CENTER POINT — In Eastern Iowa there are breaded pork tenderloins and there are Joensy’s breaded pork tenderloins.
“Everybody is always seeking the biggest and best tenderloin,” says Doug Joens, owner of Joensy’s in Center Point which celebrates 20 years in business on Tuesday. “We’re in hog heaven here.”
The tenderloins are so popular with customers that Doug is always in hog heaven — everywhere in the 55-seat restaurant you see ceramic, wooden, metal and cloth pigs. And each one was a gift from a customer.
“We’ve got quite a following,” says Doug, who sells upward of 1,000 tenderloins a week. “People like their pork.”
That was the impetus behind Jim Joens opening the original Joensy’s in Solon in the early ‘80s and to branch out. He talked Doug, his nephew, into opening this one as Joensy’s II. Other Joensy’s operate in southwest Cedar Rapids and La Porte City. The original closed last month, as have restaurants in Belle Plaine and Sigourney. All are in the family.
“It gets in your blood,” says Doug, who worked in Solon as a College Community student. (His family — wife, Jeanne, and children, Meghan, 14, and Jackson, 12 — are among two dozen people who work here.
After Doug graduated from the University of Iowa in 1991 and sold insurance for a while, Uncle Jim talked him into opening this store on Sept. 11, 1992, because it’s not far of I-380. It used the same “Iowa’s Biggest & Best Tenderloins” slogan.
While you can argue who has the best tenderloins until the hogs come home (I say it’s up to personal taste), Joensy’s tenderloins are definitely big.
The large tenderloin weighs 10 ounces before it is pounded out and breaded, bringing the dinner-plate-sized delight up to about a pound. The small one starts at 5 ounces.
“A lot of people have learned to go with the small,” Doug says. “Some people never learn.”
Doug admits that he eats at least a couple a week — the small variety. “I have learned,” he grins.
Through the years, the large ($6) and small ($4.25) tenderloins (baskets are $2 more) have been joined by a variety of others, from the Boss Hog ($6.75) topped with American cheese and bacon) to the buffalo ($7) that has buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, lettuce and tomato. On the kids menu you’ll find tenderloin strips modeled after the popular chicken strips.
“We’ve thought about making an extra large tenderloin,” Doug says. “That’s still in the works.”
The deal is, folks already often split the large (an extra bun is 50 cents) to save room for desert — pecan, coconut cream and strawberry-rhubarb pies were on the menu the other day. Then again, a Joensy’s tenderloins is a meal unto itself.
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