Canteen Lunch in the Alley

Review by: ayersian

Loosemeats By Another Name

In Ottumwa, Iowa, they call loosemeats a canteen. The seasoned, crumbled beef sandwich known to others in the state as a tavern or a Maid-Rite finds its own personality at Canteen Lunch in the Alley. A town fixture since the 1920s, it has established a fine reputation for loosemeats and pie as well as for milk shakes and malts.

Got Napkins?

Walk in the front door. You instantly encounter a small group of women chatting around the meat steamer like folks around a fire. Almost as soon as you answer the question “How many?” they assemble and pass along sandwiches wrapped tightly in wax paper. No plates here! Go ahead, try to keep that sandwich contained within the confines of the paper. You soon discover that the name loosemeats makes sense. They’ve heaped more crumbled, seasoned beef into the bun than it possibly could contain.

Pie, Too

Do you still have some appetite after a canteen or two? Gaze upon the dessert menu board. With nearly as many homemade pie choices (including both creams and fruits) as you have fingers, it can be hard to choose. I tried the strawberry rhubarb on this particular visit and savored every last tart-sweet bite.

Friendly Conversation

With only a dozen or so stools lining the horseshoe counter, eating here feels almost like a family dinner. Conversations float across the room and quickly engage anyone who wishes to participate. This is the type of place that you visit as much for the atmosphere as you do for the food. Although the Canteen always has been a local favorite, its notoriety spread beyond the boundaries of Wapello County when it served as the model for Roseanne’s Landford Lunch Box restaurant on the ‘90s sitcom. (Roseanne’s husband Tom Arnold grew up eating loosemeats and pie in Ottumwa.)

What To Eat


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Chocolate Malt

Egg sandwich


Canteen Lunch in the Alley Recipes


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