I've been prodded by a number of people who regularly read Road Tips to travel to nearby De Witt, IA so I can give my observations on the pork tenderloin sandwich at TC's Point After. Their tenderloin garnered 2nd Place in the annual Iowa Pork Producers Association "Best Tenderloin in Iowa" contest in 2009 behind Goldie's in Prairie City (see the post about my visit to Goldie's here). I've been meaning to go up to TC's for a tenderloin, but never had the time - or actually, made the time.
Recently, a good friend of mine, Curt Buchmeier, called and said that he was staying in De Witt for a couple nights while he was selling Yellow Pages ads for Hanson Directory out of my old hometown of Newton, IA. It had been years since we'd seen each other, so we worked it out where could meet at TC's for dinner that night. Cindy and I hopped in the car and drove the short distance up to De Witt and TC's Point After (see map).
Chuck Cox was a salesman on the road for over 15 years when he became fed up with overnight travel and mediocre restaurants where the kitchen always seemed to close too early for him. He said to himself, "If I ever open a restaurant, it would have extended kitchen hours so someone can get a sandwich at 10:30 at night if they want it." Chuck's dream to open a bar/restaurant came true when he bought a small building in downtown De Witt and with the help of his wife, daughter and three sons, they remodeled the place into a nice little family oriented sports bar. He named the place by combining the initials of his childrens names (Tracey, Todd, Terry, Tony) with a sports theme - hence, TC's Point After. Cox populated the walls with sports memorabilia including a lot of Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears items. A shelf above the bar holds helmets from various high school football teams around the area.
Cox opened a second location in the Village of East Davenport a little over 20 years ago, but it only lasted a couple three years. If I remember right, he closed up that location and moved it to the Hilltop Campus Village area of Davenport. That place, too, eventually closed and he focused his efforts on the De Witt location.
Being a big Cubs fan, Cox became friends with Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins (pictured at right with Cox). I don't remember what the connection between the two was, but Jenkins regularly comes to De Witt for fund raisers and outings with Cox. At the Cubs Spring Training facility in Mesa, AZ, Jenkins helps Cox sell battered pork chop sandwiches called "Fergie's Big Bite". They're the same pork chop sandwiches that TC's Point After sells in De Witt.
A couple years ago, Cox sold TC's Point After to his long time general manager Michele Bowers. Cox still comes in on a daily basis when he's in town, but sits on the other side of the bar in a chair with his name on the back of it. Cox's grandson, Christopher, remains the head cook at the place.
The pork chop sandwich that TC's is famous for - dubbed Chuckie's Famous Tenderloin - was actually developed by Cox's wife and daughter. They take a whole pork loin and cut of about a six ounce center portion of pork, run it through a tenderizer front and back, and then coat it with a secret homemade batter. It's deep fried and served on a bun. I'd heard so much about TC's pork tenderloin that I couldn't wait to try it.
We met Curt around 7 p.m. and took a table in the far back of the dining room at TC's. It had been over 10 years since we seen one another and probably four years since we'd last talked, so catching up was the first thing on the agenda. Well, that and drinking a number of beers. Cindy didn't feel like drinking that evening, so she just had water. It turned out good for me as one beer turned into three, which turned into six, which turned into... Well, let's just say that I was grateful that she went along so she could drive me home that night.
The menu at TC's Point After features a number of steaks, chops and seafood, as well as a number of salads and side dishes to choose from. In addition to the famous tenderloin sandwich, TC's has an extensive list of appetizers, burgers and other sandwiches. They also feature nightly specials on a regular basis.
Cindy was getting hungry and we still hadn't really opened our menus as we were talking non-stop back and forth about what had been going on with our lives. Cindy took the initiative and ordered up a plate of TC's Hat Trick - a combination of onion rings, cheese sticks, fried mushrooms and cauliflower. It didn't take long for the plate to show up and I have to say that while I usually don't eat much deep fried food like this, everything that I sampled in the Hat Trick was very good. It was a pleasant start to the evening.
We finally decided we'd better order up food for dinner as we'd been there over an hour and Curt and I were completely pounding back the beers, having a very large time. I knew exactly what I was going to have - the tenderloin with onions and pickles. I had my choice of either regular fries or waffle fries - I took the regular ones - and a small side of cole slaw came with the sandwich.
