Monday, April 11, 2011

Search for the best loose meat in Sioux City

Sometimes when out riding bike this blogger needs to stop and eat. Whether it is in the middle of a long ride or to grab a bite while commuting to work. Some of this blog authors favorite places are those that serve loose meat sandwiches or taverns. The loose meat was created right here in Sioux City, Iowa in 1924.

The term loose meat is generic and encompasses pretty much all forms and styles of the sandwich. It is more commonly known as the tavern, a tavern has to be made a certain way for it to be defined as a tavern.

The definition of a loose meat or tavern is: ground beef prepared loose, not formed into a pattie, scooped onto a bun, typically with an ice cream scoop and topped with, but not limited to: mustard, ketchup, onion, pickle, even cheese and bacon. Tavern meat, when cooked right, should have 2 distinct tastes: 1. seasoned, steamed beef. 2. a light greasy taste. A true tavern NEVER has any sort of sauce or gravy added to it, whether tomato based or otherwise. Once a sauce is added the sandwich is no longer a tavern and CANNOT be called such.

This blogger, inspired by this story, Battle of the loose meats in the Weekender decided to judge for himself which is the best loose meat in the Siouxland area. The story explains the history and fame of the loose meat and where in Siouxland and other places in the world the can be found and savored by those who love eating them.

The 3 judges from the article only tested loose meat's from Miles Inn, Maid Rite, Tastee Inn and Out and Gus's Family Restaurant. This blogger did the same and included Dairy Queen and Billy Boy.

A perfect tavern should have 3 things:
1. A bun that is not too thick, too thin, too dry or too soft. The typical bun is made with white flour. But can be made with wheat and other types of grain. The bun should be baked as to not allow all of the moisture of the meat and condiments to be soaked into the bun to make it too mushy or be so dry it falls apart. The bun can have sesame seeds on it but should not be too large.

2. Condiments and toppings that are well proportioned together. There is no limit to various condiments or toppings, as everyone has their favorite. But one condiment or topping should not over power another. Condiments and toppings can include, but are not limited to: ketchup, mustard, pickle, onion, cheese and bacon. Sloppy Joe sauce or gravy sauces are NOT condiments as sauces are mixed with the meat to make a different type of sandwich.

3. The meat should have enough spice to allow for the taste of both the meat and the spice. It should never be bland with no taste from the spices or so much spice there is no flavor from the meat. The meat should also be moist, but not so much that it soaks into the bun to make it mushy and not so dry it falls out of the bun before it can be consumed.

All taverns tested were meat, bun, condiments and toppings as each establishment prepares the sandwich and as ordered by the blogger. Some of the taverns were consumed as dine in and others were carry out, but consumed within 5 or 10 min. The rating is based on 5 stars, 5 being the best. The tavern is made up of 3 parts: bun, condiments and toppings, meat. Each part is rated with an overall rating for the sandwich. A minimum of 2 taverns were purchased from each establishment.

Here are the results:

Dairy Queen:
Date tested - 04/11/2011, Name of loose meat - Tavern, Dine in.
Established - 1940, the Sioux City Riverside location opened in the 1950's.

Bun - Rating: * Bottom half of the bun was way too thick, almost Texas toast thick.

Condiments and toppings - Rating: ***** Excellent proportion of pickles, mustard and ketchup.

Meat - Rating: ** The meat was very bland. Hardly tasted any spices in it. But it was nice and moist, but not so much that it turned the bun mushy.

Over all rating: **1/2. Mainly because of the bun and very bland meat.

Dairy Queen is the only franchised fast food chain, to this bloggers knowledge, that took the tavern international. Not bad for a sandwich created in Sioux City, Iowa. The Dairy Queen Tavern is good for eating on the go. Portability is really good. The sandwich stays together very well because of the moisture in the meat.

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Links -
Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen on Facebook

Maid Rite
Location - 2509 Hamilton Blvd Sioux City, Iowa 51104
Established - 1926. the Sioux City location opened in 2011.

Date tested - 04/12/2011, Name of loose meat - Bacon Cheese Rite, Carry out.

Bun - Rating: ** The bun on one sandwich fell apart as it was being eaten. The other held together ok. The bun on each sandwich was a too dry.

Condiments and toppings - Rating: ** The Bacon Cheese Rite has bacon, cheese, onion, pickle, mustard and ketchup. The bacon should have been crispier and there was too much onion that over powered the other condiments and toppings.

Meat - Rating: **** The meat was too dry and was falling out of the bun despite the melted cheese and other condiments. It did have a good blend of spices and evenly mixed in the meat and the taste was really good.

Overall rating - *** Were it not for the dry bun, non-crispy bacon, over powering onion and meat that is too dry it would have received a higher rating.

Maid Rite was founded in 1926 by Fred Angell in Muscatine, Iowa, 2 years after the original tavern was created in Sioux City, Iowa. The distinct taste of a Maid Rite and perhaps the reason why it is drier than other taverns. Fred invented a unique cut and grind of the meat and mixed a special blend of spices with it. The Maid Rite sandwich is best eaten from a plate and with a spoon handy. It is not well suited for portability. Maid-Rite was the first fast food restaurant to franchise the tavern.

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Links -
Maid-Rite on Facebook

Billy Boy
Location - 2328 riverside Blvd Sioux City, Iowa 51109
Established - 1962
Date tested - 04/12/2011, Name of loose meat - Long Island Loosemeat, Dine in.

