Loose Meat Sandwiches

Loose Meat Sandwiches, Tavern Sandwiches, or Maid-Rites – whatever you want to call them, call them delicious!

“It’s an Iowa thing!”

I referenced these sandwiches on my blog post from September 2019 “A Road Trip to American’s Heartland” after eating at a Maid-Rite sandwich while visiting my boyhood home of Davenport, Iowa.

It was so great to taste one of these sandwiches again that I had grown so fond of while growing up in Iowa that I had to find a way to duplicate that experience at home.

The Maid-Rite restaurant was one of our favorite places to go for “date night” while dating my soon to be wife Susan in the mid 1970’s.

These are definitely a Midwestern dish, and I haven’t been able to find a loose meat sandwich while living in the south.

Here is an interesting link from Wikipedia concerning the history of the “Tavern Sandwich” I am sure that all of the current presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa the last several months have been introduced and likely consumed some of these.


These are not to be confused with sloppy joe’s because they no not have a “sauce”.

So….. for the last several months, I have been researching and experimenting with different recipes and different ingredients to try to perfect this delicious sandwich.

I tried using everything from cider vinegar to brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chicken bouillon, Dijon mustard, honey, French onion soup mix, butter and smoked sea salt. They all tasted good, but just didn’t taste like the original, so it was back to the drawing board once again.

Since these sandwiches always include dill pickles, and they enhance the sandwich, I thought why not try a little dill pickle juice in the mixture?

Behold! I think I’ve got it!

Here is the recipe…..

Cook / Prep Time – 30-40 minutes

Servings – 4 sandwiches


  • 1 pound 80/20 ground beef

  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 1/2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dill pickle juice
  • 1 tsp granulated onion
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Sliced cheese any flavor (optional)


I made this in an InstaPot, but any skillet will do. Brown the ground beef on low heat, stirring constantly. If you do not stir it, it can become clumpy – you want the meat to be loose and crumbly. When fully cooked, drain the fat off the ground beef and return to the pan.

Add the chopped onions, beef broth, sugar, mustard, pickle juice, soy sauce, granulated onion and black pepper. Simmer on low heat, stirring often until the liquid has evaporated. Salt to taste if needed. Place a scoop of meat on a warm bun with mustard and dill pickles. Yummy!


***** Bonus Weight Watcher’s Recipe using the loose meat****

Note – My lovely wife Susan joined Weight Watchers about a year and a half ago and has lost around 35 pounds since then. The have various plans based on point systems that encourage sensible eating. You can find out more about their plans at http://www.weightwatchers.com

I have not been paid or reimbursed by Weight Watchers for this endorsement.

Loose Meat Tortillas

Servings – 1

Weight Watcher points – 8

Ingredients: 3 ounces of loose meat from recipe above (4 points)

  • 1/4 cup fat free shredded mozzarella (0 points)
  • 3 Mission thin corn tortillas (4 points)
  • 1/2 cup canned fat free dried beans (0 points)
  • 1 sliced tomato (0 points)
  • Sliced jalapeños (0 points)
  • 1 chopped green onion (0 points)

Place the 3 tortillas on a sheet pan or air fryer rack. Divide the refried beans and spread onto the tortillas. Add 1 ounce of the loose meat to each tortilla. Slice the tomato and divide the slices onto the 3 tortillas. Divide the mozzarella and sprinkle on the 3 tortillas. Add some sliced jalapeños on the tortillas if desired.

Bake or air fry at 350 degrees until the cheese has melted. Top with the chopped green onions and serve.


Suggested songs to listen to while preparing the loose meat….

“Maid Rites” by the Riptones from their 2003 album Slant 6.

Since these are also called “tavern sandwiches”, I recall a great song by Mary Hopkin called “Those Were The Days” from her 1968 album Those Were The Days” She was one of the first artists to be signed by The Beatles’ Apple records label, and the song was produced by Sir Paul McCartney. Here is the “tavern” lyric excerpt…

” Just tonight I stood before the tavern

Nothing seemed the way it used to be

In the glass I saw a strange reflection

Was that lonely woman really me”

If you have tried any of my recipes, feel free to comment or send me a snapshot. Thanks for reading!

Published by


Husband, Father, Grandfather, foodie. I have worked in various capacities of food service for 50 years. Baker, cook, manager, restaurant owner, personal chef and food sales / consulting. Recently retired. I love to cook and photograph food. My other hobbies include organic gardening, fishing, bicycling, reading, music and golf.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.