By: Ty Renbarger
In the heartland of Indiana, there’s a culinary tradition that speaks to the very essence of the state. A tradition steeped in deep-fried nostalgia and bursting with flavors—the tenderloin sandwich. This humble yet indulgent dish has etched its place as Indiana’s unofficial state sandwich, offering solace and celebration in equal measure. And what better way to celebrate the diverse flavors of Wabash County then embarking on a tenderloin escapade?
The origin of this beloved sandwich can be traced back to Nick Freienstein, a culinary pioneer with European roots. Nick’s Kitchen, located at 506 N Jefferson Street in Huntington, became the cradle of the Indiana tenderloin. Inspired by his European heritage, Nick spun his version of wiener schnitzel into the iconic pork tenderloin sandwich. Though similar in taste to its German counterpart, the Indiana version stands out with its distinctive deep-fried preparation.
Having set the stage for this savory exploration, armed with a hearty appetite and a desire to uncover the county’s finest, I set off on a multi-day journey across Wabash County. Each bite into these colossal breaded tenderloins was an adventure in itself, revealing a spectrum of flavors and textures.
Market Street Grill
Located in the heart of downtown Wabash, Market Street Grill prides itself on delivering a tenderloin that captures the very essence of this Hoosier tradition. The tenderloin was generous in size, perfectly breaded, and cooked to a golden crisp. The meat was tender and flavorful, offering a satisfying crunch with every bite. The accompaniments elevated the experience, and the combination of ketchup, mustard, and pickles truly enhanced the overall taste.
A visit to Mr. Dave’s in North Manchester was an adventure into tenderloin excellence. The breading was just right—crispy without being overpowering, allowing the taste of the tender pork to shine through. The fried veggie basket and crinkle fries were the perfect addition to the sandwich. Don’t go to this hot spot if you aren’t ready to eat their award-winning sandwich!
Smitty’s Bar & Grill
Smitty’s in Wabash is a downtown gem that takes the tenderloin experience to another level. Their rendition featured a tender, juicy pork tenderloin enveloped in a golden, crunchy breading. The size was substantial, ensuring a hearty meal. The simplicity of ketchup-only as the chosen topping brought out the pure, authentic flavors of the tenderloin.
Emmett’s Paddy Wagon
The Emmett’s Paddy Wagon food truck experience was nothing short of delightful. Emmett’s tenderloin comes from Swayzee, Indiana (yes, the only Swayzee in the world). It was perfectly sized and complimented with a delicious creamy topping. Each bite unveils a burst of flavors that leave a lasting impression. Emmett and Ali always ensure you walk away with a delicious meal and a smile on your face.
Harry’s Old Kettle Pub & Grill
Harry’s Old Kettle in Wabash stands as a testament to tradition and taste. The tenderloin here pays homage to the classic flavors Hoosiers have cherished for generations. It boasts a generous portion size and a satisfying crunch, making each mouthful a true delight. The traditional combo of ketchup only adds a familiar touch that warms the heart.
The Inn Pub & Grill
The tenderloin at The Inn Pub & Grill in North Manchester is a savory journey that captivates the taste buds. With a perfect balance of breading and meat, every bite offers a symphony of flavors and textures. The size is impressive, ensuring a fulfilling meal. Opting for all the toppings as suggested and wow did it add a layer of zest.