Review by: Michael Stern

Most Roadfood is found in individual, one-of-a-kind places that sing of their town or region. However, there are a handful of small chains that somehow fulfill the Roadfood criteria – great local food and color – that we cannot resist. Maid-Rite is one of those. An Iowa institution since 1926, Maid-Rite sandwich shops throughout the heartland specialize in a very unglamorous but addictive version of what Midlands folk know as a “tavern” or “loosemeats” sandwich: seasoned ground beef that is stirred and worried as it cooks so it never clumps. The result might be described as a sloppy Joe without slop: a heap of flavorful, pebbly beef that gets piled into a bun.

When we stopped in to the Newton, Iowa, Maid-Rite, it was 9am, just after breakfast hour, and we feared that lunchtime sandwiches might be hours away. No, the cooks told us that the meat was just ready, as it always is this time of day for those customers who need their fix early. We sat at the counter and had a Maid-Rite and a Cheese-Rite, both with the works, while a veteran customer across from us called out an order of “Meat and coffee.” Alongside his cup of coffee was presented a good-size bowl filled with nothing but hot, seasoned Maid-Rite meat – no bun, no condiments, not even a pickle to distract his taste buds as he spooned his way to the bottom.

Once nice thing to know about the Newton Maid-Rite is that it has a drive-through window, so you never have to leave your car to get a bag full of sandwiches. A word of warning, though: once unwrapped, a Maid-Rite is virtually guaranteed to spill all over everything.

What To Eat

Ground-beef sandwich


Milk Shake

French Fries


Maid-Rite Recipes


What do you think of Maid-Rite?

One Response to “Maid-Rite”

Steve Godwin

May 8th, 2008

I’m a native of Newton, IA and have lived in Tucson, AZ for 30 years now. But every time I go “back home,” the Maid-Rite is one of my first stops. And I’m not alone. When you meet people from Iowa, two food topics generally come up: breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches and Maid-Rites.

It’s difficult to discern what it is that makes a Maid-Rite so good. It’s just a plain white bun piled up with ground beef cooked up in a steam table with tiny bits of onion and some blend of subtle spices that makes the meat perfect. When you try to cook that up at home, it’s just not the same. Maybe it’s the texture of the meat. When cooked at home, it just doesn’t get beat up as much as at the restaurant, where it is constantly battered with spatulas as the meat is cooked and served up.

The fries are excellent, too, as are the malts and shakes. I’ve often thought of ordering some Maid-Rites from here; I understand that they’ll freeze and ship them across the country. But I’m sure the experience would pale in comparison to getting it fresh from “the trough.”


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