Who makes the world’s best pork?
Those of you who follow this feature regularly will recall my impressions of the Kendall County Pork Producers’ offerings at the Kendall County Fair. If you missed it or don’t remember, I opined that a pig has never been as lucky as a Kendall County pig (assuming pigs aspire to be tasty to me).
Back to the pork barrel I headed this week for pork tenderloins. Jeepers, did I enjoy myself. There will be no selecting a winner based on arbitrary criteria like whether or not you can customize the amount of ice in your water.
To many of you forks and spoons, the Legion is a place for wedding receptions, for shows by the Yorkville Big Band, or greasing your gullet with a variety of fried fishes. Turns out, they welcome the public to the clubhouse bar for lunch on weekdays. And they do it for tremendous value.
This pork tenderloin sandwich was six kinds of excellent, punctuated by the tenderloin not having been presented in the typical doormat flatness and size. A real sink-your-teeth-into-it type of sandwich, this was a good, substantial lunch. The fixin's I enjoyed were as fresh as the captain of the football team at the drive-in with the head cheerleader.
The meat was tender and juicy and breaded in a not-crumbly, but not-mushy, way. They say thieves run as thick as this roll. I was pleased to see how unpretentiously this dish was served to me, on a paper plate. I had mine with lettuce, onion, and mayonnaise, but still could have gotten through the whole meal without having to use a napkin.
The American Legion Good: I had a pork tenderloin sandwich, fries, and a bottle of Budweiser for $7. For value, there is simply no way to beat it.
The American Legion Bad: I hate to say “nothing,” so I’ll say that it was a little dark in there. But that really had no effect on my enjoyment.
This has been my default destination for pork tenderloin since it opened. Not since I was a little guy and we regularly got them from Gene’s in Sandwich have I gotten so many at the same place. Something about the Culver’s pork tenderloin makes me very happy.
Take a look at that first and second photograph up there. See how that Legion version just kind of looks like a sandwich, and the second – the Culver’s version – looks like a kind of bun stuck on top of a piece of driftwood? That’s what I think of when I hear of pork tenderloin. I had lettuce, onion, and mayo on that bad boy, but you wouldn’t know that to look at it.
Each bite was the taste of thousands of years of selectively bred-for-deliciousness pork goodness encased in a delicate crust that combine for a textural sensation like none other. The bun is hardly more than an oasis of bready goodness in the midst of a breaded-meat desert, but has a very satisfying and almost sweet taste.
The Culver’s Good: I’m a sucker for that flattened-to-heck presentation.
The Culver’s Bad: It’s easily the priciest offering I’m going over today.
Smokey’s also serves their pork tenderloin in the more pattied, less flat style - only it seems like you may be getting a little more meat here. The sandwich was juicy, but most of that juice was unfortunately obscured by grease. The fortunate part is that the grease was delicious.
Again, just lettuce, onion, and mayonnaise, but I was decidedly not amazed at the quality of the produce. First, red onions are like nectar to me and Smokey’s uses white. Second, the lettuce was shredded which added to the sloppy feel of the meal – a sloppiness which I may love tomorrow, and may have loved yesterday, but today didn’t enjoy so much.
The Smokey’s Good: Substantial sandwich. Perhaps the weightiest of the three.
The Smokey’s Bad: That bun was just too huge. You could serve a wedding cake in that thing.
And the final decision: Yorkville Patch reader Kathy Tucek was right. Judging by the pork tenderloin, that Legion kitchen turns out some quality food. A lot of care went in to the preparation of that sandwich, and it shows in the taste. And come on, for seven dollars where else are you going to enjoy a sandwich, fries, and a beer?