One of the most mouth-wateringly delicious contests in the state of Iowa is returning for the 22nd time in a row. It gives restaurants all across the state the opportunity to make a new for themselves with one winning a monetary prize and an enviable title.

It's the annual "Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin" contest held by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Per The Des Moines Register, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, also known as simply "Iowa Pork," has been doing this since 2003. Each year, they honor a restaurant serving the best breaded pork tenderloin in the state. All the way back in 2003, Darrell's Place in Hamlin, IA won named in the first contest.

Last Year's Winner:

Last year, Cliff's Place in Manning, IA was named the eatery that serves the best breaded pork tenderloin.

Cliff's Place has been going strong since 1977. Owned and operated by brothers Jon and Jim Waterbury, Cliff's Place got its name from their father, the restaurant's founder, who passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2007, per The Des Moines Register.

It's stories like these that get told with a wonderful contest like this.

Pork tenderloin fans across the state are permitted to make one nomination. If the restaurants wins the contest, those who nominated it have the opportunity to win $100.

The Contest Rules:

The contest does have a few rules, which in turn eliminate some businesses from competing:

  • Pork tenderloins must be hand-breaded or battered
  • The restaurant serving the pork tenderloin must be open all year long
  • The restaurant serving the pork tenderloin must have it on the menu as a regular item
  • No food trucks
  • No concession stands
  • No seasonal eateries
  • No catering businesses

What Happens After the Nomination Period:

Photo Credit: Iowa Ingredient, YouTube
Photo Credit: Iowa Ingredient, YouTube

Iowa Pork has set the nomination period from April 17th to June 3rd, 2024. Once that window closes, a committee will review the top 40 restaurants, including the five with the most nominations from each of the association's respective eight districts.

From there, a panel of judges will go undercover to visit each of the top locations to rank the tenderloins based on a variety of factors: quality, taste, physical characteristics, and overall eating experience.

The panel then picks the top five restaurants, which will be revealed in October 2024 to coincide with National Pork Month. The restaurant that wins the "Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin" contest will win a $500 and a plaque for display in the restaurant. The runner-up also receives a plaque plus a $250 prize.

Last Year's Nominees in the "Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin" Contest:

Below were the 2023 finalists for best pork tenderloin in Iowa:

Iowa Pork Producers Association Marketing and Programs Director Kelsey Sutter expressed excitement for this year's contest. She also gave some insight into the sheer volume of nominations they received in 2023:

Iowans love their tenderloin sandwiches and there is no shortage of restaurants serving up these beloved Iowa staples. The 2023 competition nearly broke 10,000 nominations, so we’re hoping to see great participation and support for Iowa’s restaurants again this year! - Kelsey Sutter, Iowa Pork Producers Association Marketing and Programs Director, per KCRG

Visit the Iowa Pork Producers Association's website to nominate your favorite restaurant for the "Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin" contest! Find the past winners here!

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