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Nick's Kitchen

506 N. Jefferson St., Huntington, IN - (260) 356-6618
Posted By Michael Stern on 11/21/2008 11:02:00 AM
The tenderloin is one of America’s great regional sandwiches; historians believe it was invented here in Huntington, Indiana. The story is that Nick Frienstein started frying breaded pork cutlets in 1904 to sell in sandwiches from a street cart in town; four years later he opened a small café called Nick’s Kitchen. His method of preparing the fried pork cutlets was finessed one winter shortly after Nick moved to the café and his brother Jake suffered such severe frostbite that he lost the fingers off his hands. Jake, whose job it was to bread the slices of pork, found that his stumps made good tools for pounding the meat to make it tender. Since then, a tenderloin (no need to say pork tenderloin) has been defined as a sandwich of pork that has been either beaten tender (with a wooden hammer) or run through a mechanical tenderizer (or both).

Now run by Jean Anne Bailey, whose father owned the town café starting in 1969, Nick’s Kitchen lists its tenderloin on the menu with a challenge that’s more than a little ironic considering its culinary history: “Bet You Need Both Hands”. Two hands are barely adequate for hoisting the colossal sandwich, which is built around a wavy disk of audibly crunchy pork that extends a good two to three inches beyond the circumference of a five-inch bun, virtually eclipsing its plate. Soaked in buttermilk that gives a tangy twist to the meat’s sweetness and tightly cased in a coat of rugged cracker crumbs (not the more typical fine-grind cracker meal), the lode of pork inside the crust fairly drips with moisture. Jean Anne tells us she buys the meat already cut and cubed. She pounds it, marinates it, breads it and fries it.

Nick’s Kitchen isn’t only a tenderloin stop. It’s a wonderful three-meal-a-day town café with big breakfasts and a noontime blackboard of daily specials. We loved our plate of ham, beans, and cornbread; and we were bowled over by Jean Anne’s pies. “My father served frozen ones,” she says. “I knew I wanted something better.” Made using a hand-me-down dough recipe that incorporates a bit of corn syrup, her fruit pies have a flaky crust that evaporates on the tongue, melding with brilliant-flavored rhubarb or black raspberries. Butterscotch pie – which she learned to cook from her grandmother – is more buttery than sweet, nothing at all like cloying pies made from pudding filling. Sugar-cream pie, an Indiana signature dessert, is like cream candy in a savory crust.

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
tenderloin
Sugar cream pie
apple dumpling
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	Nick’s Kitchen’s tenderloin is gorgeous: a slice of boneless pork loin that has been pounded flat, breaded, fried to a crisp, planted in a bun, and dressed with mustard, pickle, lettuce and tomato. The plate-sized pancake of pork extends so far beyond the bun that it is impossible for even the longest-fingered hands to grasp the bread to pick it up like a normal sandwich.
" Nick’s Kitchen’s tenderloin is gorgeous: a slice of boneless pork loin that has been pounded flat, breaded, fried to a crisp, planted in a bun, and dressed with mustard, pickle, lettuce and tomato. The plate-sized pancake of pork extends so far beyond the bun that it is impossible for even the longest-fingered hands to grasp the bread to pick it up like a normal sandwich."
Michael Stern





Sugar cream pie, the most basic of sweets, is an Indiana farmhouse favorite.
"Sugar cream pie, the most basic of sweets, is an Indiana farmhouse favorite. "
Michael Stern


We never can resist an apple dumpling when we see it on a menu. We're glad we took the plunge here at Nick's. This one, served warm under a big scoop of ice cream, is a beaut!
"We never can resist an apple dumpling when we see it on a menu. We're glad we took the plunge here at Nick's. This one, served warm under a big scoop of ice cream, is a beaut!"
Michael Stern


We loved the craggy texture of the pumpkin pie!
"We loved the craggy texture of the pumpkin pie! "
Cliff Strutz


Don't even think about leaving Nick's Kitchen without sampling some of Jean Anne's excellent pie.  On the day of my visit, I was disappointed that only cherry pie was left.  One forkful later, I felt like the luckiest guy in the world!
"Don't even think about leaving Nick's Kitchen without sampling some of Jean Anne's excellent pie. On the day of my visit, I was disappointed that only cherry pie was left. One forkful later, I felt like the luckiest guy in the world!"
Cliff Strutz


Nick's carries the excellent Triple XXX root beer, accompanied by a frosty mug, of course!
"Nick's carries the excellent Triple XXX root beer, accompanied by a frosty mug, of course!"
Cliff Strutz


The quintessential small-town cafe, like so many others ... except that this one happens to serve magnificent tenderloins and blue-ribbon pie.
"The quintessential small-town cafe, like so many others ... except that this one happens to serve magnificent tenderloins and blue-ribbon pie."
Michael Stern



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