Rick is a lifelong foodie who has been blogging about tenderloins since March of 2009. About 12 years and over 200 reviews later, he’s still traveling, eating, and blogging about Indiana’s unofficial state sandwich. A musician and comedian, Rick has done tours in Branson, a residency at Silver Dollar City, and has been featured on TV. He also produces his weekly podcast: Rick’s Rambles.
The Top 10 Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches in the Indy Region
Hoosier to the core. That’s the breaded tenderloin sandwich.
The process of making a tenderloin sandwich is surprisingly simple. You just take a piece of pork tenderloin and pound it out to tenderize it. Then, you season it, bread it, and deep fry it to perfection. Serve on a bun with your toppings of choice, and that’s all there is to it! But this delicious dish has become a staple of Midwestern cuisine with countless variations and homemade recipes.
Here in Indy, the tenderloin sandwich has become part of our cultural identity. It’s no secret to the people who live, work, and visit the Indianapolis region that we’re a foodie destination. It’s also no secret that many of our local restaurants have some version of a breaded tenderloin on the menu. Whether you’re eating at a dive bar, a local diner, or a high-end establishment, chances are you can order a tenderloin wherever you go.
After all, when you think of food in Kansas City, BBQ immediately comes to mind. Chicago has their deep-dish pizza, and Philadelphia is famous for their cheesesteaks. In Indiana, the breaded pork tenderloin is our most iconic dish—and the Hoosier meal of choice.
The pork tenderloin sandwich is a Hoosier tradition.
Over 100 years ago, Nick Freienstein reportedly created the first tenderloin sandwich in Huntington, Indiana. At the time, German immigrants in the area were hungry for wienerschnitzel and longing for a taste of home. But luckily, pork was cheap and plentiful in pioneer Indiana. So, Nick invented a new culinary creation and our cultural icon was born. If you’re in the mood for a road trip, Nick’s Kitchen—his original restaurant—is still in business, so you can visit and try his historic tenderloin for yourself!
Nowadays, the greater Indianapolis area is ‘loin central with Indiana’s signature sandwich served on most menus. There’s even a Facebook group for it called Pursuing Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches. And it has over 50,000 members devoted to the pride of Indiana, our breaded tenderloin.
So, without further ado, here is my Top 10 list of the best tenderloin sandwiches in the Indianapolis region. This list is by no means exhaustive. But if you’re seeking the best of the best, this is a good place to start for both novice fans and tenderloin veterans!
1. C.R. Heroes Family Pub – 10570 E 96th Street, Fishers
Located in an unassuming strip mall in Fishers, C.R. Heroes calls their sandwich the “Hoosier Daddy.” This sandwich is sure to satisfy even the heartiest of appetites. Their breading is nice and crisp. And the meat is pounded out enough to tenderize it, but not so thin that it’s hubcap-sized. For more of an exotic twist, ask for a side of their garlic mayonnaise. Just be sure to save some (or order a second serving) as a dipping sauce for your fries!
This hero-themed restaurant decorates the walls with our greatest role models. One side of the C.R. Heroes pub is devoted to our public service heroes, including firefighters, police, and EMS workers. While on the other side, your favorite superheroes are given equal billing. With lots of fun and interesting artifacts to see, it’s a great place for kids and adults!
2. The Aristocrat – 5212 N College, Indianapolis
The Aristocrat Pub has arguably the most famous tenderloin in Indianapolis. But there’s a good reason this restaurant is recommended the most when folks ask where to try their first tenderloin. Their meat is pounded out thinner, resulting in a larger loin that hangs over the edge of the bun. And the Aristocrat has a unique blend of spices in their breading that sets their sandwich apart. Their old English pub atmosphere also adds to the dining experience.
3. Blind Owl Brewery – 5014 E 62nd Street, Indianapolis
Did someone order Indiana’s signature sandwich with locally brewed beer? You can’t go wrong with that combination! The Blind Owl Brewery offers two different versions of their tenderloin sandwich. One of them is a more traditional style with a classic breading mix. But if you’re looking for something different, you can ask them to add chipotle seasoning to their usual breading. The chipotle flavor pairs nicely with the pork, if you can handle the extra heat! And if you enjoy outside dining, the Blind Owl has one of the best patios in the area.
