I went to college at the University of Iowa in the early 80's and not far from Iowa City was the small town of Solon. In downtown Solon there was a bar/restaurant that served huge pork tenderloin sandwiches. Being young and somewhat dumb at the time (compared to being older and still somewhat dumb these days), I'd accompany friends of mine to Solon to try to finish one of the huge sandwiches in one sitting. Of course, copious amounts of beer was consumed during the process. That place is now closed, but there is a similar place with the same name that is open in Center Point, IA - a bedroom community just north of Cedar Rapids. On a trip past Center Point recently, I decided to stop in and get a pork tenderloin sandwich at Joensy's Restaurant.
Jim Joens opened the original Joensy's in Solon in 1983 and word spread about the huge pork tenderloin sandwiches that he sold. Food and travel magazines showcased the Joensy's sandwich and it was featured on national television shows. In 2003, Food and Wine magazine named Joensy's pork tenderloin as one of the top 100 best meal values in the nation.
Joens enlisted family members to open Joensy's outlets in places like Cedar Rapids, La Porte City, Sigourney, and Belle Plaine. In 1992, Jim Joens contacted his nephew, Doug Joens, to see if he would be interested in putting a Joensy's in Center Point. Doug Joens had recently graduated from the University of Iowa and was selling insurance in the Cedar Rapids area. Doug had worked at the Joensy's in Solon while he was going to college and the restaurant business sort of got into his blood. Joens opened his 55-seat restaurant in Center Point in September of 1992.
The original Joensy's in Solon went through some troubled times including getting closed for health department violations and being fined for selling liquor to minors. They eventually closed in 2012. The building that housed Joensy's was razed and rebuilt into a small brew pub - Big Grove Brewery - that opened in August of 2013. Jim Joens' son, Brian, opened a Joensy's location in Iowa City and continues to run that location.
The Joensy's in Center Point is about a mile off I-380 toward the downtown part of the town. (see map) It was around 1:30 when I pulled into Joensy's and found a nearly deserted parking lot.
Joensy's decor could be described as folksy Americana - there's a number of ceramic and stuffed pigs on display throughout the place. Booths line the walls while two and four-seat tables are in the middle. Whereas the original Joensy's in Solon could be categorized as a dive bar, Joensy's in Center Point is bright, clean and comfortable.
After taking a seat in a booth, Doug Joens, himself, came over with a menu and I ordered a beer while I looked to see what else they had other than the pork tenderloin sandwiches. Joensy's also offers dinners such as chicken fried steak, a meatloaf platter, a rib eye steak dinner, and something that I don't see on many menus - Salisbury steak. They also have burgers, chicken sandwiches, a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, and turkey bacon melt. Appetizers, soups and salads are also available on the menu at Joensy's.
Joensy's offers two different sizes of pork tenderloin sandwiches - a small that is 5 ounces before it's pounded out and breaded, and a large that is 10 ounces before getting pounded and breaded. I don't remember if the original Joensy's had two different sizes - I only remember getting the big one on my visits there over 30 years ago. But I decided to get the small one this time when my server, Linda, came over to take my order.
And it was still almost too big. The tenderloin hung over the sides of the bun, almost enough pork to make two sandwiches. Some people will share a large tenderloin and order an additional bun (50 cents extra) to make two sandwiches. At one point, Doug Joens was talking about making an extra large tenderloin, but given the size of the small I can't imagine how big that could be.
I had to first cut the extra pork skirt around the bun off before trying the sandwich. The flavor of the Joensy's tenderloin was very good. The breading was light and the pork was moist and tender. I added yellow mustard, pickles and onions to the sandwich and it turned out to be a very good sandwich. I wasn't able to finish all of the pork tenderloin - there was still just too much meat on the sandwich. But it was very good.
The pork tenderloin sandwich I had at Joensy's in Center Point reminded me of my college days when trying to finish one of their huge sandwiches at the original one over in Solon was accompanied with large amounts of beer. This small tenderloin was still too big, but it was delicious, the service was friendly and efficient, and the small restaurant was comfortable with a lot of little Iowa touches. Joensy's in Center Point would be a good stop for their signature pork tenderloin sandwich when you're driving between Waterloo and Cedar Rapids.