For two decades, Iowa’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest has been drawing attention from connoisseurs near and far. After all, the coveted title is not just given away in what many consider the heart of tenderloin country.
The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) is kicking off National Pork Month by revealing the five Iowa restaurants vying for this year’s top award. Listed alphabetically by town, those finalists are:
- Corydon — Ludlow’s Steakhouse
- Massena — Main Street Bar & Grill
- St. Olaf — St. Olaf Tavern
- Van Meter — 5th Quarter Bar & Grill
- Waukon — Lid’s Bar & Grill
“Even after 20 years, we continue to discover new variations of the classic breaded pork tenderloin sandwich,” said Kelsey Sutter, IPPA’s marketing and programs director. “Some are thick. Some are thin. You’ll also find a diversity of seasonings, textures, and flavors. That all makes selecting a winner incredibly challenging.”
Qualifying pork tenderloins must be hand-breaded or battered. In addition, the Iowa restaurant serving them needs to be open year-round and offer the sandwich as a regular menu item. Food trucks, concession stands, seasonal eateries, and catering businesses are not eligible.
IPPA will announce the first- and second-place winners later this month, dubbed #Porktober22 on social media channels as part of the monthlong celebration of pig farmers and the great product they produce.
The annual quest to find the state’s juiciest, most flavorful tenderloin sandwich starts with public input. Each spring, tenderloin fans have about two months to nominate their favorites. This year IPPA received 4,812 votes for 449 establishments.
Judging of the top 40 took place this summer. That list included the five restaurants with the most nominations in each of IPPA’s eight districts, which “helps ensure statewide representation,” Sutter said.
IPPA members and industry affiliates anonymously visited those locations and scored the tenderloins based on pork taste and quality; physical characteristics; and presentation.
From there, IPPA’s restaurant and foodservice committee reviewed those 40 evaluations and selected the five contenders to advance to the next round. That same committee appointed a panel of three judges to travel to each of the finalists to determine the first- and second-place winners.
The winning restaurant will receive $500, a plaque, a banner to display, and statewide publicity that will drive new business. The runner-up is awarded $250 and a plaque from IPPA.
First-place restaurants are not allowed to compete for five years afterward.
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.