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The Suburbanite
  • Sink your appetite into a classic tavern sandwich

  • Make your own classic Groaner, the pork tenderloin sandwich that built our town.

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  • The biggest cook in the place got to pound the tenderloin, and pound and pound.
    Decades ago, the fried pork tenderloin sandwich put our town in the middle of Midwest cookery. Every restaurant worth its french fries had to have what it called a pork-chop sandwich, built with a well-pounded pork loin.
    In the 1940s, a pork tenderloin sandwich cost $1.35 at the Casablanca Supper Club in Perry Township, with olives.
    It was a monster. The pork was breaded and pan fried. It soon became competitive to offer the biggest one, with inches of meat hanging out of the bun, enough for two.
    Bars often added a smoked version at extra cost. It was precooked and smoked, knocking down the “to-table” time, critical during lunch.
    At that time, the 1940s, hamburger had yet to hit its stride. Pork, being the cheapest of meats, was a German favorite. It spilled over from hungry steelworkers into nearly all local bar and grills.
    Properly dressed, this beauty was two meals in one. Fathers would cut them into fourths, plenty for children. He’d insist it didn’t taste right without “washing it down” with a root beer for the kids and for him a Cleveland draft beer. Labels included Stroh’s, Carling Black Label and Schmidt’s. Or three or four.
    The meat is what we would call a pork loin and not the pricey, pork tenderloin fillets in our stores. The pork loin was one of the cheapest pork cuts. It was low-fat but required a heady amount of muscle work to tenderize.
    It’s still advertised as a “pork tenderloin” sandwich in some restaurants, but truth be known, it’s the common pork loin. You may find it under its nickname, the Groaner.
    There’s nothing fancy about it, not even a slice of the American cheese. It’s as good cold or hot, perfect for workers who lunch at their jobs.
    The same recipe was used to fry chicken or beef for sandwiches. Chicken-fried steak also is a candidate.
    It’s still what it was, an appetite smasher that keeps you pouring steel or pounding a typewriter for the rest of the afternoon. Then again, after this puppy, maybe you need a nap.
    TENDERLOIN BASICS
    The condiments are dependably the same:
    Mayonnaise
    Iceberg lettuce
    Pickles, dill chips
    Thin sliced sweet onion
    Tomato slice
    Yellow mustard (on side)
    Toothpick spearing a large olive on top
    The bun, maintaining its German tradition, is a fat Kaiser, seeded or not. Your waiter should ask if you prefer it toasted.
    The fryer is a cast-iron skillet.
    Page 2 of 2 - Modern additions are a slice of Swiss cheese, a thin slice of ham and french fries.
    THE PORK “TENDERLOIN” SANDWICH
    4 slices thick-cut pork loin, boneless, about 11⁄2 pounds
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Vegetable oil, for frying
    4 soft Kaiser buns
    See above for condiments
    Breading:
    2 large eggs
    2 cups buttermilk
    1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1⁄2 cup cornmeal
    2 cups flour
    Sprinkle pork slices with water. Salt and pepper each and pound mercilessly between waxed paper. The meat should extend well beyond the edges of the bun.
    Whisk the eggs, buttermilk and cayenne. Add the pork, cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
    Heat 1⁄4 inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dip the pork into the flour on all sides. Fry in batches until golden and cooked through, about
    3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
    Spread both halves of each bun with mayonnaise. Add a pork slice and the lettuce, tomatoes and onion. Add a few pickle chips or serve on the side.