Maid-Rite is located at 2429 N. Lincoln in Chicago. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 22, 2012 6:15AM
Loose-meat lovers around Chicago can rejoice.
The area’s very first Maid-Rite just opened Saturday in Lincoln Park. Franchisee Rob Svendsen, a former trader and financial advisor, says he was looking for something to do in the next phase of his life, and decided Chicago needed a branch of the iconic Iowa chain known for loose-meat sandwiches.
“I didn’t do any significant, quantifiable research,” Svendsen says. “I was born in Galesburg, [Ill.], and they had a Maid-Rite in Galesburg that I would visit when I visited my grandmother. I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t already one in Chicago, that there had never been one.”
He chose the DePaul-area location because it’s a 10-minute walk from his home and his kids’ schools.
Maid-Rite’s signature sandwich features braised, seasoned ground beef on a proprietary sweet bun, topped with ketchup, mustard, onion and pickle, with variations including cheese-topped versions. “Purists won’t put ketchup or cheese on it,” Svendsen says.
The menu also offers Iowa-style breaded pork tenderloin and pulled pork sandwiches, seasoned fries, salads, soft-serve ice cream, milkshakes and breakfast items, among other fare. This location, at 2429 N. Lincoln, will be the first to serve smoked in-house baby back ribs, another Iowa favorite.
Other regional foodie favorites have migrated to Chicago. Here are but a few:
Chicago’s Home of Chicken
The seemingly odd combination of fried chicken and waffles was common enough in the 19th century to be mentioned offhandedly in popular fiction. Edna Ferber’s 1917 “Fanny Herself” even puts it on a Chicago menu. Though it remained popular in Harlem and Los Angeles, it fell out of fashion by World War II and was scarce in the Midwest before this place opened in Bronzeville in 2008. 3947 S. Martin Luther King Drive; 543 Madison, Oak Park; and soon, 2424 W. Dempster, Evanston. www.chicagoschickenandwaffles.com
Georgia-based chain serves chicken sandwiches, but what it’s become most famous for as of late is the stance of its president against same-sex marriage and reported donations of some $3 million to anti-gay groups by its affiliated nonprofit. 30 E. Chicago; chickfila.com
Chili Mac’s Chicago
No Skyline Chili here, but Chili Mac’s serves Cincinnati-style chili (“savory, slightly sweet sensation of ground beef, rich tomato sauce and 15 spices, including a hint of cinnamon”) in the traditional five-way style — atop spaghetti, with onions, beans and cheese — plus Coney dogs. 3152 N. Broadway. www.chilimacschicago.com
Wisconsin-based eatery’s long menu features everything from signature Butter Burgers to fried Wisconsin cheese curds, but the piece de resistance is rich frozen custard, offered in vanilla, chocolate and a flavor of the day. Locations include Addison, Berwyn, Bridgeview, Franklin Park, Lombard, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect and Rosemont. www.culvers.com
El Pollo Loco
Operating throughout the Southwest and Texas, California-based El Pollo Loco has a single Chicago-area location serving its citrus-marinated flame-grilled chicken, tacos and burritos. 5436 S. Harlem, Summit. elpolloloco.com
5 Boroughs Pizza Company
One of the rare Chicago spots for foldable New York-style thin-crust pizza, cut in wedges, although aficionados claim it isn’t greasy enough. 1543 N. Sedgwick; chicago5boroughspizza.com
The Virginia burger chain has expanded nationally since 2003 and now has more than 1,000 locations across 40 states. They’re known for piling on toppings, using no frozen products and cooking burgers no rarer than well done. 1146 S. Wabash; 2368 N. Clark; 2140 N. Clybourn; 3219 N. Broadway and many suburban locations. www.fiveguys.com
Franks for the Memories
Known for authentic Buffalo wings, this northwest suburban spot also serves Buffalo’s Sahlen’s hot dogs — light-colored, pork and beef, char-broiled — with ketchup! 645 E. Hawley, Mundelein. www.franksforthememories.com
The Oklahoma City-based chain from its Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas roots has yet to reach the city, but outlets dot the suburbs. Carhop service brings you signature Toaster Sandwiches on thick Texas toast, foot-long Coneys, Tater Tots and 398,929 drink combinations. Locations include Calumet City, Cicero, Country Club Hills, Franklin Park, Lake Zurich and Palatine. www.sonicdrivein.com
Leah A. Zeldes is a local free-lance writer.