Our hometown used to have a small Maid-Rite diner, and that place and those sandwiches hold many memories for me. Going there with my family, meeting Susan uptown for lunch in the summers after we received our driver's licenses, grabbing a sandwich in between band rehearsals with our large group of friends... The chrome on the stools, the diner counter, the new addition to the restaurant, the steam rising from the kitchen... So many memories.
Ever had a Maid-Rite? Mom would call them 'steam burgers'. I've heard others call them 'loose meat sandwiches.' (While both are accurate descriptions, I don't like using the latter name. It gives me the heebie jeebies!) Started in Iowa in 1926, the Maid-Rite Corporation is a midwest franchise chain. For those of us who love them, the restaurants are too few and far between. While I've seen and sampled similar kinds - particularly in the South, none of them taste like a Maid-Rite.
The sandwiches consist of steamed hamburger with the restaurant's special mix of seasonings. The servers scoop it out on a bun and top it with your choice of toppings: catsup, mustard, pickle, onion... Then, it is wrapped up in thin white paper and is usually labeled on top with the abbreviations of whatever "fixin's" you requested. Mine are usually labeled with CM. Just catsup and mustard for me.
I set out on my journey Saturday...and as I got about half way to Quincy, IL, it hit me. I could have a Maid-Rite as my late lunch! About two years ago, as Brother John and I were heading to a church meeting up in west central Illinois, we drove into Quincy to have breakfast. And, right near the McDonalds, I noticed a sign for the Maid-Rite restaurant. I know John must've thought I was especially weird after getting so excited... but I asked him if he would mind driving back this same route to see if it would be open for dinner later that night. After a good meeting, we set out, collected all of our change and dollar bills (neither of us had planned to stop for dinner on our way back), and went inside to enjoy the delicious sandwich and crinkly fries. (He'll have to tell you what he thinks of them!)
Well, Saturday, as I took a few detours, I couldn't get that sandwich out of my mind. It got later and later in the afternoon, and my mouth watered more and more. So, I finally reached the exit - with my stomach growling - and took the long drive into town down Broadway Avenue. Almost there... Almost there... Almost there... And then my eyes saw it: the abandoned restaurant. I can't convey the disappointment. I actually sighed out loud. It seems that area of town is undergoing some major reconstruction and development, and all that was left was the sign. (See the mall construction across the street.)
After sitting in the parking lot taking it all in, I laughed at myself. Upset about this sandwich? After not having one for so long... YES! So, I went to the ice cream stand next door and asked if it had been moved. They said "No. Just closed down." So, I went next door to Kentucky Fried Chicken to grab something - anything - because I had waited so long to eat. I had a hard time picking what I wanted, and I apologized to the cashier. I explained why - as I had my mind so set on that Maid-Rite. She quickly smiled... and told me that I could follow simple directions to drive to the "downtown location". And, I was out of there faster than one can say 'loose meat sandwich'. (Again, heebie jeebies.)
Since I'm not that familiar with Quincy, I had no idea it was so close. But, it was. HOOORRRAAAYYY! And, because I was so hungry and the sandwiches were so delicious, I failed to take a picture of them. (I ate them much too quickly!) With a big smile on my face, I continued my journey to my aunt and uncle's house. And, now, I can go at least another year without a Maid-Rite. Hopefully, not much longer than that!!! As you might be able to tell, Maid-Rites are rarely fancy restaurants. Usually just a hometown place full of hometown people... the best kind of place to visit.