"Holy cow, they're even bigger than I remembered," exclaimed Leila Henkle as Jeri Halperin delivered the mega-sandwiches to her and her husband, Bill. The Montezuma, Iowa, retirees had dropped by for lunch on their way home from an appointment in Iowa City, about 20 miles east.

"Every time we go past here (on Interstate Highway 80), Bill says, 'We should have gone to Oxford to get a tenderloin.'"

Unable to finish her sandwich, Leila departed clutching a to-go box containing her flavorful leftovers.

"I've never felt in competition with chain restaurants," Ben Halperin noted. "I feel more in competition with grandma."

Where to find 'em

Augusta and Goldie's are minutes off Interstate Highway 80. Oxford is about four hours west of Chicago; Prairie City is about 90 minutes farther west. Breitbach's works better for diners heading for Dubuque/Galena.

The Augusta Restaurant (319-828-2252, augustarestaurant.net), 101 S. Augusta Ave., Oxford, is open Wednesday through Sunday. The pork tenderloin sells for $10. Add freshly made sweet potato chips for 2 bucks more.

Goldie's (515-994-3190, goldiesicecreamshoppe.com), 304 W. Second St., Prairie City, is open seven days a week. The basic sandwich is $5.98. With a cheeseburger or sausage added, it's $8.30.

Breitbach's Country Dining (563-552-2220, breitbachscountrydining.com), 563 Balltown Road, Balltown, is closed Mondays through winter. The tenderloin on the lunch menu goes for $6.25. Toss in some cheese curds for $5.50. By the way, the place has been in the same family since 1862.