You're the pretentious sort, aren't you? The type that'd hit the back button or downvote a writeup simply because it called you out.
Heck, you probably like hamburger patties, too. What? Don't look at me like that. You're a decadent, bourgeois patty gadfly. I know it.
See, in Iowa, people are good and decent. The salt of the earth. They don't need your stinkin' patties or elaborate hamburgers with triple-decker artery cloggers and glowing cheese goos. They're fine with loose-meat sandwiches, and they know just where to go to get one: Maid-Rite.
A humble Iowa institution since 1926, Maid-Rite's formula is simple and foolproof. 1. Plop ground beef on a steamed bun. 2. Treat ketchup like a red-headed, radioactive stepchild, fit only for the crudest of gags. 3. Add mustard, onions, and pickles at the discretion of the customer. 4. Wrap finished product in red and white paper.
The first Maid-Rite sandwich I had, the cook - a grizzled slop house vet with close-cropped hair - asked if I'd like ketchup. A city slicker with hands as soft as baby's bottom, she clearly took me for a mark.
"Sure," I said, mustering all the down home gruff I possessed.
"Here you go!"
She squeezed the plastic bottle and a red string of yarn hit my shirt and hung limply in its folds. She laughed. I blushed.
That motherfu I was outed that fast. She did give me a real bottle of ketchup after, but I was too ashamed to use it. I only occasionally glanced at it, and even then only with a sense of righteous indignation.
At Taylor's Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, Iowa, ketchup was persona non grata for almost a century. I'm not sure why. I do know that the popular brands of ketchup tend to include crap like high fructose corn syrup, but you'd think that'd be a virtue in a state like Iowa. In the end, the real reason is probably a simple case "that's the way it's always been done."
Taylor's Maid-Rite is legendary for its dedication to tradition. If you put the food in a time machine and sent it back to 1928, when the restaurant opened, customers wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
In Iowa, change tends to happen slowly. In this case, that's a fine thing. A damn fine thing. There's not a lot of seasoning on a Maid-Rite sandwich. It's messy - they give you a spoon to scoop up the beef. The flavors are simple and honest, dependent on quality beef and quality buns. And Maid-Rite usually delivers.
I'd be remiss in describing the appeal of Maid-Rite, an incompetent scriber of greasy greatness, if I didn't mention the look and feel of your typical Maid-Rite. Imagine, if you will, a long row of stools facing an ancient counter with the shapes of elbows and plates and cups of coffee worn into it like a suggested place setting. Your arms go here, the soda there. Old men in flannels hunch over plates and newspapers, capable of articulating complex orders with a simple grunt. A trusty steam cooker sends puffs of moist beef into the humid air. It hangs over the diners and seeps into their pores in stages, until they themselves not only resemble shapeless piles of ground beef, but smell like it.
A good Maid-Rite is comforting in a broken in, time-worn way, like your grandparent's favorite recliner. Wide windows gleam into the night, advertising the all-American world of cheap eats inside.
So go ahead. Drop that patty and head to a Maid-Rite.