Comedian, musician and storyteller Rick Garrett is The Tenderloin Connoisseur and has a popular blog with a to-the-point title: “All tenderloins, all the time.” A 2015 Hoosier Comedy Award winner, Rick travels all over the Midwest, telling jokes, sharing stories and playing music with his wife, Holly – and trying tenderloins, of course. Nearly a lifelong Hoosier, Rick believes that the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich is a true piece of the Hoosier identity.
When did you start the blog and how many sandwiches have you tried over the years?
I started about 10 years ago and have reviewed about 250 sandwiches or so, from Kansas City to Dayton, Ohio, and lots of places in between. The bulk of my reviews come from Indiana. I don’t write about them all, and if I revisit a restaurant, I don’t write about it unless ownership has changed or there has been some other significant change.
Though the bill died in committee last month, Gov. Holcomb pushed for an official designation of the tenderloin as Indiana’s state sandwich — do you think it should be?
Oh, absolutely! It’s the one food we can lay serious claim to – we invented it (at NIck’s Kitchen in Huntington). It’s as much a part of our culture as basketball or the 500, in my mind.
What is it about the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich that makes it special? How would you describe the perfect tenderloin sandwich?
For me, food is almost as much about texture as about taste. The perfect tenderloin has a mix of textures that work well together – a soft, fresh bun, crisp breading and firm meat. I think the perfect sandwich would have all those textures, PLUS the right amount of pounding out. I’m personally not a fan of those hubcap-sized tenderloins. When the meat is pounded out too thin, you lose that part of the texture. Also, it should be fried golden brown. There seems to be a bit of an art about that. You’ve got to get the sandwich done without burning the edges. Luckily, most places do just that!
If someone wanted to get a real taste of Indiana tenderloins, which three places would you recommend?
I only get to choose three? Okay, I’ll go one north, one central, one south. North, NIck’s Kitchen in Huntington, because that’s where it all began. Although, honestly, it’s not my favorite sandwich, it’s still good and certainly worth a visit for the history. Central, CR Hero’s in Fishers. It’s a lovely sandwich. South, Rails Craft Brewery in Seymour. GREAT sandwich. One of the best in the state.
You can find Rick’s blog here or follow him on Instagram @thetenderloinguy or on Facebook @thedulcimerguy.