Loose meat sandwich just might be Iowa’s best comfort food. The savory sandwich is a lot like a hamburger, but a bit messier. Whether you want to find Iowa’s best loose meat sandwich, or you want to make the recipe yourself, this post has the information you need. Hope you’re hungry!
What exactly is a loose meat sandwich?
Somewhere in the intersection of hamburger and sloppy joe, you’ll find loose meat sandwiches. In Iowa, they go by the name tavern or canteen in some parts; some call them Maid Rites. They’re a tasty sandwich, whatever you call them.
Most agree that the loose meat sandwich consists of ground beef mixed with sautéed onions and served on a bun. It could be topped like a burger, with things like ketchup and mustard, or maybe pickles or cheese.
According to the Des Moines Register, the local chain Maid-Rite first opened in Muscatine in 1926.
Where to find the best sandwich in Iowa
My introduction to taverns was in Sioux City at the highly recommended Miles Inn. It was a dive, but a popular one. The sandwich was good, the beer was cheap. No complaints.
Taste Atlas ranks Miles Inn as No. 1, followed by:
2. Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshallton
3. Bob’s Drive Inn in Le Mars
4. Tastee In & Out in Sioux City
5. Canteen Lunch in the Alley in Ottumwa
6. 10th Street Station in Fort Madison
7. Montgomery’s Sandwich Shop in Grinnell
8. Lewright Eats in Eagle Grove
USA Today readers had those places ranked in a different order, with a few more additions:
- Canteen Lunch in the Alley – Ottumwa
- Bob’s Drive-Inn – Le Mars
- Miles Inn – Sioux City
- 10th Street Station – Fort Madison
- Montgomery’s Sandwich Shop – Grinnell
- Tastee Inn & Out – Sioux City
- Lewright Meats – Eagle Grove
- Ross’ 24 Hours Diner – Bettendorf
- Maid-Rite – Multiple Locations
- Billy Boy Drive Thru – Sioux City
The lists are pretty similar, so it’s safe to say you can’t go wrong choosing a restaurant from either list. Loose meat sandwiches are so iconic to Iowa though, trying one is a must-do when you visit the state!
Recipe for loose meat sandwiches
Want to make loose meat sandwiches at home? It’s easy!
Loose Meat Sandwiches
1 pound ground beef (85%)
Salt & pepper
¼ cup chopped white onion
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 cup water
6 hamburger buns
Top with: mustard, pickles, chopped white onion (raw)
In a large sautee pan over medium high heat flatten beef to cover the bottom of the pan, add salt & pepper, chopped onion, mustard, and water. Simmer for 10-12 minutes or until no longer pink and the water has evaporated. Occasionally stir to break up the burger.
Top hamburger buns with a large scoop of loose meat. Top with mustard, pickles, and additional chopped onion.