Hamburger America: Taylor's Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, Iowa
Editor's note: Burgermeisters! Here's another excerpt from George Motz's book Hamburger America. George and his publisher were kind enough to allow us to run them here, along with George's beautiful photos. Eat up!
Taylor’s does not serve hamburgers. Taylor’s serves the only “loosemeats sandwich” in this book. For those not familiar with the popular Iowa hamburger-influenced sandwich, a loosemeats, or Maid-Rite (and sometimes referred to as a “tavern”), is basically a deconstructed hamburger, or a sloppy joe without the slop. The recipe is simple: fresh ground-on-premises beef is steamed and crumbled in a cast iron cooker. Nothing is added but salt. Upon ordering, a member of the extended Taylor family or long-time employee grabs a bun that has been “doped” with pickle and mustard and with the other hand scoops up an impossible amount of the pebbly moist meat. That’s it, and there’s nothing else on the menu but shakes, ice cream, pie, and soft drinks, and they have been doing it this way since 1929. The order is wrapped up even if you are eating at the counter.
Taylor’s is a bright, clean, friendly place with floor to ceiling windows in the front of the restaurant. A large horseshoe counter surrounds a short order kitchen that offers amazing views of your food being prepared.
The loosemeats sandwich may be some of the fastest food you’ll ever come across because the meat is already cooked and warm. An order can arrive at your spot at the counter in under a minute. Unwrap and sink your teeth into one of the softest, tastiest sandwiches around and you’ll start wondering why the rest of the country has not caught on yet.
The last time I visited the Central Iowa eatery there was a debate going on about the proposed introduction of ketchup—not to the sandwich, but to the counter. The sign out front announced “STOP IN VOTE YES OR NO FOR KETCHUP.” The votes were tallied, and in August 2006 ketchup was introduced to the counter, seventy-seven years after opening day.
Hamburger America is available at Amazon and comes with a DVD of George's movie of the same title.