Legendary | Worth driving from anywhere
Nick’s Kitchen | Indiana Tenderloins and Sugar Cream Pie
Review by: Michael Stern
Tale of the Tenderloin
For tenderloins and sugar cream pie, Nick’s Kitchen of Huntington, Indiana, can’t be beat.
That’s saying a lot, considering the tenderloin ranks as one of America’s great regional sandwiches. Nick’s Kitchen claims to have invented it. The story goes like this: Nick Frienstein started frying breaded pork cutlets in 1904 to sell in sandwiches from a street cart in town. Four years later he opened a small café called Nick’s Kitchen. One winter his brother Jake suffered such severe frostbite that he lost the fingers off his hands. Jake, whose job it was to bread the slices of pork, found that his stumps made good tools for pounding the meat to make it tender.
So it is that the Midwest tenderloin (no need to say pork tenderloin) is defined as a sandwich of pork that the cook either beats tender by hand or runs through a mechanical tenderizer (or both).
This Sandwich Sets a High Bar
Jean Anne Bailey, whose father owned the town café starting in 1969, now runs Nick’s Kitchen. She soaks her pork cutlet in buttermilk to generate a tangy twist that balances the meat’s sweetness. She then dredges it in rugged cracker crumbs (not the more typical fine-grind cracker meal). Frying yields a wavy disk of audibly crunchy pork that wants to drip moisture as soon as teeth glide through its crust. The colossal cutlet extends a good two to three inches beyond bun, practically eclipsing its plate. Its very appearance declares tenderloin greatness.
And, Oh, Those Pies!
Don’t come to Nick’s Kitchen only for blue-ribbon tenderloins. It is more than a tenderloin stop. This friendly three-meal-a-day town cafe dishes out fine breakfast and a noontime array of daily specials. Then there are Jean Anne’s pies — some of the best anywhere. She makes them using a hand-me-down dough recipe that incorporates a bit of corn syrup. The recipe yields crust that flakes at first touch. It virtually evaporates on the tongue, melding with brilliant-flavored rhubarb or black raspberries. Butterscotch pie – which she learned to cook from her grandmother – packs flavor that is as buttery as it is sweet. Sugar-cream pie, Indiana’s signature dessert, is like cream candy in a savory crust. Tenderloins and sugar cream pie: That defines edible heaven, Indiana-style.
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|Meals Served||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|
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2 Responses to “Nick’s Kitchen | Indiana Tenderloins and Sugar Cream Pie”
June 16th, 2014
It is not every day that you have the opportunity to eat at an establishment that started a food genre, but I believe if you can pinpoint that location then you should definitely go there. Case in point being Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington, Indiana. It is agreed to be the home of the original Battered Pork Tenderloin.
My wife, 10 year old daughter and I had the chance to try out Nick’s on a Saturday afternoon recently and boy are we glad we did! When you walk in to Nick’s, you are immediately struck by it’s charm. This has been a restaurant since 1908 and not much has changed in the last 50 years. My daughter immediately made a beeline to the counter to sit. Not having ever been in a restaurant with a lunch counter before, she was very excited. I explained to her that “back in the day” every town in America had a least one restaurant like this, but because of fast food and chains, they are a dying breed.
The waitstaff was very friendly and efficient knowing many of the regulars by name and they all stopped by to give us refills and ask if we were enjoying our meal.
I knew before I ever arrived what I was going to order and that was the breaded port tenderloin. When we were looking over the menu and I informed them that Nick’s was the orginator of the BPT, both of them decided they were going to get one as well. So we ordered three BPTs and an order of hand cut fries to split. We all loved the tenderloins. While the crust was crunchy, it did not overpower the meat and the pork was still moist and flavorful. Being a native Hoosier, I have had my fair share of pork tenderloins in my life and can say without a doubt this was the best I have ever had and it wasn’t even the best part of the meal.
The hand cut fries were cooked to perfection with some being darker and crispier than others (just the way I like them)! I enjoyed an ice cold XXX Root Beer in the bottle with a frosted mug to drink it from. What a great compliment to the meal.
I odered a slice of Sugar Cream pie (the official state pie of Indiana). When the waitress asked me what I thought of the pie only one word came to mind…spectacular! What an incredible piece of pie. The crust is flaky and homemade, the custard is smooth and flavorful, the topping had just the right amount of cinnamon and it was still warm from being freshly made that morning. Kathy and Amelia took one bite of my pie and ordered their own. Kathy swears it brought back memories of her grandma’s pies, only better.
I am now trying to figure out a reason to go back to Huntington just so I can visit Nick’s Kitchen once again.
February 2nd, 2004
A local favorite you will most likely the only out of towner to luck out into dining at this decades old staple of Huntington. Even though I was there are breakfast time there were nice enough to start up the fried so I could sample a tenderloin sandwich. And it was certainly worth it. Crispy outside, tender flavorful outside. All served on a soft chewey bun that with the size of the tenderloin, makes you wonder how much of a sandwich it really is. Of course you can’t leave without having some sugar pie, a regional must have. Moist and sweet eat it slow enough to savor.