In the 1920s, when nutrition-conscious people worried about the ill effects of frying food, steam-cooking became a popular option. In northwest Iowa, a sandwich of spiced, steamed beef became known as a Tavern because it was the specialty of Ye Old Tavern in Sioux City. Since then variations have been known as Charlie Boys, tastees, Big T’s, and — most popular of all — Loosemeats. Loosemeats, which never gained popularity outside their place of origin — customarily are dressed with pickle, mustard, and a slice of cheese – a remix of the cheeseburger with fragmented harmony. Most Iowa chefs steam their loosemeats; we have good results using an old cast iron skillet instead.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound ground chuck
2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup barbecue sauce of choice
Salt and pepper
4 hamburger buns, warmed a few seconds in the microwave
4 slices American cheese
Pickle chips to taste
Yellow prepared mustard to taste
Over medium heat, cook the ground chuck in the vegetable oil, using a spatula or wooden spoon to worry it into small bits. When meat is light brown, drain off excess fat, then stir in the vinegar and BBQ sauce. Add enough water so there is about 1/2-inch in the pan. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Water should boil off. If it does not, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pan into a bowl. It should be moist but not drippy.
Scoop 1/4 of the beef mixture onto the bottom of a warmed — not toasted — bun. Add cheese, pickle slices, and mustard to taste. Serve immediately.