Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with the pork tenderloin sandwich from Indiana, which joined the union on December 11, 1816.
The state: Indiana nicknamed itself Crossroads of America after its canals and railroads—on the conceit, apparently, that its visitors are always on their way to somewhere else entirely. Nonetheless, Indiana is the birthplace of American greats such as James Dean, David Letterman and the Raggedy Ann doll. It's most known for a healthy corn supply, a vast Amish population, the Indy 500, Notre Dame athletics and a town named Santa Claus, which receives more than one million letters every holiday season.
The food: The pork tenderloin sandwich mocks the notion of sandwich. The large deep-fried pork cutlet, long-soaked in buttermilk and covered in breadcrumbs, extends well beyond the hamburger bun that's meant to house it, making the bun a mere spot for a handhold (and also the housing for lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and mustard.) Which is all well and good, unless you have arteries you thought you were using. According to the good people of Indiana, this rich plate originated in 1908, at Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington. The sandwich is so popular among Midwesterners that two filmmakers even made a documentary spanning their state-wide search for its best version: In Search of the Famous Hoosier Breaded Tenderloin.
Other dishes considered and rejected: Indiana-style fried cabbage, corn on the cob, Persimmon pudding, sweet potato casserole, sugar cream pie, taco in a bag (taco ingredients stuffed in a bag of Fritos).
Get it from: If you like anything meaty, deep-fried and hard to eat, head to the Burger Guild (4926 SE Division St., 401-287-4373, theburgerguild.com) a food cart in the A La Carts Food Pavilion. For $8, you can order their version of the sandwich—which comes pretty close except that it doesn't come with tomatoes. It does come with a healthy serving of everything else, though, and it's tangy and crispy and tastes delicious with their well-seasoned sweet potato fries (though you’ll have to pay an extra $1.25 for the upgraded fries). Sit in the pavilion's courtyard, peruse one of the Woman’s Day magazines you'll find onsite, and feast on the great big slab of meat.
Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.