Local restaurant again rewards naval ship crewmen with a taste of breaded tenderloin specialty

Ray Shearer (third from left), the chairman of the USS Indiana and USS Indianapolis commissioning committees, presents a picture of the latter vessel that was signed by the crew to Jean Anne Bailey (second from left), the owner of Nick’s Kitchen, during a visit to the Huntington diner on Monday, Feb. 17. Shearer thanked Bailey for sending tenderloins to the crews of both vessels. The idea to do so was hatched by the Huntington County Commissioners. Also pictured are Commissioner Tom Wall (first from left) and Commissioner Rob Miller.
Ray Shearer (third from left), the chairman of the USS Indiana and USS Indianapolis commissioning committees, presents a picture of the latter vessel that was signed by the crew to Jean Anne Bailey (second from left), the owner of Nick’s Kitchen, during a visit to the Huntington diner on Monday, Feb. 17. Shearer thanked Bailey for sending tenderloins to the crews of both vessels. The idea to do so was hatched by the Huntington County Commissioners. Also pictured are Commissioner Tom Wall (first from left) and Commissioner Rob Miller. Photo by Steve Clark.

Tenderloins from Huntington will once again be served aboard a vessel in the United States Navy that has Indiana ties.

At the end of February, 140 tenderloins from Nick’s Kitchen will be shipped to the USS Indianapolis (LCS-17), a Freedom class littoral combat ship based in Mayport, FL.

It’s the second time that the venerable Huntington diner – which claims to be the birthplace of the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich – has sent its popular creations to a vessel in the navy with a connection to the Hoosier State. In 2018, Nick’s shipped 150 tenderloins to the USS Indiana (SSN-789), a Virginia class attack submarine based in Groton, CT.

That shipment, along with the forthcoming shipment, came about when Ray Shearer, the chairman of the USS Indiana and USS Indianapolis commissioning committees, approached the state’s county commissioners about sending unique gifts from their counties to the vessels as a show of support. Rob Miller, vice president of the Huntington County Commissioners, suggested that Huntington County’s contribution could be a shipment of Nick’s famed tenderloins.

The USS Indiana received its sandwiches in November 2018, a couple of months after its commissioning ceremony. Miller says they were a hit.
“Those guys, they loved it,” he shares.

As that shipment went over so well, when it came time to do something special for the USS Indianapolis, which was commissioned in October 2019, Shearer approached the Huntington County Commissioners once more, doing so at a recent commissioners conference.

“Ray came up and talked to Tom (Wall) and me” says Miller, “and said, ‘Hey, would you guys be willing to do that again?’”

Miller says it’s an honor that Huntington County has another opportunity to support a crew in the navy.

“Little piece of Huntington County going to these young men and women who are getting ready to ship out of the East Coast on the USS Indianapolis,” he says.

Miller adds that Patti Smith, a project engineer with one of the commissioners’ vendors, Beam, Longest and Neff, a civil engineering firm based in Indianapolis, got her firm to pay for the tenderloins and will cover the cost of shipping them.

Shearer relays that the crews of the USS Indianapolis and USS Indiana take pride in their vessels’ connections to the Hoosier State.

“They’ve kind of taken on a persona of Indiana,” he says. “They know basketball’s pretty important to us back here. There’s a lot of theming onboard that reflects basketball.”

Shearer adds that there’s a friendly rivalry between the two vessels, resembling the state’s most famous sports rivalry.

“Kind of like a Purdue and IU (Indiana University) rivalry,” he says with a grin.

Being a new ship, the USS Indianapolis will undergo testing for the next year, says Shearer. As for the USS Indiana, it will be deployed later this year, he notes.

Shearer thanked the owner of Nick’s, Jean Anne Bailey, for providing the tenderloins that have gone to the vessels during a visit to the diner on Monday, Feb. 17. As a show of his appreciation, he presented Bailey with pictures of the USS Indiana and USS Indianapolis, the latter of which was signed by the crew. He also gave her a commissioning coin.

Shearer also took a moment during his stop in town to thank Huntington’s Incipio Devices for making two plaques for the USS Indiana and USS Indianapolis that list the names of Indiana’s naval Medal of Honor recipients.

“All those great Hoosiers will be honored onboard,” he says.

Ultimately, whether it’s through commemorative plaques or tasty tenderloins, Shearer says Hoosiers never miss an opportunity to support the country’s armed forces.

“There is no better state at honoring our veterans and supporting our military better than we do it in Indiana,” he says.