The Midwestern tenderloin, formally known as a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich (BPT for short), is a slice of pork pounded flat, breaded and fried, then put into a bun, usually with pickles and mustard, and perhaps onion, lettuce and tomato. Iowa, the nation’s most pork-proud state, is famous for its tenderloins, but you’ll also find them in downstate Illinois as well as in Indiana, where it is believed they first were served. (See the review of Nick’s Kitchen.)
While each restaurant serious about BPTs has its own style, there is at least one regional distinction, which is that Iowa tenderloins are broad, often ridiculously broad, stretching far beyond their buns, whereas those farther east tend to be more normal-sized.
Long ago, when we met Mr. Dave Clapp, who began making and selling tenderloins in 1962 at his restaurant in North Manchester, Indiana, he poo-pooed the ridiculously broad ones, explaining that the art of tenderloin cookery is built upon balance, not extremism. There must be just enough crisp, crunchy crust to complement moist, porky insides. Pounded too thin, a tenderloin will seem dry; too thick and it loses its elegance.
Mr. Dave no longer runs the restaurant that bears his name, but the tenderloins served here fill the bill. While not as prettily garnished as they used to be, and perhaps larger than Dave would want, they are a good balance of crisp crust and sweet pork inside, dressed with mustard, onion and pickle all secreted under the bun.
While Mr. Dave’s reputation was built on tenderloins, it always has offered much more, including hamburgers made from beef cut and ground in house, and some highly recommended broasted chicken. Cliff Strutz (Buffetbuster), who recently visited, describes the chicken as brittle and salty-crusted; and says that the broasted potatoes accompanying it remind him of mini-bakers.