my life.

Joensy's Restaurant by A Conaway

Joensy’s Restaurant
101 West Main St
Solon, IA 52333
319 624-2914

The folks at Joensy’s take pork pretty seriously. The large sign above the entrance (which is bigger than the sign for the restaurant itself) proudly proclaims “Home of the Biggest & Best Pork Tenderloin in Iowa”. Joensey’s has been pork tenderloin purveyor since 1983 and has generated a lot of recognition over the years. A variety of sandwiches and hearty dinners are served at Joensey’s but the breaded pork tenderloin remains the signature item for the restaurant. The tenderloin is about two to three times the size of the bun, which tries to serve as a delivery device for this oversized, two-handed, mammoth sandwich. A person could look for a bigger pork tenderloin sandwich elsewhere but I would suggest that they go to Joensy’s first so they have something to eat while driving around Iowa looking for something larger.

Smitty’s Tenderloin Shop
1401 S.W. Army Post Road
Des Moines, IA
515 287-4742
Closed Sunday and Monday

Smitty’s specialty is the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, which is not a big surprise considering the name of the shop and that is in Iowa. Smitty’s does at least one thing a little different than other pork tenderloin hawkers – there are a variety of styles to choose from. The easy choice is whether to order a large or small sandwich. However, the tough choice is deciding among the King Tenderloin (Big), Chili-Cheese Loin, Taco Loin or Vegetable Loin (don’t panic – this is just a tenderloin with tomato, lettuce, and pickle). Smitty’s also ships tenderloins in packages of a dozen in the lower 48 states if you cannot make it to Des Moines or feel you need to try some of the other styles later.

The Breaded Pork Tenderloin sandwich seems to hold a special place in the hearts of many people from Iowa and Indiana. Some fans refer to the sandwich as a BPT (Breaded Pork Tenderloin). A few fans have taken fandom to the next level – BPT zealot. Here are two video resources to better understand this lifestyle choice.

Stalking the Wild Breaded Pork Tenderloin in Iowa

This website is a pictorial journey to some of the favorite spots for BPT in Iowa.

In Search of the Famous Hoosier Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich
A documentary film by Jensen Rufe

The Other White Meat Sandwich?

The three biggest pork producers in the United States are Iowa, Indiana, and North Carolina. We know what Iowa and Indiana do with their pork but what about North Carolina? Well, the BPT pretty much unheard of in North Carolina BBQ country but there is a 2nd cousin of the BPT – the Pork Chop Sandwich.

Snappy Lunch
125 North Main Street
Mount Airy, NC 27030

The quintessential Pork Chop sandwich can be found in this quintessential diner. Mount Airy was the childhood home of Andy Griffith and served as the model for Mayberry in his television series. Too bad this sandwich did not appear on TV or we might be able to find more of them elsewhere. The Snappy Lunch menu features the Famous Pork Chop Sandwich, which is a large pork cutlet, dipped in batter, pan fried and served with tomato, onion, chili, coleslaw, mayonnaise and mustard. The pork is tenderized by a special machine and the sandwich accounts for about 90% of the food sold at the restaurant.

2 Responses to “The Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich of Indiana & Iowa (Sandwich Week)”

  1. Cynthia Leland said

    I have been enjoying this series very much! Learning what I should look for when I am next in these areas. Only one problem: I read them first thing in the morning, and then am hungry for the rest of the day! Nothing I have at hand is quite so good as the descriptions of these sandwiches, and I like a good sandwich! Thanks!

  2. Norman Carmichael said

    Am enjoying your sandwich posts. Thanks. My dad was from Hope, Indiana and we grew up eating what he called “smacked tenderloin” sandwiches. Port tenderloin “smacked” (tenderized). breaded and fried. I still make that today. If you gussie it up with some cheese and herbs in the breading and serve it over arugula with chopped eggs and capers you have the much fancier *escalope de porc*. Guess it depends on geography. Anyway, fun to know it is not just a Hope dish.


    On Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 11:45 PM, CMH Gourmand – Eating in Columbus & Ohio wrote:

    > cmh gourmand posted: ” The Breaded Pork Tenderloin is big in Indiana and > Iowa – big as in size and big as in popular. These sandwiches can sometimes > be found in other parts of the Midwest, especially in Illinois, which is > sandwiched between these two pork powerhouse” >

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