It's one of the most exciting, as well as one of the most delicious, food-based contests the state of Iowa has: the Iowa Pork Producers Association's Best Pork Tenderloin Contest.

As far as the 2023 contest is concerned, the votes have been counted, the totals tallied, and a winner has been announced....

Photo Credit: DarcyMaulsby, Getty Images + Canva
Photo Credit: DarcyMaulsby, Getty Images + Canva

Per The Des Moines Register, the Iowa Pork Producers Association has been doing this since 2003. Each year, they honor a restaurant serving the best breaded pork tenderloin in the state. All the way back in 2003, Darrell's Place in Hamlin, IA won named in the first contest.

Fast forward 21 years later, and the Iowa Pork Producers Association's contest is still growing strong, and a winner was announced this week!

Cliff's Place in Manning, IA was awarded the Best Pork Tenderloin in Iowa for the 2023 Iowa Pork Producers Association contest. Cliff's Place has been going strong since 1977. Owned and operated by brothers Jon and Jim Waterbury, Cliff's Place got its name from their father, the restaurant's founder, who passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2007, per The Des Moines Register.

The secret to Cliff's Place's success? They use a 6-ounce pork loin that's tenderized and hand-breaded to order. The tenderloin is covered in a mix of flour and Flavor-Crisp's "Chicken on the Run" Fine Grind breading that's dipped and buttermilk then once more in a flour mixture before it gets crispy in the deep fryer.

Served on a toasted Italian bun with pickles, and cut in fourths, the Waterbury brothers sell roughly 70 sandwiches a week for $6/piece. Additional toppings such as lettuce, tomato, onion, bacon, and cheese can be added.

To show the true impact of Iowa Pork's contest, the association estimates that restaurants sell five to 10 times more sandwiches for at least a month following the announcement. The Waterburys leaned into their nomination, putting up signs around the restaurant encouraging happy customers to vote. Their customers' do-diligence paid off in spades!

Even Jon and Jim's mother, Vicki, still puts in long days at the restaurant, long after her husband has passed.

When it comes to being nominated for the Best Pork Tenderloin in Iowa Contest, there are some requirements:

  • Pork tenderloins must be hand-breaded or battered
  • The restaurant serving the pork tenderloin must be open all year long
  • The restaurant serving the pork tenderloin must have it on the menu as a regular item
  • No food trucks
  • No concession stands
  • No seasonal eateries
  • No catering businesses

Below are all the finalists for the 2023 contest:

The Iowa Pork Producers Association will award Cliff’s Place $500, a plaque, and a large winner's banner to display. You can read more about Cliff's Place's huge honor on The Des Moines Register.

Photos: Dubuque Farmers Market 2023

Take a trip through the Dubuque's Farmers Market

Gallery Credit: Tom Ehlers

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