Many states lay claim to being the home to loose meat sandwiches, but Iowa is the state I most associate with the dish. Some call them Maid-Rite sandwiches, Tastee sandwiches, or taverns. Whatever you do, don’t call them sloppy joes. I’ve rounded up a great collection of loose meat sandwiches, starting with the traditional recipe and then several variations.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.
What’s the difference between sloppy joes and loose meat sandwiches?
While both sloppy joes and loose meat sandwiches are technically sandwiches with typically beef stuffed between the buns, they vary greatly.
Loose meat sandwiches – Think of them as a hamburger without the beef packed into a patty. There is nothing saucy about loose meat sandwiches. They’re savory, have some onion mixed in there, and often are topped with pickles and mustard.
In Iowa, they go by the name taverns or Maid-Rite sandwiches. The sandwich I had Miles Inn in Sioux City called theirs a tavern, and it had ketchup on it.
Sloppy joes – These sandwiches tent to be more saucy. They get, um, sloppy, when you eat them. The sauce is typically on the sweet side and flavored with hints of tomato.
This was a fun read, if only to learn how the author discovered her grandma's special loose meat sandwich recipe (AKA tavern) wasn't so special after all. But if you're curious how they make a tavern, read on.