Sunshine is returning to the Midwest. Iowans know that it’s time to shed winter layers, turn off the TV, and engage with the new season. Today was a perfect day for my first springtime stroll about downtown Iowa City. Friday’s rains had passed and Saturday’s cloudless sky brought a need for sunglasses.
I headed west on Washington Street, past the Englert Theatre where I’d seen Nick Offerman and Les Claypool perform in days gone by. I stopped by Prairie Lights and took Paul’s word for it when he told me I needed a copy of Wendell Berry’s “This Day”.
I wandered towards the Old Capitol area, saw an open patio at Short’s and decided it was time for that first outdoor beer of the year. Everything at Short’s Burger and Shine is locally sourced. Each beer is from an Iowa brewery. My favorite is called "Workman’s Compensation" from Lion Bridge Brewing in Cedar Rapids. I considered a burger - the beef at Short’s is something I can’t describe, so you’ll have to come see for yourself. Today, though, was a day that Iowans across the state were spotted with a pork tenderloin sandwich in hand.
The battered, breaded, fried glory that is the pork tenderloin sandwich is a staple in Iowa, whether it’s from Gramma’s in Walcott, or Nick’s in Des Moines. Iowans call them tenderloins, but visitors often don’t know what to say when they see a tenderized pork loin twice the size of the hamburger bun it’s served between.
After the second beer at Short’s, I made a bee line towards Bluebird Diner on Market Street. The menu at Bluebird is a breakfast dream, but their tenderloin is something to behold. The crisp, golden breading blends with the flavor of the tender pork loin and the toasted bun in a way that makes you want to find the person who created this institution of Iowa culture and give them a hug as you wipe away your tears of grateful joy. Everyone has their own preference for add-ons. For me: pickle, raw onion, yellow mustard. Done.
The tenderloin has caught on with some fast-foods chains outside Iowa, but the only place for the real thing is at any diner, pub, or fancy restaurant in the Hawkeye State. Enjoy your Chicago pizza and your Baltimore crab legs. And come see us in Iowa for craft beers and tenderloins.
Image credit: Conference.rbms.info