In honor of #TenderloinTuesday, we sat down with Doug Kemp, owner of Dooley O'Tooles in Carmel, Indiana. His restaurant is a popular stop along the Hamilton County Tenderloin Trail, and we wanted to know what makes their tenderloin sandwich so special.
How long has Dooley’s been open?
We’ve been open since 1985, so that would make us 33 years old this year. We have clients that have been coming in since day one that this place opened. It’s developed to where they are family, so we try to hold on to the nostalgia.
How long has Dooley’s participated in Tenderloin Tuesdays?
We actually had our own tenderloin deal that we started 25 years ago. Since Hamilton County Tourism started Tenderloin Tuesdays in 2010, we have participated the whole time.
How long has Dooley O’Tooles been serving tenderloin sandwiches?
Always. They’re the number one selling thing in the restaurant. A few years back there was a contest for “Best Tenderloin” in Indiana. We came in second place out of 32 restaurants across the entire state.
What comes on your sandwich?
Our sandwiches are hand-breaded or grilled-to-order. They come on a Gonnella bakery bun and are served with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle and onion.
How is your tenderloin sandwich assembled/made?
Gonnella bakery from Chicago makes our buns fresh for us every day. Their breads are incredible! The pork tenderloin itself is either hand-breaded or grilled to order and is placed on that bun with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickle and onion on the side.
What makes your sandwich special?
Our meat is cut by Joe’s Butcher Shop. I call every morning at 9 a.m., so it is fresh every single day. All the meat is hormone- and antibiotic-free. The tenderloin is our flagship.
Why do you believe the tenderloin is such a Hoosier classic?
It’s comfort food. The story goes that tenderloins were created in the early 1900’s in Indiana. Now, Indiana is one of the biggest pork producers in the country. People love it because it’s Midwestern comfort food. It was invented in Huntington, Indiana, and from there it’s just grown. Hoosiers love their tenderloins!
What is the best tenderloin you have ever had?
The one that has always stuck out in my mind was back when I was 16 or 17 years old. It was a café in Indianapolis, sort of like a little mom ‘n pop shop. They served what they called a soft-shelled, breaded tenderloin. I have never been able to duplicate it, but it was fantastic. They’ve been gone for a while because that was 40 or so years ago. I know it was delicious, and I’ve eaten tenderloins everywhere!
How do you think food brings communities together?
Well basically, when you’re eating, you are out with friends or loved ones. It is a time of celebration, so the food that you’re going to eat helps you celebrate. That’s why you go where the food is good.
What is your favorite aspect of Tenderloin Tuesdays?
Bottom line is the excitement it generates in the clientele. Just seeing their faces when you set the tenderloin on the table is incredible, they say “woah!” Everybody has fun with it, and they love them! On an average day in here, we will sell 60-100 tenderloins. When we get into the Tenderloin Tuesdays promotion, it is very common for us to sell 150+ a day. And Joe’s hand cuts all of them for us.