Sunday afternoon. We had left Cedar Rapids just before noon to drive our son Jon to the airport. He’s flying back to San Jose, California—he lives in San Francisco and works at What’s Ap in San Jose. He started the job recently, and has to work Monday, but was able to stay with us for a while around Christmas, which was nice.
In fact, the Christmas season was a bit of a guy fest. The younger of my two sons was able to drive over from Ames for a few days, and between Jon, Ben and I, we did some amazing guy things—playing Risk, going to The Martian at Collins Road Theater, upgrading computers to Windows 10—all fun guy things. And both Ben and Jon got to play with the youngest guy in the house, young Nathan, born Dec. 10. He didn’t drink any of the beer, but was fun to hang around with, so I think Nathan is definitely welcome in our guy club.
Anyway, today it was time to say farewell. Ben wanted to drive back to Ames before winter rears its ugly head, and Jon had to wing it to the West Coast.
Anyway, we didn’t eat before dropping Jon off at the Waterloo Airport, so were a bit hungry. We’ve eaten in the past at a combo A&W/Long Johns, and decided that might be an OK lunch spot, even if Long John’s is long gone.
But we weren’t clear on how to get there. So we drove over to a business strip in Cedar Falls and searched for a while. We didn’t see A&W, and decided that our only rule was we would eat somewhere that we don’t normally eat in Cedar Rapids. An IHOP caught our eye, so we headed over there—but it appears to be a new place under construction, and was not open.
It was sad to have our taste buds first calibrated for root beer, then pancakes, and have neither desire fulfilled. Then, in a slightly seedy looking strip mall, next to a dance studio, we saw a sign that said “Town House Tenderloins.” Critically, there was also a key glowing neon sign: “Open.”
We parked. Audrey looked around at the older, dented cars occupying the parking lot, and wondered what we were getting into. But we were brave or foolish and pushed on.
Well. As it turned out, the joint serves really awesome tenderloin sandwiches—very generous tenderloins, breaded well with what seems to be breadcrumbs and cooked to a hot perfection, served on a large toasted bun. Audrey ordered the “queen” basket, while I got a “king.” Note to the wise: for most appetites a “queen” would be more than adequate.
The baskets came with fries and a drink. The fries, to be honest, weren’t that great. They weren’t terrible, but were pretty everyday fast-food fries.
But the point of a tenderloin sandwich is the sandwich. Besides the aforementioned well-cooked slabs of pork, the diner featured a condiment area with several pickle choices, two kinds of hot peppers, onions, lettuce and tomato slices. I opted for a bit of mayo on my bun with lettuce, dill pickle, jalapeno and tomato on my tenderloin. It was spicy and delicious.
The restaurant is far from fancy. The employees were dressed rather shabbily, for example. The interior featured a car decor, which is fine with me, if a bit eccentric and irrelevant to the food.
After our trip, I looked up the restaurant on Yelp. The reviews were very mixed, with some diners complaining that the restaurant seemed dirty (it wasn’t, as far as I could tell—blue collar, but not dirty), while others praised the tenderloins.
Well, Audrey and I both fell into the “praise” category. If you want a generous tenderloin, don’t mind a bit of a minor wait and can handle the sketchy atmosphere, I would say Town House Tenderloins is a great place to visit. Honestly, if we go to the state park in Waterloo to ride our bikes in summer 2016—a definite maybe for a road trip—it’s likely that we’ll look up the address of this place (618 Brandilynn Blvd # 4, Cedar Falls, IA 50613) and type it into our GPS so we can find it again.
I’m a fan.