Finalists Named for Iowa's Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest

October 2, 2023

Following a record high of more than 9,000 nominations, the prestigious title of “Iowa’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin” is down to just five restaurants. The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) is nearing the conclusion of its 21st annual Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest.

The winner will be announced as part of National Pork Month, aka Porktober, a monthlong celebration of the pork industry that takes place each year in October.

The top five restaurants this year, listed alphabetically, are:

A total of 774 restaurants were nominated this year.

“It’s exciting to see such an overwhelming response from Iowans who love breaded pork tenderloins,” said Kelsey Sutter, marketing and programs director for IPPA. “There certainly isn’t a shortage of restaurants serving them up!”

To qualify, pork tenderloins must be hand-breaded or battered. A traditional tenderloin starts with a pounded-out slice of pork loin that’s dredged through flour, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, or crushed crackers. The meat is then fried to a crispy, golden brown and served on a bun.

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 for the contest.

“The breaded pork tenderloin is an Iowa tradition,” said Linda Schroeder, chair of the IPPA Restaurant and Foodservice Committee. “Winning Iowa’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest is an exemplary honor, and that recognition will last forever!”

Judging of the top 40 restaurants 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.

IPPA members and industry affiliates anonymously visited those locations and scored the tenderloins based on pork taste and quality, physical characteristics, and presentation.

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:

See the full list of past winners, dating back to 2003.

A recipe and how-to video for Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches is available here