MARCH 12, 2010 8:13AM

Save Taylor's Maid-Rite: The Plea

Rate: 20 Flag

Some people call them loose meat sandwiches.  My people, Iowans, simply call them Maid-Rites.
 Taylor's Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, Iowa is an institution.  I grew up eating this ambrosia on a bun:  steamed ground beef, lovingly churned by employees  - some young, some a bit grizzled - served with your choice of onions, pickles or mustard, but not ketchup.  Never ketchup.  Sloppy and delicious, served wet or dry, wrapped whether you are staying or not.  A spoon is not optional.  
Cliff Taylor and family, keepers of the Maid-Rite legacy  

Cliff Taylor bought the "Maid Rite" franchise in 1928 for the whopping sum of $300.  Along with his family, Cliff operated Taylor's Maid-Rite, baking home-made pies, slicing pickles from a Marshalltown pickler and buying fresh buns from a local bakery.  When Cliff died in 1944, his son Don and his wife, Polly, took over to keep it in the family. 

Every time I go back home to visit, we take a trip to the Maid-Rite.  It is always a matter for discussion between the out of town siblings, when we are going, how we are getting there (car pool?  separate cars? meet up after a trip to the mall?), how many Maid-Rites are we are going to eat and whether it will be a malt or a shake this time.  

A requirement for any man brave enough to date one of we three Kopsa sisters was a pilgrimage to Taylor's  upon the first visit to meet my parents. These unknowing men from places like Chicago, New York or say, Edinburgh, Scotland, had no idea why the women they were dating went wild at the mere mention of Maid-Rites.  Until they had one, of course.  

When I asked my daughter what food she wanted at her high school graduation party this is the list she came back with:  a chocolate fountain, Skittles and Maid-Rites.   I thought that was a brilliant idea.  The crowd went wild (for the Maid-Rites, I don't have any data on their reaction to the fountain or Skittles).  

We take these sandwiches very, very seriously.  

The reason Taylor's Maid-Rite is at risk is because the cooking method they use - a giant steamer essentially - is at odds with the parameters set forth by Iowa Environmental Health Association.
Iowa Senator Steve Sodders of State Center  introduced an amendment that would allow Taylor's method to be grandfathered in, keeping the taste we love alive.  Here is his youtube plea, complete with an old timer's testimonial: 
Steve is a friend of mine.  I so loved his hutzpah in introducing this amendment, I had to ask him to share a happy Taylor's Maid-Rite memory.  
Here it is:   "When I was a kid, my mom took us to the Maid Rite in Ames just off of Main St. I remember it was set up just like Taylor's with the red swivel seats and the horseshoe counter. We used to go Saturday mornings and watch Saturday morning cartoons."  

Senator Sodders went on to say, "I'm just trying to keep a piece of Americana intact.  I am proud to word for the people in my district."

Whatever Steve is doing, it is catching on.  The "Save Taylor's Maid-Rite" Facebook page has over 8,000 members.  

Help me save Taylor's Maid-Rite for small town and big city landmarks everywhere.  Iowans, pass the word around.  Everyone else, visit the Facebook page.  Or better yet, order up some delicious Maid-Rites for yourself - they ship everywhere.  See what it is we are talking about, oozing about, and trying to save.  Share the joy, spread the word.  


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Ahmo get me a Maid-Rite! Maybe three or four.

The food we grew up eating has all the power of music we grew up listening to.
Love Maid-Rites. Love them. The first one I ever had was at a Maid-Rite counter in Bellevue, Iowa. Where I most often get them now is just off I-80 at the Amana Colonies. I love them so much, I included them in my photo essay of my drive west last summer: Sagebrush and Funeral Potatoes Walter Blevins blogged about them not long after that: Cheap Bastid's Foodie Tuesday - Maid-Rites

Happy to find a fellow Maid-Rite aficionado. Of course, being Iowan, it stands to reason. Thanks for this, Akopsa.
Kathy - thank you for the links to the other Maid-Rite lovers on OS! The Amana Maid-Rite, know it well. The key difference is in the cooking method. All but the Marshalltown Maid-Rite written about here, converted their cooking method a while ago. Taylor's refuses to change and that is what we are fighting for! xx A
Steaming? Against the law? You have to be kidding? Maid-Rite sounds like an institution. Crazy that this is even in dispute and think about this, all the people who would lose jobs if Maid-Rite goes down the tubes because of an inane law. Ridiculous. I'm going to my facebook page now to fan Maid-Rite.
I grew up in Northwest Iowa, and spent many a night eating Maid-Rites with the fam. If I remember correctly, they were also the home of Spud-o's - is this true? It was also across the street from a DQ, so if we were particularly well-behaved, we'd get treated with a dip-cone.
Sheldon, Cap'n Wonderhorse. The Marshalltown Maid Rite didn't serve Spud'o's. Sounds like a missed opportunity. Northwest Iowa you say? I love Iowans. xxa
My mom is from Coggon and my grandparents still live there and I used to love going and getting Maid-Rites when I was little. I loved everything about them, especially how everything fell all over the place. Heaven. I really hope they can be grandfathered in.
Akopsa, I didn't realize they were invented in our shared native state, but I certainly ate them as a child (they even served us so-called Maid-Rites in the school cafeteria) and I have fond memories of the old Maid-Rite down on Iowa Avenue in my hometown of Iowa City. It's long since been transformed into an upscale eatery - yes, you get a fine meal there, but it just isn't the same...