Bun - Rating: ***** The bun used was a different twist on the conventional loose meat bun. It is a hot dog bun. It was not dry or too thick.

Condiments and toppings - Rating - ***** A perfect blend of mustard and pickle.

Meat - Rating: **** Perfect moisture, did not make the bun mushy. Stayed together and in the bun. But just a bit too much salt. If the salt is reduced just a little it would be a perfect blend of meat and spices mixed together.

Over all rating - ****1/2 Very, very filling because of the hot dog bun used. This blog author could only finish one and a half. May not work to well if eaten on the go. The bun was over flowing with meat may make portability difficult. Perhaps if the over flow was scooped off with a spoon it would be more portable. Eating a hot dog in a hot dog bun is one thing and more stable. But a loose meat in a hot dog bun may not be as easy, even with the moisture of the meat holding it together.

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Links -
Billy Boy Drive Thru
Billy Boy on Facebook

Gus's Family Restaurant
Location - 1322 Jackson St Sioux City, Iowa 51105
Established - 1924, Formerly named Ye Old Tavern
Date tested - 04/13/2011, Name of loose meat - Tavern, Carry out.

Bun - Rating: ***** A very nice, large toasted sesame seed bun. Was not dry at all and did not become mushy from the meat. The buttery toasted flavor was very good. Adds an interesting flavor to the tavern.

Condiments and toppings - Rating ***** Gus's does something unique with their toppings and condiments. They mix all, except the pickle and onion in with the meat. It complimented the meat and spices well and was a perfect blend.

Meat - Rating ***** Perfect moisture combined with the spices, condiments and toppings mixed in.

Over all rating - ***** So far this tavern is the best in Siouxland. It was at the Ye Old Tavern, the former name of Gus's, where the tavern was first invented by a line cook. While not the original Ye Old Tavern Tavern recipe it is a good bet Gus's recipe was based on it. Gus's has pretty much perfected their tavern recipe. This blogger thinks the spirit of the original tavern recipe lives on within the walls of Gus's Family Restaurant. Very filling sandwich. This blogger enjoyed 2, each came with fries for a very reasonable price. The fries were not eaten because the taverns are so filling.

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Tastee Inn and Out
Located - 2610 Gordon Dr Sioux City, Iowa 51106
Established - 1955. Still owned and operated by the original family.

Date tested - 04/20/2011, Name of loose meat - Cheese Tastee, Drive Thru.

Bun - Rating: **** The bottom half of the bun was too thin and became mushy.

Condiments and Toppings - Rating: **** Perfect proportion of pickle, cheese and mustard. But the pickles were not crunchy, they were chewy.

Meat - Rating: ***** The meat had a perfect blend of spices and flavor from the meat. Moisture is perfect with just the right amount of the light grease and steamed beef.

Overall Rating - **** Tastee Inn and Out has perfected the art of portability for their loose meats. They package their smaller sized sandwiches in a wax paper envelope type wrapper. They had to, there is no dine in. It is drive thru or walk up. The only thing resembling dine in are the covered picnic tables people can use in the warmer months of the year outside the establishment. If the bun and condiments had received a higher rating the tastee would have tied with the tavern from Gus's.

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Link -
Tastee Inn and Out on Facebook

Miles Inn
Location - 2622 Leech Ave Sioux City, Iowa 51106
Established - 1925. The Charlie Boy was created in 1950.
Date tested - 04/21/2011, Name of loose meat - Charlie Boy, Dine in.

Bun - Rating: ***** The bottom half of the bun was a bit thin, but the bun was smaller than a typical hamburger bun so it is proportional and not so thin it became mushy.

Condiments and Toppings - Rating: ***** A perfect blend of cheese, ketchup, mustard, onion and pickles.

Meat - Rating: **** Too peppery, but the recipe has remain unchanged since 1950. The condiments and topping do help tone down the pepper spice a bit which does make the sandwich good.

Overall rating - ****1/2 There is a tie for second place with Billy Boy. At Miles Inn if you have a Charlie Boy you have to have a schooner of the coldest beer in Siouxland. Just as good and refreshing as this blogger remembers from the days when he used to stop at Miles Inn when riding with the local bicycle club.

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Link -
Charlie Boy on Facebook

Results for best loose meat in Sioux City:
1st Place: Gus's Family Restaurant, Tavern.
Tied for 2nd Place: Billy Boy, Long Island Loosemeat and Miles Inn, Charlie Boy.
3rd Place: Tastee Inn and Out, Cheese Tastee
4th Place: Maid Rite, Bacon Cheese Rite
5th Place and dead last: Dairy Queen, Tavern

There is one more restaurant that serves taverns. That is Bob's Drive In in Le Mars, Iowa. They will be taste tested later in the spring or summer. How they compare to the taverns made in Sioux City will be posted about at that time. So far the best tavern is found in Sioux City, Iowa.

In closing, as far as the history of the tavern sandwich is concerned some would argue it was first created in Missoula, Montana in 1920, 4 years prior to its creation in Sioux City, Iowa. This blogger has seen such information on the Internet alluding to this. This blogger has also made an inquiry to confirm whether or not this is true. Until such time when evidence, such as documented proof, presents itself to the contrary the historical fact remains, backed up by documented proof this blogger has personally seen, that the loose meat or tavern sandwich was created in Sioux City, Iowa in 1924 at Ye Old Tavern Restaurant located at 14th and Jackson Streets and was originally called the Ye Old Tavern Tavern.