One of the oldest franchises in the U.S., Maid Rite is a quick serve chain unique to the upper Midwest with about 70 locations scattered throughout the area. They have been dishing out their signature “loose meat” sandwiches since 1926, and this particular location in Marshalltown has been in continuous operation since 1928. Little has changed in that time, as the menu has remained blindingly simple throughout the years, consisting of little more than a single beef sandwich option, drinks and shakes.

Stepping into the Marshalltown Maid Rite is a journey to a bygone era. Stools surround a U-Shaped vinyl counter, and the service is quick and efficient. Waiting customers line up against the windows, hovering over diners, poised to pounce on abandoned seats. At least half of the business caters to takeout orders too, I quickly surmise. I witness handfuls of standing patrons yelling out orders, scurrying off moments later with grease stained white paper bags tucked beneath their arms. Wanting the full serve experience, I straddled an open stool and flagged down the counter waitress in the midst of her busy hum.

The sandwiches are simple fare, little more than spiced ground beef scooped out of some kind of giant hot box, and piled onto a soft white bun. I ordered mine with the works, which included cheese, onion, pickles and mustard. After unwrapping the greasy paper and diving in, the taste was remarkably similar to a fast food cheeseburger – which is basically what Maid Rite is. It’s not going to change your life, but it’s a timeless classic in Marshalltown and for $3.75, pretty hard to beat.

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