We traveled to northeast Iowa for one last camping trip at Pike's Peak State Park overlooking the Mississippi River. As it turned out the fall colors had already peaked and it was very, very cold. For two days it never got above 40. We cooked breakfast over a campfire in 29 degree weather. We endured because the overriding goal was to seek out the World's Largest Tenderloin" and we may have found it at the St. Olaf Tap in the "Little Switzerland" village of St. Olaf, Iowa.
St. Olaf is in the middle of nowhere. You go by turning off US 52 onto state highway 13 and driving until you see a sign that says "St. Olaf 2 miles, home of the world's largest tenderloin". You arrive by coming over the crest of a hill and seeing the whole of St. Olaf in a valley. The Tap was very easy to find on Main Street.
The Tap was very busy at 1:30 in the afternoon. Every table was taken so we took stools at the bar and placed our order. Your choices were the Pork Tenderloin at 16 oz., the Medium Tenderloin at 8 oz. or the Mini Tenderloin at 4 oz. The medium tenderloin is about what most restaurants serve. The mini tenderloin fills the bun.
So we waited with our Honey Weiss Leinenkugels and finally a table opened up for us. In waiting we struck up a conversation with Tim Lusthoff, the proprietor. Ever since the Des Moines Register came out with the article, "100 Places in Iowa you have to eat at before you die" they have been very busy. The week before they ran out of tenderloins. Their tenderloins are made from fresh pork trimmed of fat, hand breaded and fried in soy bean oil.
Was it the world's largest? Possibly. It was definitely the largest we ever had and it was considerably larger than Joensy's in Solon, IA, the claimant of the "Biggest and Best". How good was it? Very good and surprisingly, even though it filled the dinner plate, it was not paper thin and dry. It was thick and juicy. It was worth the trip for us. We were not disappointed.
Arriving in St. Olaf, Iowa behind a tractor pulling a loading bin
The St. Olaf Tap building in St. Olaf, Iowa
The bar in the St. Olaf Tap
The "World's Largest Tenderloin" at the St. Olaf Tap