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A tender spot for tenderloins

By Staff | Nov 7, 2015

JOE MCFARLAND hand-dips a tenderloin in the kitchen of the Belmond Drive-In, which he manages with his wife, Jewel McFarland. They were the recipients of the 2015 Best Breaded Tenderloin in Iowa Award in October by the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

BELMOND – When the Belmond Drive-In was honored with the Best Tenderloin in Iowa 2015 award in October, the Iowa Pork Producers Association advised owners Joe and Jewel McFarland to prepare for a “tenderloin tornado.”

“They weren’t kidding,” said Jewel McFarland, a Belmond native who has run the Belmond Drive-In with her husband, Joe, since Oct. 22, 2014. “We went from selling about 20 to 30 breaded tenderloins a day to more than 200 a day.”

The frenzy started in early October after the IPPA bestowed the state’s highest pork tenderloin honor on the Belmond Drive-In.

“We sold 136 tenderloins that first day,” Joe McFarland said. “By the second day we sold 256 in one day.”

While things have settled down a little since then, the Belmond Drive-In still sells five times more breaded tenderloins than it did before winning the IPPA’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin contest.

JEWEL MCFARLAND places a pin in a U.S. map at the drive-in. The map was set up after the restaurant won its pork tenderloin award in October to show from where their customers are flowing in.

Customers have come across Iowa and states from California and New York to Florida to try the McFarland’s famous tenderloin.

“It has been hectic, overwhelming and a lot of fun to be part of this,” said Joe McFarland, who added a map to the back wall of the Belmond Drive-In so guests can pin their hometowns.

1,611 nominations

The IPPA’s Best Breaded Tenderloin in Iowa contest recognizes Iowa dining establishments that support the swine industry by putting pork on their menu.

All restaurants, cafes and taverns that serve breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches year round and list them on their daily menu can be nominated for the award.

Tenderloin lovers submitted 1,161 nominations this year.

Nearly 40 tenderloin sandwiches were judged this summer on the quality of the pork, taste, physical characteristics and eating experience.

“This contest is all about celebrating the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich – a Midwest favorite – and uncovering one of Iowa’s best for all to enjoy,” said Kelsey Sutter, IPPA marketing and program director. “Fortunately, we have a plethora of tenderloins to choose from in Iowa, and the sandwich in Belmond is definitely among the best.”

Dana and Tammy Kraft, of Kanawha, agree.

The couple stopped by the Belmond Drive-In to try the award-winning tenderloins.

“They are really good,” said Dana Kraft, who likes all the toppings on his tenderloins. “We’ll definitely be back.”

The McFarlands said they are amazed by the variety of ways people choose to enjoy tenderloins, which are dubbed “full of awesome” by a loyal customer.

Some like the sandwiches plain, with just a little ketchup and some pickles, while others want tomatoes, lettuce and onions.

Others top their tenderloins with bacon and cheese.

The McFarlands have promoted their breaded tenderloins since they opened a year ago.

The iconic Iowa sandwich is pictured on the Belmond Drive-In’s sign and the restaurant’s t-shirts.

The drive-in’s winning tenderloin features a center-cut pork loin that Joe McFarland has sourced from Dave’s Meats in Belmond since the McFarlands opened their business.

The loins are hand-trimmed fresh daily.

The drive-in team runs the meat through a manual tenderizer and pounds each tenderloin with a meat tenderizer hammer.

Each tenderloin is dipped in an egg wash and hand breaded in unseasoned breadcrumbs before it’s fried for a few minutes.

“It’s a lot of work, but our customers love these tenderloins,” said Joe McFarland, who worked in the restaurant business for 20 years before he and his wife bought the Belmond Drive-In.

Unique Iowa taste

The light, crispy breading and tender meat create an enticing combination that defines the Belmond Drive-In’s tenderloins.

“They start with a 4-ounce cut of pork loin and hand pound it to the perfect thickness,” said Chef Phil Carey, an Iowa Culinary Institute instructor and Best Tenderloin in Iowa finalist judge. “The end result has true pork flavor that is complimented well by a simple bread crumb breading.

“They serve it up hot and juicy – eat it plain and enjoy the flavor.”

The IPPA Restaurant and Foodservice Committee presented the McFarlands with a check for $500, a plaque and a large banner that’s displayed at the restaurant.

All who nominated the Belmond Drive-In were entered into a drawing for $100 from the IPPA. Karen Busick, of Belmond, was selected the winner.

Other winners in the IPPA’s 13th annual tenderloin contest included Three C’s Diner, in Corning, which placed second and received $250 and a plaque.

Rounding out the top five finalists were the Recovery Room, in Ottumwa; the Peru Bar & Grill, in Peru; and The Office, in Lenox.

These restaurants received a plaque to display in their restaurant.

Customers from across Iowa and America, as well as first-time customers from Belmond, continue to stop in for the award-winning tenderloins at the Belmond Drive-In, which is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“This is awesome,” Joe McFarland said. “It’s a huge honor, and we’re happy to be part of it.”

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