In its 20th year, the 2022 Iowa’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest is kicking off the same way that it always has—by asking dedicated fans to nominate their favorite sandwich.
The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) will accept online votes from now until June 6, and the winning restaurant will be crowned during National Pork Month in October.
“Watching this competition grow from just 90 nominees in 2003, to 526 last year, has been incredible,” said Kelsey Sutter, IPPA’s marketing and programs director. “Over the past two decades, we’ve seen every winner put a unique spin on this classic Midwest staple, but each sandwich starts the same—with high-quality, delicious pork.”
Often referred to as a “tenderloin tsunami” by IPPA, people are known to come from near and far to get a taste of the state’s best tenderloins. After securing the title last October, Victoria Station in Harlan has seen a tenfold increase in tenderloin sales, jumping from about 20 sandwiches served each week to more than 200.
To qualify, Iowa dining establishments must offer hand-breaded or battered pork tenderloins as a regular menu item, and be open year-round with regular hours. Food trucks, concession stands, seasonal eateries, and catering businesses are not eligible.
This first round of the contest lets the public put their No. 1 choices on IPPA’s radar. Those who nominate the winning restaurant will be entered for a chance to win a $100 prize. Nominations are limited to one per person.
Following the nomination round, IPPA’s restaurant and foodservice committee will review 40 restaurants, pulling the five restaurants with the most nominations from each of IPPA’s eight districts. Top contenders will be turned over to a panel of undercover judges, who visit the locations and decide which tenderloins meet their criteria for pork quality, taste, physical characteristics, and eating experience.
Five finalists, including the winner, will be named in October, with the winning restaurant receiving $500, a plaque to display in their business, and statewide publicity that will bring in new business. The runner-up is awarded $250 and a plaque from IPPA.
Winners from the past five years:
- 2021 — Victoria Station, Harlan
- 2020 — PrairieMoon On Main, Prairieburg
- 2019 — The Pub at the Pinicon, New Hampton
- 2018 — Three C’s Diner, Corning
- 2017 — Grid Iron Grill, Webster City
See the full list of past winners, dating back to 2003. First-place winners cannot compete for five years following the award.
Nominations in 2021: IPPA received 5,928 nominations for 526 different establishments.