On a recent weekend to the urban jungle, I was looking for some quick, cheaper food and was waffling between Smitty's Tenderloin Shack (ranked in the top 100 restaurants in the urban jungle) and Tasty Tacos (ranked in the top ten, both out of literally a couple thousand to choose from). Both are sit down places but have a limited fare and thus have fast food speed. We drove by the Tenderloin Shack first and the small parking lot was full of cars which is always a good sign. Although Smitty has been dead awhile, a fact I gathered from reading the menu, having a restaurant named after someone is always a good sign. When we walked inside, the booths were the cheap plastic kind which means that the emphasis was on food, another good sign. Although they had menus, it was also shown on a board above the cash register another good sign. In fact, the only bad sign was the fact that there weren't any calenders hanging on the wall and it seems the better the food, the more calenders are hanging around.
But we sat down and soon received our menus. I was a bit disappointed that other than size of your tenderloin, you only had three choices. You had the regular tenderloin, the vegetarian tenderloin, the chili cheese tenderloin and the taco tenderloin. Yes I just said four different things but everyone knows there isn't such a thing as a vegetarian tenderloin. I was tempted to try the taco tenderloin but opted for the chili cheese version with onion rings while my wife got the regular with fries, both of us asked for everything on them not knowing what everything included.
Within about five minutes, our food was served and we dug in. The onion rings were outstanding so I had high hopes when I finally took my first bite of the tenderloin. What I found was a paper thin slice of pork with lots of breading. The breading was good but that was all you could taste. There wasn't any pork taste to it at all and for a tenderloin in Iowa, that is a cardinal sin. We could get better tenderloins at the Thomas the Train weekend street vendor at the bar just down the road from our house. For a place that referred to itself as a Tenderloin Shack, I was very disappointed.
As we savored the onion rings, the fries were generic frozen ones that you can get anywhere, I started paying attention to what everyone else was eating or ordering since after all, the parking lot and small restaurant were crowded. Sure enough, everyone was ordering a burger off the rest of the menu. Which brings me to one of the most important rules for ordering food in a strange restaurant far from home, order what the locals order. They've been there lots of times and know what is the best thing off the menu.