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Judges decide New Hampton restaurant makes one tasty tenderloin

  • Pub at the Pinicon manager Phil Zwanziger presents the New Hampton restaurant's breaded pork tenderloin, which was selected by the Iowa Pork Producers Association as the state's best this year. Photo courtesy IPPA

  • Pub at the Pinicon manager Phil Zwanziger, left, and owner Dale Reicks show off the New Hampton restaurant's breaded pork tenderloin, which was chosen as the state's best. Photo courtesy Iowa Pork Producers Association

  • Pub at the Pinicon manager Phil Zwanziger presents the states' best breaded pork tenderloin. New Hampton Tribune photo by Bob Fenske

  • This pork tenderloin, available at the Pub at the Pinicon in New Hampton, was chosen as the state's best in the annual competition put on by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Photo courtesy IPPA

By Bob Fenske and Bob Steenson, New Hampton Tribune and Charles City Press

A Nashua native who manages a bar and restaurant in New Hampton sells the best breaded pork tenderloin in the state.

So say the Iowa Pork Producers, and they should know. The association has been picking the best slab of breaded pork sandwich each year for 17 years.

The Pub at the Pinicon is a mainstay for drinks and dining in New Hampton. It is managed by Phil Zwanziger, who is quick to point out that the state honor — announced last week — is the result of a team effort.

“Knowing how important the pork industry is in Iowa and knowing how much Iowans love a good breaded pork tenderloin, this is a badge of honor for our restaurant,” said Zwanziger. “The best compliment we can receive in our business is that we serve a good, tasty product.”

Zwanziger said the recipe for the “P.T.” hasn’t changed much over the years, although the breading ingredients have been modified slightly and about a year ago they started serving it on a brioche bun instead of a hoagie roll.

The center cut pork loins are injected with their own natural juices to enhance moisture, then hand cut, coated in seasoned flour, dipped in a milk and egg wash, breaded with seasoned panko crumbs and fried, according to information from the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

What goes into that seasoning is the secret, Zwanziger said.

In announcing the Pub as the state champion, Phil Carey, who serves on the IPPA Restaurant and Foodservice Committee and helped judge the finalists, credited that breading with the win.

“This year’s winning tenderloin, by far, had an outstanding breading that was well-seasoned and added great texture to the overall sandwich,” Carey said. “The pork itself was very tender and very juicy to the last bite. A great pork tenderloin.”

The Pub’s owners, Dale and Laura Reicks of New Hampton, get all of the restaurant’s pork from their own Reicks View Farms in Lawler.

Zwanziger knew that the restaurant had been nominated for the state contest by Leon Sheets, the Ionia farmer who was America’s Pig Farmer of the Year in 2017, but he also knew they faced long odds — there were almost 5,400 nominations for 470 different establishments around the state in this year’s contest.

Zwanziger said he had no idea at the time when three people came into the restaurant a while ago for a late lunch that they were judges for the statewide contest.

“I walked by a few times, asked them how everything was and didn’t even think that all three were having tenderloins,” he said. “I probably should have realized something was up, but you know, we were finishing up lunch and getting ready for the rest of the day.”

Those three judges, though, liked what they ate, and earlier this month The Pub at the Pinicon was named one of the contest’s five finalists.

The announcement has been good for business.

“I’d say the number of tenderloin orders has tripled,” Zwanziger said, even before Thursday’s announcement. “I’m obviously biased, but I think we have a pretty good tenderloin here, and we’re honored that other people think so, too.”

The Pub at the Pinicon will receive a check for $500, a plaque and a large banner proclaiming it the winner of the contest.

IPPA judges selected Stumble Inn in Bradford as the runner-up in this year’s contest. IPPA will present that restaurant with $250 and a plaque.

Rounding out the top five finalists (in no order) are Big Al’s BBQ in Des Moines; Night Hawk Bar & Grill, Slater; and West Side Family Restaurant, Grinnell.