Cindy contemplated getting the grilled chicken sandwich, but she instead opted for the Black and Bleu Burger - a six ounce beef patty topped with bleu cheese and cracked black pepper. That really sounded good to me, as well. She got the waffle fries with her meal.
The special that evening was the "surf and turf" combo - a 6 oz. beef tenderloin filet with three shrimp coated in TC's homemade batter and deep fried. Curt ordered the special and when asked how he wanted his steak cooked, he replied, "Just walk it through a warm room. I like my steaks about as rare as possible." Ah! A man after my own heart! A baked potato came with his meal.
We continued to have more beers and lots of laughs up to the time we got our food delivered to our table. I was very happy to see that the tenderloin (above right) wasn't pounded to a paper thin width and spread out so that it hung over the bun by six inches in each direction. While it was still bigger than the bun, it wasn't unmanageable to pick up and eat.
Cindy's black and bleu burger (above left) looked pretty good, but I thought they sort of skimped on the bleu cheese on top of the patty. But Curt's surf and turf combo looked pretty damn good. The battered shrimp looked pretty tasty and the small filet looked a little bigger than 6 oz. The waitress asked Curt to cut into his steak to make sure that it was cooked rare enough for him. We both agreed that it was overcooked a bit - but it was rare in the middle. I said, "I think they cooked it about a minute too long on both sides." Curt said he'd still eat it anyway.
Cindy just shook her head and said, "You guys are nuts. That steak is perfectly cooked!"
I said, "Well, yeah. That is, if he ordered it medium rare."
My tenderloin was just outstanding. One of the better pork tenderloin sandwiches I've ever had. I thought it was even better than Goldie's tenderloin - the pork tenderloin TC's lost out to in 2009. And I thought it was even better than the 2010 winner, Buck's Bar in Mitchellville (click here to see the post on my visit to Buck's). But I'm more partial to a battered pork chop sandwich rather than a breaded one. I think a breaded tenderloin dries out quickly during the cooking process. The tenderloin at TC's was moist and tender, but most of all it had some thickness to it. With the onions, pickles and yellow mustard on top, it was very tough to beat.
Cindy said she liked her burger, as well. It looked a little over-cooked for my taste, but she said it was fine for her. I may have to try the black and bleu burger on a later trip to TC's.
And Curt was happy with his steak. The battered shrimp were very rich and he still had some of his steak left when he said he was finished with his meal. The steak did look good and I noticed that a number of people that were in TC's that night got steak or prime rib for their dinners. I may have to go back and try a steak at some point. If that's the case, I'll have to go back three times because I'll want to get another pork tenderloin sandwich.
A couple of Curt's colleagues were in TC's that night, as well. One of them was an old softball teammate from my days back in Newton, Brian Flattery. Brian joined us after dinner and we caught up on stuff in and around my hometown. Brian quit drinking 25 years ago and, as I said earlier, Cindy wasn't drinking that evening. That's OK - Curty Wayne and I more than made up for them. It was well past 11:30 when Curt walked over with two Bud Light bottles for me and a Fat Tire in a 24 ounce mug for him. I protested and he said, "C'mon, Wilbur! We only get together once every, what? Ten years? You can have a couple more beers with me!" We proceeded to drink those and when Curt got up to go to the bathroom, unbeknownst to me he ordered one more beer for both of us. When the waitress brought the beers to the table, I said, "That's it! This is absolutely the last one! I've got to go home!"
It was after midnight when we left TC's. Thankfully for both Curt and I, we had designated drivers. Brian took Curt back to the hotel and Cindy drove the 25 minutes it took for us to get back home. It was really great to catch up with an old friend. Cindy and I made a promise that we'd do our best to get to Des Moines some weekend to get together with Curt and his wife.
I just have to say that the pork tenderloin at TC's lived up to the raves I've heard about it for years. While TC's isn't a large place and it's not much when it comes to decor if you're not a sports fan, I was overly happy with every aspect of our visit. Quite honestly, I didn't really know what to expect, but I was pleasant surprised at how good everything was - the food, the service, just the homey-ness of the place. Oh, yeah. We'll go back to TC's for more food at some point.