Cedar Rapids was the town my buddy and I were in when we had a hunger. Every state is known for something. There is a food item in each that is a must-have, a staple, a food that, when your wheels touch town, you begin your quest to find it. In Iowa, we were in search of the Maid-Rite Sandwich. Google will guide you to several locations throughout the state. It just so happened we were in Cedar Rapids, so we went Maid-Rite West. If you're a fan of diners, drive-in’s and/or dives, this place will scratch you right where you itch. There are closets in houses bigger than this location, but what they lack in size they make up in character and flavor. We stood in line briefly, arriving before the lunch crowd showed up. (Which is no joke. Ten minutes later, it was a full house). Our cashier was awesome, and the way they had the kitchen set up, it looked like they had been doing it their way for decades.
Coming from the restaurant industry, I harbor a deep appreciation to an old kitchen kicking out really good food. I ordered a Maid-Rite with cheese (the Cheese Rite) and my buddy did the same, only went a step above and ordered a plate of Goulash as well. Goulash to Minnesotans (where we’re from) is a close cousin to hot dish or casserole. Their goulash included tomato sauce, macaroni, hamburger, onion, and a nice blend of spices. I was forced to try a bite, and then took a second bite (and maybe a third). I was kind of furious then that I hadn't ordered my own plate. Sometimes the simplest of dishes, make the best dishes. Now. Let's get down to the Maid-Rite.
I opened the wrapper of my sandwich and it had a Christmasy feeling to it. I was excited to see what I was getting myself into. It looked like a sloppy jo, minus the sloppy, and it came with a spoon, which didn’t make sense at first, but don't throw the spoon. You need the spoon. I took my first steamy bite and it didn't disappoint. With each bite, I lost a little bit of the filling, and I was okay with it. It was a flavor I have never experienced before, and trying to describe it left both of us fairly quiet. We agreed that the flavor was good and we left it at that. But it was phenomenal in the sense that it was full of anticipation and the Maid-Rite inevitably delivered just what we were hoping it would.
We walked out the door (like most patrons have since 1926), probably thinking the same thing as the delivery man who tried Fred Angell’s original creation decades before. “This sandwich is made right." With over thirty locations across the state of Iowa, check out the closest location to you and give em’ a shot. It is worth the stop.
Image credit: Steven Kawecki