Waukon Restaurant Wins Best Breaded Tenderloin Contest

A car dealership-turned-restaurant is where you’ll find Iowa’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin for 2022.

Lid’s Bar & Grill in Waukon, in the northeast corner of the state, has won the 20th annual contest, presented by the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and managed by its restaurant and foodservice committee.

“Obviously we enjoy highlighting our state’s delicious pork,” said Kelsey Sutter, IPPA’s marketing and programs director. “But this award also forever transforms local Iowa businesses, as tenderloin enthusiasts look forward to the announcement every year, and are known to travel lengthy distances to try a variation on this Midwestern staple.”

Each third-pound tenderloin is cut and twice tenderized at Quillin’s Food Ranch in Waukon. At the restaurant, the never-frozen meat is hand-breaded to order—dipped in milk then dredged through a seasoned breading.

“The tenderloins are actually fairly thick, so you can taste the pork instead of just breading,” said Dan Liddiard, who co-owns Lid’s with his wife Kelly. Lid’s is a shortened version of the couple’s last name.

The deep-fried favorite is served with lettuce and mayo on a lightly buttered and toasted bun, baked fresh daily also at Quillin’s. Sandwiches include a side of crinkle-cut French fries.

Chef Phil Carey, a tenderloin finalist judge, describes the sandwich as having “great pork flavor, with a wonderful breading that greatly complements the overall sandwich,” as well as a “perfect size of bun-to-pork-tenderloin ratio.”

The Liddiards are Waukon natives who opened the eatery in July 2020. Dan Liddiard had operated West Side Auto Sales on the site for nearly a decade. However, when car sales plummeted during the early months of COVID-19, he reduced his inventory and renovated a portion of the office, showroom, and shop for the restaurant. The Liddiards had no prior experience in food service.

“Nope,” Dan Liddiard admits. “Not till after the day we opened.”

Since being named among the top five tenderloin finalists earlier this month, tenderloin fans have been flooding in from all over the state, the Liddiards said. The business went from selling about 25 pounds of loins per week, to 35 to 40 pounds a day. A drive-up window accommodates carry-out customers.

“To be nominated for this was absolutely incredible,” said Dan Liddiard, choking back tears. “To win is 10 times that. It’s pretty great.”

IPPA’s restaurant and foodservice committee will officially present the best tenderloin award at the restaurant Tuesday, Oct. 18. Lid’s will receive $500, a plaque, and a large banner to display.

This year’s runner-up is Ludlow’s Steakhouse in Corydon, about an hour and a half south of Des Moines. The designation comes with a $250 prize and plaque from IPPA. Other finalists, listed alphabetically by town, have earned a top five plaque to display:

IPPA received 4,812 nominations for 449 different establishments during a spring nomination period. The restaurant and foodservice committee reviewed the top 40 restaurants in the summer. Each was scored on the quality of the pork, taste, physical characteristics, and eating experience.

The tenderloin contest recognizes Iowa dining establishments that offer a hand-breaded or battered pork tenderloin as a regular menu item. To win, businesses must be open year-round. The winners are announced as part of #Porktober22, or National Pork Month, which celebrates the state’s dedicated pig farmers and the great product they produce.

Victoria Station in Harlan, about an hour and 40 minutes west of Des Moines, won the 2021 contest.

See the full list of past winners, dating back to 2003.