4. Dooley O’Toole’s – 160 E Carmel Drive, Carmel
Dooley O’Toole’s is a family-owned restaurant and bar that serves Midwestern food with a touch of Irish fare. Their signature breaded tenderloin comes in two sizes. So, you can either order the full size or a smaller portion for those who might find themselves less hungry. Their tenderloin’s lightly seasoned breading really allows the flavor of the meat to shine. And Dooley O’Toole’s offers a delicious side called “chive fries” that pairs quite nicely with this sandwich.
5. Big Lug Canteen – 1435 E 86th Street, Indianapolis
Big Lug is a member of the Sahm’s Family of Restaurants, a group of family-owned Hoosier restaurants around Indianapolis. This brewpub offers locally brewed draft beer and another great tenderloin sandwich. The loin and breading are both top-notch, but what sets this one apart is the knot roll it’s served on. Paired with their meat and breading, this unique bun makes for an outstanding combination of textures and flavors. Big Lug also has a wonderful patio and beer garden adjacent to the Monon trail. So, it’s a comfortable place to enjoy a breaded tenderloin, drink some beer, and people watch.
6. That Place Bar & Grill – 8810 S Emerson Ave, Indianapolis
In the world of breaded tenderloins, bigger isn’t always better. But in this case, it is! That Place Bar & Grill serves a very large sandwich! The attention to detail on this one is stellar, and their tenderloin has a nice heft to it. Their breading is nice, crisp, and lightly seasoned, while their meat is tender and moist. A tenderloin like this is perfect for even the heartiest appetite. And their onion rings are not to be missed! That Place is also a great place for a night out with a game room, pool tables, and live entertainment.
7. Billy O’Neal’s Pub & Eatery – 7445 W 10th Street, Indianapolis
One of Indy’s oldest bars, Billy O’Neal’s is a family-owned Irish pub down in Indianapolis. Billy O’Neal’s is another restaurant that offers two sizes of tenderloin sandwiches. They serve a “regular” size—which is anything but regular—and a smaller one for people who’d like a smaller serving. Both are prepared the same way, with the same care and attention to detail. This neighborhood pub also has a warm, comfortable feel that improves the experience of an already wonderful sandwich.
8. Muldoon’s – 111 W Main Street, Carmel
Muldoon’s is another Irish-themed bar and restaurant, this one in the northern suburb of Carmel. Their tenderloin is pounded out thinner than I usually prefer, but the flavor is outstanding! With meat locally sourced from Joe’s Butcher Shop in Carmel, this may well be the freshest tenderloin you can get. This tenderloin is another very large sandwich with perfect, lightly seasoned breading. So, this outstanding offering can easily be shared by two people on a night out.
9. Triton Brewing Company & Bistro – 5764 Wheeler Road, Indianapolis
There’s no shortage of local breweries in the Indianapolis area. But some of them are as famous for their food as they are for their brews! Triton Brewing would be at the top of that list. Their bistro serves a variety of entrées and sandwiches, including their pork tenderloin. This sandwich is hearty, and the meat is lightly pounded so it has some nice thickness to it. Their breading is crispier and crunchier than many other tenderloins, which makes for a pleasant mix of textures in an already flavorful sandwich. Triton Brewing also has a comfortable, somewhat industrial feel to it with ample outside dining.
10. Grindstone on the Monon/Grindstone Public House – Westfield and Noblesville
These two pubs are sister restaurants, both with a tenderloin that’s fit to write home about. Their tenderloins are thick and moist with wonderfully crispy breading. So, it’s no wonder that these two are garnering attention from across the region! Although the family behind Grindstone has been around for years, these two restaurants are relatively new to the Indy dining scene. But they’re already popular spots for dinner and a drink. Grindstone on the Monon has a beautiful outdoor dining area that overlooks the Monon Trail. And the Public House is located in downtown Noblesville, surrounded by a wonderful small-town feel.
Find your favorite tenderloin here in Indy.
All of these restaurants have a tenderloin sandwich that’s well worth the trip! But there are plenty more to taste across the region. Each one might have their own secret breading, with the recipe closely guarded. You might find cornmeal, panko, or tempura breading. Or you might occasionally find something unique and offbeat, with potato chips or pretzels.
Some are thick. Some are thin. And through them all, you’ll experience a variety of seasonings, textures, and tastes. Just like us Hoosiers, each tenderloin has its own unique flavor and style. But no matter what neighborhood you visit here in the Indianapolis region, one thing’s for certain. You’ll find a breaded tenderloin sandwich just about anywhere you go!