loose meat sandwich on wheat bun with cheese and red onions
What Even Is A Loose Meat Sandwich?
By Megan Anderson
The Midwest is home to unique and delicious foods, like the lesser-known loose meat sandwich. It's essentially seasoned ground beef sautéed with onions and served on a bun.
Think of it as an unconstructed hamburger patty or a sloppy Joe without the sauce. It is often served with cheese, condiments, and pickles and has a long history in Iowa.
The loose meat sandwich, also called a tavern sandwich, has been around for a century. Legend has it the sandwich was invented in a watering hole in Sioux City, Iowa, in the 1920s.
By 1926, the chain Maid-Rite opened and began serving them. The butcher who started it called them Maid-Rites, which is how many Iowans now refer to it, even if ordered elsewhere.
Today, Maid-Rite offers many versions of the sandwich, including ones topped with melted or shredded cheese, blue cheese, jalapeños, or even a wrap version.
Despite its messy nature and the finesse it takes not to spill the beef everywhere, the dish has become a staple in local restaurants and diners throughout the Midwest region.