Tuesday, November 16, 2010

One Iowa Highlight

I'm just back from Iowa. Called in "sick" to work today. More tired than sick and having caffeine withdrawal headache thanks Sher and her coffee guzzling friends (e.g. Diane Finley).

ANYWAY. I thought I'd report on one small highlight of the Iowa Trip. The sidetrip to Galena was great and all, as was going to Clayton with Gram. But we're starting with the simple joys: a good sandwich.

Mom, Pam and I went to MaidRite. I don't remember ever going before but Sher had.
It's a chain serving loose meat sandwiches with a side of entertainment.

There's a lovely view of the place...in the rain.

And this is the classic prep table. Formerly, the meat was cooking in one side while served out of the other. There is a metal divider in the middle. BUT the bastard health and safety people said "oooo can't have uncooked meat touching cooked meat because someone with a weak system might get the poops."
So now,

the meat is cooked in different location (it might just be at the other end of the long counter but we don't know) then brought out in a metal tub (much like you would find silverware in after washing it but that's probably a coincidence) and dumped in the MaidRite steam table bin. The ingredients appear to be hamburger and chopped onion.

It is scooped onto the buns on, options include tomato, lettuce, onion. Ketchup and mustard provided. the white space in the bottom of the photo is the counter you sit at. No fancy booths or tables here. All counter seating at this location. AND there were 5 people working behind the counter. Two women of a certain age, shown above, a young guy who took our order, a young woman who probably doesn't work there anymore, and one old woman who had aquanet-helmet-hair. Everyone but the young guy had a butt two axe handles wide so the prep space was a bit crowded at hip-high.

Here's the older woman snacking on a raw sweet potato fry. Pam got those. They were DELICIOUS. Pam's were cooked of course. It was pretty clear that they were home sliced and frozen in a ziplock. I got the regular fries and having made the odd batch of fries during the 3 years (or was it eternity?) that I worked at McDonald's, can attest that to get fries from actual potatoes (not the mush formed into sticks that most fast food joints use) you have to have the oil/lard about 2 degrees below the temperature at which it bursts into flame.

As you can see, most of the cooking equipment appears to be original to the building. I like that. Very frugal. The three of us had 3 sandwiches, 2 versions of fries, a brownie and a piece of pie. The total was under 20$...and it came with a SHOW! The chick with the pixie cut threw our sandwiches to each of us from the prep table. The sandwiches come wrapped in paper which you sent on the counter. You also get a spoon as the loose meat tends to fall out. Sher used her paper as a sandwich diaper and managed to eat very tidily. Pam and I struggled and ended up eating most of the sandwich meat with the spoon.

I'll have to continue this in another entry as I'm on dial up and it's too hard to add more photos to this entry.


Anonymous said...

Am LOVING the travelogue and wishing I could have joined you. Am so bummed you were thisclose [my fingers making a distance about 1/4 inch] to Illinois and I didn't see you. I so would have come over and horned in on the Wagner gals' trip to the Maidrite. Is it too English teachery of me to think that company's slogan ought to be "Maidrite, but spelled wrong"?

If you ever have the time, I highly recommend going up to Gunder, MN for a Gunderburger. I wish I could post pictures to YOUR blog, but you can check it out at http://www.thegunderburger.com/

The place is called "The Irish Shanti," and you can see a rainbow of pure Irish joy (and booze) hovering over it...and the DX station across the street which is ODDLY prominent in the photo. Anyway, glad you had a great time. We (you, me, Jonny) simply have to find the worst/best hole-in-the-wall restaurants when we get together.

Jill said...

Uh...that's Gunder IOWA! My brother lives just outside Elkader off GUNDER ROAD. I've been there (to gunder) but never had the GunderBurger as evidenced by my still being alive.

Is it wrong to be defensive about the location of a life-threatening sandwich I've never had?

Anonymous said...

Yeesh, I'm sorry. I had it in my head it was in MN. Cute (but kinda sad) story: My dad had an article in his wallet when he died that listed like the top 8 sandwiches in the Midwest, and the Gunder Burger was one of them. There was also some giant pork fritter that he had (and yes, he had checked these two off). I'm actually genuinely sad he didn't live to try the other sandwiches. But I get very sentimental about my dad and Mike this time of year, for some reason. My apologies, however, to the fine people of Gunder, Iowa. And we're all glad you have refrained and are still among us, Jill :-)

Jill said...

I'll bet the giant pork tenderloin was at the St. Olaf Tap. I hear it's smaller now but I had one about 10 years ago and it was approximately 1FOOT by 8inches (and about 1/4 inch thick not including breading). They put a normal size burger bun on each end with a pickle and stabbed through with a toothpick to hold it. It was delicious though the ambience was something best described as "early squalor".

Jill said...

OK, I googled "pork tenderloin st. olaf" and here you go


(the blog in the preceding link appears to be devoted ENTIRELY to the pork tenderloin sandwich!!...every entry)

Jeanne said...

Hey Jill, alot of those "loose meat' type sandwich recipes include adding a bottle (or two) of Coke in with the hamburger as it cooks. We had a Maidrite in Ottumwa, the next town over from where I grew up. Ottumwa also had some famous tenderloin place where they would either fix you one on the spot or ship it to you anywhere in the world..... Now I'm hungry--maybe we should have tenderloins at the cabin!