Congratulations to Butch Bittle and his family and his employees on receiving the coveted Best Tenderloin of the Year award by the Iowa Pork Producers. It could be said that winning this award is the Nobel Prize of tenderloins.
I’ve been going to this establishment since I moved back to Iowa in 1995. (There were two owners before Butch.) It was called The Store, or people would just say, “We went to Oakland Mills to eat.” Everyone knew what they meant. Situated on the Skunk river, within spit’n distance of an old hydroelectric spillway, a quaint sign on the side of the building stated simply, “Best tenderloin by a dam site!” You couldn’t help but smile when you read that.
I had just moved to Mt. Pleasant and was working second shift in a machine shop. I met an old fella who offered to take me to breakfast. He said that about the only place to get a “real breakfast” was The Store. So we went. It was spring, and it was so humid, it felt (and sounded) like the screen door to The Store was alive with algae. It probably was. But one step inside — the aroma of coffee, the friendliness of the owner and clientele, and crispness of the hash browns — I was hooked. I’ve been going ever since. Now known as the River Rock Cafe, whenever I have company, a “must stop” is always Oakland Mills. (People still say, “Let’s take’m to Oakland Mills.”) It has great homemade pie, too!
A few years ago, when I was a little younger (and crazier), on Sunday morning, when I went for my “long jog,” I would run from Mt. Pleasant to Oakland Mills and back. Something over 10 miles. I called it my “half-marathon distance.” Oakland Mills and The Store was about halfway. I would run up to the kitchen window and tap. Whoever was cook’n would just shake their head and wave me in. I would enter through the side door, all sweaty and stinky in my jogging shorts, get a glass of water, and use the restroom. Wide-eyed customers stared. I would usually get asked, “Let me get this straight — you ran from Mt. Pleasant?” “Yep,” I would say, then take off and jog the River Road, up “Heart-Attack Hill,” back to Mt. Pleasant. It took perseverance to run that hill, just like Butch and his restaurant.