Goodbye family, I’ve set off on Iowa’s Tenderloin Trail

Photo: DarcyMaulsby (iStock)

I’ve purchased my oxen, my spare axels, my salted beef rations. I’ve assembled my wagon train, procured a route map, and squinted mine eyes toward the Promised Land. Friends and family, I love you, and I promise to write from the other side of Iowa’s Tenderloin Trail.

Until this morning, I thought Columbia, South Carolina’s Pimento Cheese Passport was the greatest food-marketing “trail” in our fair, god-blessed nation. But it is now rivaled by Iowa’s Tenderloin Trail, whose existence was made known to me this morning by the fine, cigar-chomping newspapermen of The Des Moines Register.

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The Iowa Tenderloin Trail—giddy up!—is a route prescribed by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, made up of 14 destinations across the Hawkeye State. Should pilgrims be fortunate enough to make it to 10 or more of the map’s tenderloin institutions, a commemorative shirt will be bestowed upon them, no doubt destined to become a treasured family hope-chest heirloom.

Now, before we intrepid pioneers set off on such a fraught journey, we must understand what it is we endeavor to undertake. Iowa breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches are defined as pounded or tenderized center-cut pork loin that’s been breaded or battered, and fried. They are not actually pork tenderloins, nor are they synonymous with Indiana tenderloins, which are—according to one tenderloin aficionado—generally thicker. Variations on this dish exist throughout the Midwest, with subtle regional definitions. Or are they the same as saltine-crusted pork tenderloin medallions—But it’s fried pork all the same, and it’s delicious.

As I can no longer deny that my porcine destiny lies in another land, I will set out posthaste. Pray we are successful in fording the river.

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About the author

Kate Bernot

Kate Bernot is managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.