Fly&Dine Contributor Paul Bacon is back with his latest find. Take it away, Paul…
Des Moines, Iowa has a restaurant that is very famous. It has been featured in newspapers, magazines, and TV shows. I have been coming to Des Moines for five years and somehow I missed it on each trip. To add insult to my anguish I have traveled past the restaurant many times. Landing at DSM on this trip, I checked into the hotel early and asked where I should go for a tenderloin sandwich. They sent me on my way to Smitty’s, The Original King Tenderloin (Since 1952).
Smitty’s is located in a former gas station. When you enter there are a few tables, booths, and a counter where you are only a few feet from the grill for close up encounters with your food as it is prepared. I sat at the counter and the smell sent me from hungry to famished!
I grew up on the East Coast in Maryland. A tenderloin was a tender piece of beef that was best grilled. When I was much younger I helped drive my sister to Iowa. We went to the state fair and I noticed a sign for “Tenderloin.” Outstanding! Grilled beef! Much to my surprise, though, I found a flat piece of fried meat on a bun. Biting into the sandwich, it was white! I was told it was pork. At this point I was hooked.
Looking at Smitty’s menu I know I was in a restaurant with comfort food. Tenderloin, burgers, homemade onion rings, etc. I am sure there have been few changes since 1952. There are two sizes of tenderloin sandwich. In my terms there is large and plate size. [ed. note: officially, the sizes are “large” and “small.”]
I ordered the tenderloin sandwich with the homemade onion rings. The tenderloin was crispy with a golden color. Many other tenderloins I have had have been over cooked with burnt edges and very hard. The meat was moist and tender. I ordered mine with onion, pickle, and mustard. I had to eat the meat that did not fit on the bun before I could get to the center. Having eaten the pure tenderloin until reaching the bun, onion, and mustard the flavors were then mixed. The change of texture and flavors completes the experience. You can tell the onion rings were homemade due to the uneven and thin breading that allows you to enjoy the flavor of the onion.
Ben, owner and chef, told me the story of the restaurant. He is the 3rd generation owner. Watching him work you can see the pride in his product. There is no timer for cooking but experience and a sharp eye to pull the tenderloin from the fryer.
When I am in Iowa, I try and find the best pork dishes. Smitty’s is now on the top of my list. Pork is one of my favorite meats. After all my last name is Bacon!
Thanks, Paul. Got a favorite place to eat while you’re on the road? Feel free to submit your guest post (with photos!) to firstname.lastname@example.org.