Iowa’s Culinary Gem: The Loose Meat Sandwich

The loose meat sandwich is a comforting Midwestern classic made with seasoned beef, mustard, and pickles.

loose meat sandwich

Iowa’s culinary scene boasts a unique gem that locals and visitors alike have savored for generations – the Loose Meat Sandwich. Often referred to as the “Maid-Rite” or “Tavern” sandwich, this simple yet satisfying creation has become a staple of Iowa’s food culture.

What is a Loose Meat Sandwich?

A Loose Meat Sandwich is a deliciously messy, ground beef sandwich served on a soft bun. Unlike its saucy counterpart, the Sloppy Joe, a Loose Meat Sandwich has minimal sauce or none at all. The result is a flavorful, crumbly filling that stays true to its name by being “loose” rather than saucy.

What is the Difference Between a Sloppy Joe and a Loose Meat Sandwich?

While both the Sloppy Joe and the Loose Meat Sandwich involve ground beef on a bun, the key difference lies in the sauce. Sloppy Joes have a saucy mixture of ground meat, tomato sauce, and various seasonings, giving them a messy and tangy flavor. In contrast, the Loose Meat Sandwich let’s the natural flavors of the beef shine through.

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What is a Loose Meat Sandwich Made Of?

This classic consists of:

  • Ground beef or a beef and pork blend
  • Seasonings, such as salt, pepper, and sometimes garlic
  • Onions, which are often sautéed with the meat for added flavor
  • Soft hamburger buns
  • The ground meat is cooked and crumbled, then seasoned to perfection. Sautéed onions can be added for extra flavor and texture.

What is Another Name for a Loose Meat Sandwich?

In Iowa, a Loose Meat Sandwich goes by other names like “Maid-Rite” or “Tavern” sandwich. These names pay homage to the establishments that popularized the dish, such as the “Maid-Rite” chain of restaurants.

The Famous Loose Meat Sandwich in Iowa

Loose Meat Sandwich screams Iowa. One of the most famous spots to enjoy it is the “Maid-Rite” restaurant chain. Founded in Muscatine, Iowa, in the 1920s, “Maid-Rite” has been serving this delicious sandwich for nearly a century.

The chain has since expanded, but its Iowa roots remain strong. It is a must-visit for those seeking an authentic experience.

What to Serve with a Loose Meat Sandwich?

Enjoy a Loose Meat Sandwich with classic side dishes. This includes potato chips, coleslaw, or pickles to complement its savory and crumbly texture. You can also opt for a side of French fries or a simple green salad to complete the meal.

What Drinks is Iowa Known For?

Iowa boasts agricultural heritage, and one of its most famous beverages is corn-based ethanol. However, there are non-alcoholic options. Iowa is also renowned for its apple cider and fresh, locally produced dairy products.

How to Make Loose Meat Sandwiches?

  1. To make Loose Meat Sandwiches, follow these basic steps:
  2. Brown ground beef or a beef and pork blend in a skillet over medium-high heat until fully cooked.
  3. Season the meat with salt, pepper, and any desired spices or seasonings.
  4. Optionally, sauté onions with the meat for added flavor.
  5. Spoon the seasoned meat mixture onto soft hamburger buns.
  6. Serve with your choice of sides, such as chips, coleslaw, or pickles.

The Loose Meat Sandwich, also known as the “Maid-Rite” or “Tavern” sandwich, is a cherished part of Iowa’s culinary heritage. Its simplicity and delicious flavor have made it a beloved classic that continues to bring joy to those who savor it. Whether you’re a local or a visitor to the Hawkeye State, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in this delectable Iowa original.

Loose Meat Sandwich

Author: Maddy & JD – Them Bites
The loose meat sandwich is a comforting Midwestern classic made with seasoned beef, mustard, and pickles.
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Course dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings 4 sandwiches
Calories 414 kcal


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • ½ white onion, chopped
  • dill pickles

Recipe Instructions

  • In a large skillet combine ground beef, water, yellow mustard, and sugar. Simmer over medium heat until meat is cooked through, breaking up meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust. Drain fat if desired.
  • Serve meat on buns with more mustard and pickles.


Calories: 414kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 24gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 9gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 81mgSodium: 330mgPotassium: 364mgFiber: 1gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 3IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 85mgIron: 4mg
Keyword Iowa, loose meat sandwich
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