I know a guy who married a girl from Springfield, Illinois. When I told him I was heading down to Springfield for the weekend he said: “I’m sorry.” And then he recommended the Maid-Rite – home of the famous “loose meat sandwich”.
The Maid Rite is a classic Midwestern success story: The kind of World Famous you’ve never heard of. Here’s the story from the Xeroxed hand-out that they keep behind the counter, right next to the matchbooks that look like they were typeset in 1932:
In the early 1920s, butcher Fred Angell created a special cut and grind of meat, then added selected spices, to create a new ground beef sandwich.
A delivery man, upon tasting the sandwich, remarked that the sandwich was ‘made right’. The name MAID-RITE, adapted to mean “wholesomeness and pureness,” has remained part of the Midwestern landscape ever since.
Making it perhaps the first – and last time -- in our American culture that “loose meat” has been associated with “wholesomeness and pureness”.
A Maid-Rite sandwich is -- as the man who married into Springfield described it to me -- like a sloppy joe without the sloppy -- no sauce, just spices. Dressed up just like a burger, with mustard, onion and pickles. And to add to the novelty, the Maid-Rite also has the distinction of having “one of the first” drive-through windows -- which may well be why it landed itself on the National Register of Historic places.
Whatever the reason, the good news is that because of the designation, the homemade root beer and loose meat of the Maid Rite – franchise-that-failed-to-flower though it may be – isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Which is good news for those of us whom, having done pretty much all there is to do in Springfield, won’t be passing through again anytime soon. (Unless it’s for another fix of Wright’s Dana Thomas House. Details to follow soon.)
Maid Rite Sandwich Shop
118 N. Pasfield Ave.