By KRISS NELSON
DUNCOMBE - Breaded pork tenderloins are a well-known sandwich throughout the state and are so popular, they have made a presence on social media as well as a common discussion on food pages and blogs.
THE BREADED TENDERLOIN at Stumpy’s Bar and Grill, in Duncombe, is made fresh, on site by hand by owner Bruce Wagner.
Unknown to many and hidden within the small Webster County town of Duncombe is one of the finalists of 2016's Iowa's Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin.
Out of 385 nominated restaurants, Stumpy's Bar and Grill in Duncombe was a top-five finalist in the Iowa Pork Producer Association's contest.
Bruce Wagner, owner of Stumpy's Bar and Grill, said he felt honored to receive such recognition competing against more well-known restaurants in even bigger cities.
Wagner said after receiving nominations, two Iowa Pork Producer Association members visited the restaurant and tried his tenderloin, which sent him through the first round.
Later, in a judging process that included two culinary teachers from Des Moines Area Community College and two restaurant owners from Des Moines visiting Stumpy's business and was told immediately he made the top five list.
The four judges said they had not heard of Duncombe before that visit.
Wagner said he anticipates plenty of nominations to get him back into the contest this year. In fact, has already been told by several they are waiting for the contest to open back up so they can start nominating him.
Ron Woodle, a resident of Duncombe, said he was one of Stumpy's Bar and Grill's customers to nominate the breaded pork tenderloin.
"It's the best one I have ever had," said Woodle. "In fact I even tried the number one tenderloin and Stumpy's is better. The breading is better and I like the thickness of his tenderloins, too, compared to the winner's."
Wagner said he will serve, on average, 100 tenderloins a week.
"I serve about 100 a week and to think about it, in a town of only 410 people, that's a great amount for a small town," said Wagner.
He purchases his pork loins from Sawyer Meats in Fort Dodge and then personally makes all of the tenderloins.
Wagner said he cuts, trims and tenderizes the pork loin all by hand. They are then hand-breaded and he uses his own personal creation of seasonings.
He said he has chosen to do this hand-made method of preparing his breaded pork tenderloins versus buying pre-made, pre-packaged patties.
"I wanted something unique and I wanted to stand out and these are made different than anyone else," said Wagner.
New to Stumpy's Bar and Grill are Wagner's Stumpy's Pork Tender Bites. These are smaller cuts of the ends of the pork loin and are a new appetizer to his menu.
Wagner opened the bar and grill on May 1, 2014 in the previous location of The Vault in Duncombe, and said he has been making his own version of the breaded pork tenderloin for about a year and a half.
Owning a bar and grill is something he always wanted to do, as his parents, Dale and Pat Wagner, used to run the Alibi in Eagle Grove.
"I used to live in Duncombe and I liked this place a lot," he said. "I believe in keeping the small town atmosphere and I am even more proud of my award because it comes from such a small town."
Stumpy's Bar and Grill has a full menu which includes half-pound hamburgers, lunch specials during the week, broasted chicken and steak specials on the weekends, taco night on Thursdays featuring handmade deep fried taco shells and a Sunday brunch held the first Sunday of each month.
How to make a pork
Pork tenderloin sandwiches are a staple of Midwest cuisine, originating in Indiana, and they're relatively unknown in the rest of the United States. You can get pork tenderloin sandwiches at nearly any sandwich shop in the Midwest, but they're also easy to make at home. The "tender" in the pork tenderloin comes from how juicy and tender the pork is when you finish tenderizing and frying it.
1. Slice the pork tenderloin into four 1-inch slices.
2. Trim any exterior fat, and butterfly the pork by slicing it horizontally through the middle, almost entirely in half, so that it's only held together by a small strip of meat.
3. Place the butterflied pork between two pieces of plastic wrap and tenderize it with a wooden meat mallet. Tenderize the pork until it's approximately 10 inches across.
4. Mix together one cup of flour, half a cup of yellow cornmeal, one teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper in a separate bowl.
5. Heat a half inch of oil in a large skillet to 365 degrees. Dip each slice of pork in water, then roll it in the dry-ingredient mix.
6. Fry the pork slices in the oil, turning them one time until they're brown on both sides.
7. Drain the pork slices on paper towels when finished and serve them on a sandwich bun.
(Note: Sliced tomatoes, sweet onions and lettuce go well with this sandwich.)