I wouldn't exactly call it an invasion, but over past few years a couple of iconic Iowa specialties have made their way to an unsuspecting Chicago public. First was Roots Handmade, a Quad Cities-style pizza joint, which uses a malt in its crust, along with a lot of very questionable and oddly delicious toppings (taco pizza, anyone?). And now comes Maid-Rite, a burger joint famous for its "loosemeats" sandwich, which just opened in Lincoln Park last weekend.
Of course, it doesn't look much like any burger I've ever eaten before. As Hamburger America author and TV host, George Motz, once explained, the Maid-Rite 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."
Sure enough, that's what it is. But even though there is no "slop," it certainly still is sloppy. The sandwich actually comes with a spoon nestled between the wrapper, just so you can scoop up the excess that falls out of the bun when you eat it.
As Roots proved, Chicagoans can embrace an Iowa specialty if its delicious enough. It'll take time to see whether Maid-Rite becomes popular, or if the whole messy business is ignored. Of course, Maid-Rite also serves a full menu of other sandwiches, salads, and entrees, so even if you'd rather pass on the unique variation, you can also score a pork tenderloin sandwich.
I stopped by yesterday to get a quick sense of what you can expect. Take a look at the slideshow and let me know what you think.