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Iowa Loosemeats


Loosemeats, the Iowa treat, has all kinds of aliases, including tavern, tastee, Big T, and Charlie Boy. Years ago when sit-com comedienne Roseanne Arnold opened her Big Food Diner over in Eldon out Ottumwa way, journalists unfamiliar with Iowa cuisine made a fuss over the fact that her menu did list loosemeats, a name that to outsiders sounds vaguely taboo. According to Marcia Poole, food writer at the Sioux City Journal, folks in Siouxland were righteously angry about Roseanne calling it that. “The other side of Des Moines, it should be called a Maid-Rite,” Marcia told us, referring to the eponymous name for the similar sandwich and the chain of restaurants that serves it, mostly between Des Moines and Dubuque. “Loosemeats are ours alone.” Whatever you call it, loosemeats is similar to sloppy Joe: ground beef that is cooked loose – unpattied – and seasoned and drained but sauceless. Compared to a hamburger it does have a scattered character, and yet the pebbly beef can hold together nearly as well as sticky rice when gathered up with an ice cream scoop and positioned on the bottom half of a burger bun. It is customarily dressed with pickle, mustard, and a slice of cheese – a remix of the cheeseburger with fragmented harmony. It is a food spoken of with singular/plural ambivalence. Usually one sandwich is a loosemeats; a batch in the kitchen or a bowlful without the bun are loosemeats.

Bob's Drive-Inn
Maid-Rite
Miles Inn
Tastee Inn & Out
Bob's Drive-Inn - Le Mars , IA
Bob’s loosemeats are definitive: browned ground beef, strained of fat, then pressure-cooked with sauce and spice, they are a bunful with pickles and cheese. Each sandwich is made on a good-quality roll but if for some reason you don’t want loosemeats, get a couple of franks. Bob's dogs are natural-casing beauties with a real snap to their skin.
Maid-Rite - Newton , IA
An Iowa institution since 1926, the Maid-Rite sandwich shops throughout the state 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 best be described as a sloppy joe without the slop
Miles Inn - Sioux City , IA
In Northwest Iowa, taverns (aka loosemeats) are more popular than hamburgers; and there are none better than those served at the Miles Inn. Named Charlie Boys after the son of the Miles Inn's founder, they are rich and well-fatted with a concentrated beef flavor that even a sirloin steak cannot match.
Tastee Inn & Out - Sioux City , IA
Tastee Inn & Out is a drive-in with a walk-up order window but no seats whatsoever inside. It specialties include the northwest Iowa beef sandwich known as a loosemeats as well as delicious fried onion chips served with creamy dipping sauce.

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