Last year’s winning tenderloin.

Iowa’s thousands of restaurants have been closed for a full month by the pandemic, with some offering only carry-out and delivery, yet an annual contest to name the state’s top breaded pork tenderloin sandwich is still on.

Kelsey Sutter, spokeswoman for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, says they wrestled with the idea. “We talked about whether or not we should postpone this contest, if we should wait until later in the year when restaurants are able to open their doors again,” Sutter says. “The more we thought about it, the more we wanted to move forward and provide as much love and encouragement — via social media — that we can to restaurants across the state. We know that they’re hurting.”

Sutter says they’re rewriting the contest rules this year to include all eateries, even the hundreds that may not reopen once the pandemic clears.  “Whether a restaurant is open right now doing take-out or not, we want people to nominate their favorite tenderloin,” Sutter says. “Everyone remembers what they taste like. If they offer take-out, go order it, go get your favorite tenderloin to go, and then get on and give them a nomination.”

The deadline to submit an entry is June 6th. “We don’t need to physically start the judging until we get our top 40 which is July 1,” Sutter says, ” so we’re pretty confident and we’re hoping that restaurants will be in full swing by July 1.”

The winner will be announced in mid-October during Iowa Pork Month. Last year’s winner was The Pub at the Pinicon in New Hampton.

(Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City contributed to this report.)