While exploring the Illinois River Valley’s favorite meal of chicken & ravs, I was directed to the tiny LaSalle County town of Leonore and a friendly crossroads tavern called Smitty’s Tap. However, it was Thursday, so I was out of luck. Smitty’s serves its chicken, which is broasted, only Wednesday and Friday nights. Thursday is wing night; and on Friday, it’s all-you-can-eat cod & walleye (or a broasted pork chop)
It turned out to be a Roadfood-worthy stop anyway, because Smitty’s offers breaded pork tenderloin (BPT) every day. And oh, what a tenderloin: well over a foot across, piled with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles; and sandwiched – if sandwiched is the right word for it – in a ridiculously little-looking (but actually normal-sized) burger bun. It is listed on the menu as “Smitty’s Prize Tenderloin… Big enough for two!” At under $7 for what might be the broadest BPT in the cornbelt, it’s an amazing bargain.
The pounded-thin pork is sweet and moist, its crust a bland halo of crunch. For most folks, it is knife-and-fork food, but the waitress assured me that proficient tenderloin eaters manage to fold the cutlet over on itself a few times so they can hoist it off the iron skillet in which it is served, using the bun in a normal way. Don’t tell anyone, but I resorted to picking up the cutlet with my hands, leaving the bun behind, and gnawing on it like it was some huge hunk of fair food.