Tell Us Where to Find Your Favorite Tenderloin in Iowa

April 12, 2023

Iowans love breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches, and restaurants across the state pride themselves on serving up unique renditions of this regional staple. The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) is once again asking loyal fans to vote for their favorites.

The 21st annual Iowa’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest is underway, with online nominations accepted through June 5. The winning restaurants are announced in October.

“There’s always so much excitement around this contest,” said Kelsey Sutter, IPPA’s marketing and programs director. “Restaurants that earn this badge of honor will forever sell more tenderloins, as customers pour in from across the Midwest, and even other countries!”

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. To qualify for the contest, hand-breaded tenderloins must be on the daily menu at an Iowa establishment with year-round, consistent hours. Food trucks, concession stands, seasonal eateries, and catering businesses are ineligible.

This first round lets the public weigh in with their No. 1 choices, and nominations are limited to one per person. Those who nominate the winning restaurant will be entered to win a $100 prize.

Following the spring nomination period, IPPA’s Restaurant & Foodservice Committee will review 40 restaurants, which include the five restaurants with the most nominations from each of IPPA’s eight districts. Leading contenders will be turned over to a panel of undercover judges, who visit the locations and rank the tenderloins based on pork quality, taste, physical characteristics, and eating experience.

The top five picks will be revealed during National Pork Month, observed in October, with the winning restaurant receiving $500, a plaque to display in their business, and statewide publicity. The runner-up is awarded $250 and a plaque from IPPA.

Winners from the past five years:

  • 2022 — Lid’s Bar & Grill, Waukon
  • 2021 — Victoria Station, Harlan
  • 2020 — PrairieMoon On Main, Prairieburg
  • 2019 — The Pub at the Pinicon, New Hampton
  • 2018 — Three C’s Diner, Corning

See the full list of past winners, dating back to 2003. First-place winners cannot compete for five years following the award.

Nominations in 2022: IPPA received 4,812 nominations for 449 different establishments.