Rated for nostalgia!
Aww, man . . . now I'm hungry . . . and I've never even tried a Maid-Rite - but I want to now!
OH MAN... *someone* contact Guy Fieri from Food Network... he featured Taylor's on "Diners, Driven-ins and Dives" a few months ago.
For all the times I have been to Iowa, I had never hear of Maid-Rites. Shows what I know about arcane Midwestern fare. Do they deliver to Minneapolis?
Steve, they ship. Get on the stick. xx a
Wow. Growing up in Vermont, we used to make pilgrimages in the summer (the only time it was open) to Charlie's Red Hots on Mallett's Bay. Chopped beef in a wonderful, indescribable sauce on a split hot dog, wrapped up in a soft bun...greasy heaven. I no longer eat beef OR hot dogs, but my, how I miss that little foodstand.

I'm all for food safety -- let's face it, food poisoning, even when it's mild, is not fun -- but we can take it to ridiculous extremes.

Breast milk cheese....that's a health danger? The thing millions of babies have consume as their sole, immunity-boosting, nutrient rich food source each and every day of human history back to the dawn of time?

Meanwhile, giant food conglomerates pump unhealthy and unsafe food into our system today every day with virtually no oversight and no real punishment. Insane.

Good luck Maid-Rite!
Yay for Maid-Rite! Love 'em! And thanks for introducing Senator there's a politician who's thinking! Reminds me of Philippe's French Dips in LA...much discussion before going about how many we are going to eat, and how we have to get the iced tea that is still 15 cents cuz...just gotta, and a pickled I'm hungry! xox
The timing of this is ironic. I just wrote a post about all the things I remember and miss from growing up. When will we learn that some things just need to be left alone.
I had one of these passing through from Wisconsin to someplace east. Love the effort and the idea of grandfathering in the cooking method.
Nikki - I am hoping to assemble a Maid-Rite's Across America type thing here. A lot of people - not from Iowa - have experienced their wonderfulness. xxa
Save those sammyiches!!!! :)

I've heard of them, never tried, but they look nummy!!! So again, SAVE THE SANDWICH!!!!
The required changes at Taylor's would not prevent them from making their sandwhiches. They simply need to upgrade some equipment to comply with current food safety laws. There are many Maid-Rite restaurants in the midwest making loose meat sandwhiches and they do comply with safety standards.
Hi Tabitha - yes it is true that the only change required is an upgrade in equipment. However, I am guessing you have maybe never had a Marshalltown Maid-Rite? This was a nostalgic look back at a place that has been an institution and hallmark of my growing up.

The Maid-Rites in say, Tama or off I-80 near Amana just don't taste the same. As an adult, I will continue to risk life and limb to eat at Taylor's when I go home. As a farm kid, I have eaten far more dangerous things than a Taylor's Maid-Rite. I may have even licked a toad or four as a twerp.

We have to be wary of everything we put in our mouth these days. The spinach scare in the Northeast put me off the stuff for a while. Odwalla and the child that died after drinking an ill pasteurized bottle of their juice. Everybody will need to be wary of lettuce in the supermarket, canned foods on the shelves (botulism), meat from well, anywhere as you just never ever know. By all means, don't drink water from my parent's well pit. Look both ways before crossing the street.

Although I don't agree with your position here, nor the article on your website, I do appreciate you visit. Stop by any time.
Steamed burgers? Anything like a White Castle burger Andy? That's the closest I can come to a comparison.
I love these! Right up there with Po'Boys and Philly cheesesteaks. I will march!
oh that looks scrumptious...

is there no recipe? can they be duplicated at home?
activism that makes a difference in people's lives
I agree that this is a worthy cause! Such good food as this should never be left in a dark corner of childhood memory- it's too delicious!
You made me hungry while just reading your article with calls for help to save it. I've been on board for a while, but I haven't had one for many years nonethe less and think I might try to order one home delivered if I can :)
Penny, author of the popular page on Insertt about x-ray technician salary - thanks and keep it up...I'll be coming back here more regularly for a refresher I think!