Homemade Taverns Recipe

Taverns. The basic, frugal little unassuming sandwich that you probably haven’t made yet. Why should you try this simple homemade Taverns recipe? It’s frugal, you can make them up fairly quickly, and it’s filling. Win-win-win.

Taverns. The basic, frugal little unassuming sandwich that you probably haven't made yet. Why should you try this simple homemade Taverns recipe? It's frugal, you can make them up fairly quickly, and it's filling. Win-win-win. #taverns #frugalrecipes #groundbeefrecipes

Homemade Taverns Recipe

Every once in awhile, my brain will see a word and it will trigger some kind of memory. I’m sure the same is true for you. A couple of months ago I was looking through some of my old cookbooks and stumbled across a homemade Taverns recipe. It brought back so many memories of lunches and dinners at my Granny and Grandpa’s house when they were still living.

Both of my grandparents were born in the ’20s in South Dakota so they not only lived through the Great Depression but also were on the edge of the Dirty ’30s. My grandma knew how to cook a meal with what she had. She also always had bread and jam present at every single meal. Anyone else’s Granny do that too? My mom never bought or made white bread so I always thought that Granny’s bread was a special treat and she always accompanied it with her homemade jams, usually made from something growing in her backyard (lots of plum jam!).

You might be a bit confused by the recipe that I’m featuring today since it doesn’t really seem like much of a recipe at all. This homemade Taverns recipe originated in my little corner of the world…eastern Iowa/southeastern South Dakota. It was created and most heartily consumed in the ’20s and ’30s so it’s something that my Granny must have grown up eating for supper. It was also known as a Loose Meat Sandwich or a Maid Rite Sandwich.

In January on Little House Living, I always talk about eating from the pantry and eating up what you have.  January is just a great time to do that! If you have onions and potatoes in your cold storage or in a basement, hamburger in the freezer, plus a few pantry staples to make the buns, you can make this entire meal out of what you already have. No trip to the store required.

Variations to a Basic Homemade Taverns Recipe

There are many variations on the basic homemade Tavern recipe (one of them being a Sloppy Joe, which is NOT the same thing) but this is the original way to make this sandwich. A Tavern makes for a very frugal and easy to prepare meal because it’s just so simple…easier than making a hamburger.

You can dress it up if you like by adding:

Or whatever else you might have on hand. Or you can keep it original and basic, sticking with the frugal sandwich as is.

Homemade Taverns Recipe

What You Need:

  • 1 pound ground Beef
  • 1 onion, chopped (medium or large)
  • 1 cup Beef Broth or Stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Burger Buns

How to Make the Homemade Taverns Recipe

In a frying pan or cast iron pan, fry up the ground beef along with the chopped onion until no pink remains.

Add in the beef broth, some salt, and pepper, and simmer on low until the mixture is thick enough to scoop onto your bread.

Loose Meat Sandiwch

Serve the meat inside some homemade Burger Buns and enjoy.

–A great side with this recipe would be my Olive Oil Roasted Potatoes. Delicious and hearty!

You may choose to add some of the extra ingredients that I mentioned above but if you are looking to make the traditional homemade Taverns recipe, my Granny’s recipe is as close as you can get. Depending on what town you are from in SD/IA you might get some different answers to what exactly is in a homemade Taverns recipe but I think they will all agree that this is the base recipe!

Trying to plan better, more frugal meals for your family so that you aren’t wasting money at the grocery store? You’ve got to check out my ebook Meal Planning Made Simple. Even if you thought meal planning didn’t work for your family, this ebook will help you find the perfect fit for your family style.


Print this Homemade Taverns Recipe below:

Loose Meat Sandiwch
4.89 from 9 votes

Homemade Taverns


  • 1 pound ground Beef
  • 1 onion chopped (medium or large)
  • 1 cup Beef Broth or Stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Burger Buns


  1. In a frying pan or cast iron pan, fry up the ground beef along with the chopped onion until no pink remains.
  2. Add in the beef broth, some salt, and pepper, and simmer on low until the mixture is thick enough to scoop onto your bread.
  3. Serve the meat inside some homemade Burger Buns and enjoy. A great side with this recipe would be my Olive Oil Roasted Potatoes. Delicious and hearty!

Looking for some more frugal ground beef recipes? Here’s what I have for you!

Have you ever heard of or tried Taverns before? Do you think you will try this super easy homemade Taverns recipe?

This Homemade Taverns Recipe was originally published on Little House Living in January 2019. It has been updated as of January 2020.

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Recipe Rating


  1. This reminds me very much of the hamburger gravy my dads mom used to make snd then he made and now I make. We’ve had it over bread biscuits grits and potatoes

    1. 5 stars
      Don’t know where you’re from, but my family is Pacific Northwest and our mom made hamburger gravy quite a lot when I was growing up (50’s). Haven’t heard of it in ages! Good memories 🙂

      1. I live just across the Missouri River from South Dakota, in Northwest Iowa. My tavern recipe goes back probably 100 years or more. But my mom had to take her taverns to every get together for family, church, and 4-H. Her recipe Is now mine, but it’s a bit different but it is the best ever. And very simple Making them tomorrow in fact! They are great weekend meals, when everybody is in and out doing their thing…we put a slice of onion, a squirt of mustard, and sliced hamburger pickles on them… Add potato salad or chips, and they’re good to go! I usually simmer on low for 3 hours, but like I said, my recipe is different, but YUMMY!! Just like mom’s, grandma’s and the greats. I am 68, so I made them a lot. I have no daughters, but 4 boys, and they all are amazing cooks, and they love making these, too!

