Smitty’s Tenderloin Shop | Eat Large | An Iowa Best

Review by: Michael Stern

The Awe-Inspiring Breaded Pork Tenderloin of the Lower Midwest

“Home of the REAL Whopper,” says a cartoon on Smitty’s wall. If you know the taste of Iowa, you know that in this case “Whopper” does not refer to a hamburger. It means a tenderloin: pork tenderloin, pounded thin and plate-wide, breaded and fried crisp and sandwiched in a bun. Eaters of America’s Lower Midwest love their tenderloins. In Iowa, where pork is king, cooks make the Heartland’s broadest, crispest, and most delicious ones. Smitty’s Tenderloin Shop has been a pork connoisseur’s destination since 1952. Loyal clientele who like to eat large have put it in the pantheon of sandwich shops.

King Tenderloin

Although Smitty’s menu includes plenty of other lunch-counter meals – hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches – “King Tenderloin” is the dish to eat. Available in small or large size (small is large; large is nearly a foot across), Smitty’s tenderloin is served on an ordinary burger bun. The bun is virtually irrelevant except as a method for keeping ketchup, mustard, onions, and pickles adjacent to the center section of the ten-inch-diameter cutlet. It also works as a mitt to hoist the vast tenderloin from plate to mouth. It is a marvelous disc of food, its inside a soft and flavorful ribbon of pork succulence, its crust brittle and luscious. An iconoclastic version dresses the cutlet with chili and cheese.

Are You Homesick for Iowa?

Like all the top tenderloin restaurants, Smitty’s does not aim to be the least bit fancy. Locals sit at the counter or at one of a scattering of tables and shoot the breeze among themselves at lunch hour. They might take the tenderloin for granted, but for homesick Iowans who live in a place where REAL whoppers are unknown, there is a solution. Smitty’s will ship them frozen by the dozen, ready to fry, to any of the lower 48 states. So, even if you’re in Maine or Arizona, you can eat large like in Iowa!

What To Eat

King tenderloin

Chili Cheese Fries

Onion Rings

Hand-Spun Malts

Queen Tenderloin


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