Tavern sandwich

A tavern sandwich (also called a loose meat sandwich or loosemeat) is a sandwich consisting of ground beef on a bun, mixed with sauteed onions, and sometimes topped with pickles, ketchup, mustard, and cheese.

Tavern Sandwich
A tavern sandwich with cheese
Alternative namesLoosemeat
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateMidwestern United States
Serving temperature33C / 91F
Main ingredientsBun, ground beef, onions

The tavern sandwich is unlike a hamburger, because a tavern's meat is cooked loose rather than formed into a compact patty. It more closely resembles a sloppy joe, without the tomato-based sauce.[1]


Carroll Dietz of Missoula, Montana, created the precursor to the tavern sandwich in 1920, referred to as a "steamed hamburger."[2] In 1926, Fred Angell began selling his version of the sandwich at the first Maid-Rite restaurant in Muscatine, Iowa, under the name "loose meat sandwich."[3][4] The name "tavern" for the sandwich is credited to David Heglin. Heglin sold the sandwiches at his Sioux City, Iowa, restaurant in 1924. After Heglin died, Abe Kaled bought the business in 1934 and renamed the restaurant Ye Olde Tavern after the sandwich. Kaled perfected the recipe for the ground beef, and the tavern sandwich spread to restaurants and bars across the Sioux City area.[5][6]

The sandwich is now well known throughout the Midwestern United States, and is served not only in small, local establishments but also in franchise restaurant locations such as Dairy Queen and Maid-Rite. The Wichita, Kansas-based chain Nu Way Cafe serves a version of the tavern/loose meat sandwich called a "Nu Way".[7] In Illinois, the sandwich is also known as a "loose hamburger sandwich".[8] In Iowa, it is sometimes referred to as a Maid-Rite.

Cultural references

In later seasons of the American sitcom Roseanne, Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr) co-owns a restaurant called the "Lanford Lunch Box" in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois, which specializes in loose meat sandwiches.[9] The inspiration for Lunch Box was a real-life restaurant called Canteen Lunch in the Alley in Ottumwa, Iowa.[10] In 1993, Roseanne and then-husband Tom Arnold opened Roseanne and Tom's Big Food Diner (based on the fictional Lanford Lunchbox) in Eldon, Iowa (less than 20 miles southeast of Ottumwa's Canteen Lunch), also specializing in loose meat sandwiches.

Iowa's loose meat sandwich figures in the episode "Iowa" of The Good Wife, in which a presidential candidate completing the full Grassley is forced to eat a loose meat sandwich at each stop.[11]

See also


  1. Peterson 2006, p. 137.
  2. Mariani 1999, p. 297.
  3. "What Is A Loose Meat Sandwich?". maid-rite.com. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  4. "How We Maid History". maid-rite.com. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  5. Poole, Marcia (October 19, 2005). "Loosemeat legend feeds curiosity about Siouxland classic". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  6. Stern, Jane; Stern, Michael (2007). Roadfood Sandwiches. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0618728985.
  7. Smith 2008, p. 87-88.
  8. Dondanville 2003, p. 215.
  9. Metcalf 2000, p. 116.
  10. "TV ACRES:Restaurants, Bars & Nightclubs > Lanford Lunch Box (ROSEANNE/ABC/1988-97)". www.tvacres.com. Archived from the original on 18 September 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  11. "'The Good Wife' Recap: Enjoy Every Sandwich". www.tvline.com. 11 January 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2016.


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