What: Wisconsin has cheese curds, brats and beer cheese soup. Minnesota has walleye, hot dish and lutefisk. I grew up in the Midwest so I knew better than to dismiss Indiana as a culinary wasteland. Surely Indianapolis would have some sort of traditional dish?
It took some searching, but eventually I found a contender: The breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. Various websites told me that the sandwich, which looks a little like a schnitzel between two buns, has long been popular not only in Indiana, but in Illinois and Iowa. I was skeptical, as I had never seen a pork tenderloin in those states before, but my dad, who accompanied me on the father-daughter trip, sealed the deal. “I remember your grandfather eating tenderloins whenever he came back home,” he said. Ok, then. Breaded pork tenderloin, it is!
Where: While we were at the Indianapolis 500 Hall of Fame, I asked noted Indy 500 historian Donald Davidson for his ‘loin pick. He steered us to the Mug ‘n’ Bun, a drive-in restaurant in Speedway that’s been around since 1960. It couldn’t have been a better choice. We could have eaten in our car, but the weather was nice so we decided to eat at the outside picnic tables – where you could page your server from a button – instead.
Dress code: On a hot July afternoon, as casual as you can go.
Chowing down: Our table of three, which included my dad and Morgan from the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Bureau, all stuck with the classic. We each ordered a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, with a side of fries to split. I topped mine with lettuce, tomato and pickles.
Libations: The Mug n Bun is known for its homemade root beer that the servers bring out in frosted glasses on a metal tray that can hook up to a car window. I downed the drink before my sandwich arrived – that’s how good it was. It was everything I could do not to take a gallon back to my hotel room.
Verdict: When the sandwich arrived, I was a little stunned by how large it was. It seemed like a schnitzel, only without the sauce.
I took a few bites, then put it down. The meat was pounded too thin, and the breading was too heavy, for me to really taste the pork. And while I love a good fried shrimp or oyster po’boy, I didn’t like the way that the fried cutlet tasted on the bun. I enjoyed the whole thing better once I took the sandwich apart. Overall, though, it seems that I’m not a breaded pork tenderloin fan.
The damage: Gotta love those Midwestern prices. You can get a sandwich and a small root beer for less than $5.
Deets: The Mug n’ Bun doesn’t just have breaded pork tenderloins. Their menu has cheeseburgers, corn dogs, fried seafood dinners, fish and chips and other sandwiches. There’s also a pizza shop in back that also serves up fried chicken.
Thanks to Visit Indy for buying our lunch and providing my trip to Indianapolis!