smackdown: taverns vs. maid rites

If you’ve never eaten a Maid Rite . . .

something is seriously and grievously wrong with you.

Or maybe you’ve just never been to Iowa. Either way, you’ve not lived until today.

Or until tomorrow when you actually get to the grocery store and then test this recipe out at home.

Or maybe you just want to go straight to the doctor, because if you’d made it this far in life without eating this sandwich, you might be just a few hours short of a Guinness world record.

Not gonna lie. Kinda amazed you’re still alive right now.


Maid-Rites are an Iowa thing. That’s why they’re so dang wonderful. They’re like your own personal marvel on a bun.

They’re also kind of like taverns, minus the tomato-based sauce. And yes, I’m well aware no other state in the entire country calls sloppy joes “taverns” other than Iowa.

Like I said: mar-vel.

I mean Maid-Rites.


Mince a medium onion. Add 1 1/2 lbs. of hamburger. It also helps if you have an awesome sister named Kellee who buys you fantastic Pampered Chef utensils like the mix-masher-tool-of-fabulousity.

003[4]Simmer the meat and the onions, but don’t let them get too brown. Add 1 tablespoon of prepared mustard, 1/2 c. water, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Then you let it simmer until most of the juice is gone.

That’s a high-brow culinary term, I’m pretty sure. Probably one Julie Child used. Routinely. While in France.


Then you load a whole pile of this goodness onto a bun; add mustard, ketchup, pickles . . .

and take a gigantic bite.

Revel in its deliciousness (so much so that you may forget to take a picture of the finished product). Maybe.

Then rinse.



You can thank me later.


13 thoughts on “smackdown: taverns vs. maid rites

  1. My dad has almost the exact same recipe, but he uses a tad bit of ketchup (to make it a bit more… creamy? No… saucy. Yup, that’s it.) and some secret combination of spices. I put chipotle tabasco in mine when I make it. *drools*

    So, what is the difference between the Sloppy Joe, aka the Tavern, and Maid Rites? And I what a molecular break down.

  2. Here in Omaha, Nebraska B&G Tasty Foods also claims to be “Home of the Loose Meat Sandwich.” I just might have to drive out to the nearest Maid-Rite in Avoca, Iowa to find out for myself who makes a better loose meat sandwich.

  3. My mom from South Dakota called them taverns or sloppy joes, but they have a tomato (ketchup) based sauce – delicious. My kids didn’t care for the tomato base, so we made up a new one with a mayo base, tiny cubes of cheddar cheese and chopped pickles and called them Messy Josephines. These are still a favorite.

  4. Thank you so much, Adriane!!! I’ve only talked about Maid-Rites with my family (parents and siblings) because they know what they are (as we’re from Iowa). They are so absolutely delicious, and now I want one. We were in Eastern Iowa, and that’s what they were called. I think other people (non Iowans) thought I was making the name up 😉

  5. Great philosophical question. Growing up in NW Iowa (Storm Lake area) my family called them taverns. When I married my wife from Eastern Iowa (Cedar Rapids area), she called them Maid Rites. Perhaps it was a regional thing, but in NW Iowa we had very few if any close by Maid Rite shops.

  6. HUGE Maid Rite fan here! There used to be a Maid Rite in Lebanon by us, but it has now closed :(. BUT, I do know where there is one, not “too” far away. ROAD TRIP!

  7. You have now answered a question that has puzzled me for nigh on 20 years now, “Why on Earth do my in-laws call Sloppy Joes taverns?” Obviously, it’s because they are from Iowa. I can’t imagine a Maid-Rite would compare to a Sloppy Joe, but it might just be the South in me talkin’.

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