Rooster and I took an evening ride to Nick’s Kitchen, the home of the Hoosier delicacy known as the tenderloin. The trip proved to be a delicious adventure. #Nick’s Kitchen #tenderlion #huntington #indiana #farming
The breaded pork tenderloin is a Hoosier delicacy. It’s hard to find one of these sandwiches outside of the state of Indiana. Nick’s Kitchen is reported to be the place where the tradition got its start. In 1903 Nick Freienstein started traveling the streets of downtown Huntington with a pushcart on which he cooked hamburgers and pork tenderloins.
This early version of the food truck earned Nick enough money to start a restaurant at 506 N. Jefferson Street in Huntington, Indiana. Nick’s Kitchen opened its doors in 1908 and hasn’t closed. Mr. Freienstein is no longer the owner, but the eatery still uses his original recipe.
Our ride north
Rooster and I climbed on the Dark Horse and took an evening ride in search of the famous home of the breaded pork tenderloin. It’s a 56-mile trip to Huntington from where we live. I noticed a strange peculiarity about the Indiana countryside this year once we rode past the city limits sign. It wasn’t something I noticed traveling in the Sunshine Mobile the day before. Absent was the smell of manure rising from fertilized fields. There were no dust clouds blowing into the air behind fast-moving farm machinery.
The noise of tractor motors was eerily missing from the traditional sound effects which come with an Indiana spring. I didn’t see a single farmer working to get a crop into the waterlogged soil. The heavy machinery used in planting would get bogged down in the mud. What I did see was field after field of goldenrod. These yellow flowering plants might look pretty, but you can’t eat them.
In the country
They also tend to make my eyes water. Farming is a precarious business that has an outcome based on the weather. Not enough rain at the right time can lead to disaster. Too much rain and a crop of corn won’t get planted in time to be knee-high by the fourth of July. This year we are plagued with too much rain. It has been a rare day this spring when rain hasn’t fallen from the sky.
I’ve heard rumors only twenty-five percent of the fields in our state have been planted. I have a friend who is married to a farmer. She says the rain is no longer a laughing matter. They are losing a thousand dollars a day at this point. If they don’t get the seed in the ground soon, there won’t be enough time for the plants to mature before harvest. The entire growing season will be a failure.
The downtown area of Huntington has a quaint, old-fashioned feel to it. It’s not the trendy type of manufactured hometown flash to the past many small cities try to create. There is nothing shabby chic about the old buildings.
Huntington has managed to preserve its heritage without being a phony representation of a country village from the past. Nick’s Kitchen is a perfect example of the city’s genuine small-town atmosphere. The minute you walk through the door, you notice the history of the place displayed in the countless black and white pictures in inexpensive frames lining the walls.
Experience at Nick’s Kitchen
The tables, chairs, booths, and fixtures looked like they hadn’t been updated since the 1950s. One of those TV shows that come in and tell a restaurant how to survive would say the decor needed to change. That would be a mistake. There was an honesty about the diner-style eatery which made the trip worth the travel.
Our waitress was a gregarious young woman who was good at her job. Rooster and I both ordered the breaded tenderloin platter. The meal lived up to its reputation. The tenderloin covered my plate. I knew my diet was running off the rails when I devoured almost every single French fry on my dish.
Other stuff nick’s Kitchen is famous for
We discovered Nick’s Kitchen was not only famous for its breaded pork tenderloin, but they had an assortment of homemade pies that earned them recognition. We turned down the offer of pie at the end of the meal. I knew I was already going to have to take ten thousand extra steps to make up for the number of calories I’d ingested. We enjoyed our trip to Nick’s Kitchen. We’ll be sure to eat at the diner again when we are in the Huntington area.
The ride home
Our journey home started at dusk. The sky was lit up with an orangish glow from the pending sunset. The eerie dimming of the light which is cast over the landscape at this time of day makes me sad. Sunset marks the finish of another adventure. Sunset is a dangerous time for bikers to be on the road.
This is especially true if you are heading west. The intense brightness of the sun will get in your eyes and render you blind. Deer tend to run into the road at this time of day searching for food or a hook up with a deer of the opposite sex. Car drivers can have the same problem with the sun you are experiencing. The dimming light makes a biker less visible. It’s not dark enough to see the lights of the motorcycle but dark enough to allow the motorcycle to blend into the landscape.
The discovery of a rare treasure
We arrived home an hour later without incident. Our trip to Nick’s Kitchen turned out to be the discovery of a rare treasure. Our stomachs were full when we put the Dark Horse up for the night. I must admit the giant tenderloin weighed heavily on our insides. It would have been smarter if we’d split the meal between us, but it looked so good we couldn’t resist having our own.
Rooster and I settled down for the night in front of the TV. I could hear the crickets singing outside the window as Rooster surfed the channels for the next episode of Treme. Summertime weather was here, and like George Gershwin wrote, “the living is easy.” I’m excited to see where Rooster and I will ramble before winter comes back around to blow a cold breath on our adventures. There’s no predicting where the road will take us this year.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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