PrairieMoon wins statewide tenderloin contest

Employees of PrairieMoon on Main in Prairieburg display the banner they received for winning the Iowa's Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin contest. From left are co-owner Amy Lacy, Madison Lacy, Mikayla Edwards, Alissa Connor, Adele Hogan, Sue Postel and co-owner Loren Lacy. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Amy and Loren Lacy display one of the tenderloins that enabled PrairieMoon on Main to win the Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest.
Pete Temple
Express Sports/Ag Editor

     Co-owners Loren and Amy Lacy took the advice of their customers at PrairieMoon on Main in Prairieburg.

     “Everybody kept telling us, ‘You’ve got to put your tenderloin in for the pork producers’ contest,” Amy said.

     They did, and it proved to be a good move. The Iowa Pork Producers Association announced Oct. 16 that PrairieMoon was voted winner of the Iowa’s Best Breaded Tenderloin Contest.

     Representatives from the IPPA were on hand Friday to present the award to PrairieMoon, including a check for $500 and a banner to display. The establishment will also receive a plaque and statewide publicity.

     To get to that point, PrairieMoon took part in a process that began in April.

     “You get nominated by your patrons. Out of 4,500 votes, we were in the top 40,” Amy said.

     In July, four representatives from the IPPA came in to PrairieMoon to try the tenderloin. The Lacys had to overcome some obstacles ­– it was a Friday night, and they had just gone back to opening the restaurant after having been reduced to take-out only for several weeks because of COVID-19.

     When the four judges left, the Lacys figured that was the end of it.

     “We didn’t hear anything for a long time,” Amy said. “We just thought, ‘That’s pretty cool, first year out, we made the top 40.”

     Then, on Sept. 26, a couple came in on a busy night. Loren came into the kitchen to ask Amy to come and talk with them.

     Exasperated, Amy said, “Are you kidding me?”

     Loren replied, “We just made the top five in Iowa.”

     Now, their tenderloin is No. 1.

     “This is just crazy for us,” Amy said.

     So what makes the PrairieMoon tenderloin so good? While Amy didn’t share the actual recipe, she did offer some hints about its quality.

     “We’re very much about the pork,” Amy said. “We want to taste the flavor of the pork, not the flavor of the breading. Our tenderloins are eight-ounce. They’re not as big as a pizza box. We do a thick tenderloin.

     PrairieMoon has a local grocer cut loins into half-pound slices before twice running each piece through a tenderizer.

     At the restaurant, tenderloins soak for 24 to 72 hours in buttermilk, to further tenderize them.

     “I tenderize them in a solution to try to make them as moist as I can,” she said. “They’re always fresh, never frozen, and we go directly from the marinade to the cracker meal to the fryer.

     “I don’t press the breading into them; I just kind of dredge them through the breading, to pick up a little bit of crunch on the outside of it.”

     Amy and Loren bought PrairieMoon last year.

     “He tried to talk me into buying it, and it was a tough sale, I’m not going to lie,” Amy said. “I know how much work it is to run a business.”

     They did buy it, however, and it opened under their management May 15, 2019.

     “We definitely made the right choice in coming here,” Amy said. “We have great staff. The community in Prairieburg is phenomenal.”

     The Lacys went through a dark period, like most restaurants in the state, when COVID-19 restrictions caused them to go to take-out only.

     “Through COVID our patrons supported us, overwhelmingly,” Amy said. “They supported our staff with tips. They’ve gone above and beyond to keep us in business.”

     They also were able to do some upgrades.

     “We basically just gave it a facelift,” Amy said. “We painted and changed the colors of the bar. Because of COVID we have a much larger outside venue now. We poured another patio and we have outside seating since we’ve had to remove some tables from in here.”

     The first 1,500 tenderloins sold following the announcement are discounted $1, courtesy of the IPPA.

     Any Iowa restaurant, café or tavern that has hand-breaded or battered breaded pork tenderloins on its menu was eligible to be nominated for the contest.

     The IPPA received 4,501 nominations for 390 different establishments during the spring nomination period.

     The other finalists included Birdies, Burgers and Brews in Graettinger, which was the runner-up; The Blind Pig in Cedar Rapids, Sasquatch Jacks Hideaway Barroom and Grill in Waverly; and Bents Smokehouse and Pub in Westgate.



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