  2. 4 stars
    The homemade hamburger bun recipe would have been nice to have added. I have never made hamburger buns before. Will have to see if I can find a recipe somewhere.

  3. My Mom used to make something a bit similar to make the dollar stretch but she called it “Polish hamburgers” because of her heritage. She would add bread crumbs to the hamburger meat, an egg, chopped onions, make into patties, brown, add the beef broth and simmer with the lid on. We always had it with mashed potatoes and green beans from our garden that we would can or freeze for the winter.

  4. 5 stars
    I don’t know that we have an actual name for those kinds of sandwiches in Michigan – scrambled hamburger comes to mind – but I grew up with them. In our house it was just ground beef, onion, salt, and pepper. And normally, we’d put it on a slice of buttered bread, folding it to make ‘half sandwiches. It’s still one of my favorite meals and, not surprising, my kids love them too. I think they’re going on the menu this week. Yum! 🙂

    1. We did! Just loose meat sandwiches! And if a gravy was made with it we just called it hamburger gravy and served it over mashed potatoes or toast (but that had another name and it isn’t rated G). Of course this was in the ’70’s, but maybe it is has a new name for the younger generation. My cousin called me about 3 months ago and I asked about what she was having for dinner and she replied “loose meat” sandwiches. That’s just what we knew them by. Good food brings good memories!

  5. We call it Loose meat sandwich’s. I add a couple tablespoons flour to thicken it up a bit. Sometimes served on toast.

  6. We make the same thing in Maine but instead of beef broth, we use tomatoe soup or pasta sauce. We call the Sloppy Joes.

  7. We did something similar. We put in a can of French onion soup after browning the ground beef with 2 tablespoons of flour to thicken it up . We called it onion burgers.

  8. I’m going to ask my father-in-law if he ever had them. He loves to talk about South Dakota. They lived in Lake Preston until the dust bowl years.

  9. I grew up in NW Iowa and we used to have Taverns all the time. We browned the hamburger but added a soup to the mixture (now I can’t remember the soup) and that was it. Liked it so much better than sloppy joes. I will have to make this and see how it fairs with my family. Thanks for the reminder!

  10. We never had a name for them. I grew up in Indiana and my mom made them with onion and hamburger and we put mustard on it. I thought she invented it!!

  11. We grew up with ‘sloppy joes’ here in OH, and I simply destest them now (had them way too much as a kid), but boy these Taverns sound like a winner to me!

    1. 5 stars
      GrammyPrepper…. I’m not sure where you are in Ohio but there is actually a Maid-Rite location in Greenville! Such a treat to have that in Ohio when usually those restaurants are only in Iowa and maybe a handful of other places.

  12. 5 stars
    Made them for dinner tonight, and what a hit! I added too much stock, so I used some cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Also added a large clove of garlic with the chopped onions, and then a bay leaf while it was simmering down. That’s the treasure of finding recipes like this, taking a basic recipe and making it your own. I will def be adding this to our repertoire!

  13. 5 stars
    Down in Kansas City Missouri, we call them Nu-ways. Same basic recipe but I add worchestershire sauce. Love them.

  14. YES! I’ve heard them called loose meat sandwiches. Here in SW Pa Pittsburgh area we call them Sloppy Joes. Yum!

  15. In western Maryland/southern Pennsylvania, these are known as “steamers” and are made with garlic powder (and sometimes ketchup).

  16. Here in BC Canada, my mother in law made hamburger gravy. She served it over rice or potatoes. A good reminder for me to make it for my grandkids. I will also try the tavern recipe. Sounds delicious!!

  17. 5 stars
    So simple….. why didn’t I ever think to make this? 🙂 I always add sloppy joe mix. Never thought to keep it even simpler! THanks for sharing!
    (Just like your hard boiled egg storage… putting them in an egg carton in the fridge.) So simple, but simply didn’t occur to me! Thanks!

    Ps- made your hamburger helper mix from your little house living book. Hubby Loved it. Also made the oatmeal bake this morning! So perfect for little ones. After we tried it, I put together three jars of the mix. Thanks!

    1. I’m glad you enjoy this recipe and the Hamburger Helper too! We love the Oatmeal mix at our house too…everyone eats it (even though not all of them like “regular” oatmeal) and it’s so inexpensive to make!

  18. My parents were born in the 1920 and mom 1925 . Raised on sos hamburger with gravy on toast, a lot of pinto beans , cornbread and fried potatoes all grown at home. Cattle hogs turkeys chickens. Always plenty to eat

  19. 5 stars
    Have made these up before.Making these up tonight for dinner. My husband grew up in Iowa, and he says this recipe is about as close to the loose meat sandwiches he grew up on over at the Maid Rite restaurants there in Iowa! Will make again and again! ☺️

  20. 5 stars
    My hubby is originally from Iowa and every so often he would get some Loose meat sandwiches from the Maid Rite restaurants. I came across your recipe and decided to try it. Big hit!! He said they were delish and the next best thing when you can’t get to a Maid Rite!!

  21. Thank you for this recipe! Such great memories for me. 🥰
    My mom grew up in Volin, SD, as did all my ancestors on her side after emigrating from Norway between 1872 & 1910. Every summer as I was growing up in Minnesota my mom, Grandma & I went back to SD to take care of family graves. Now I take my children (ages 11, 10, 8), sharing our family’s history. Part of our memories include trips to the Tastee Treet Drive In in Yankton, which has awesome loose meat sandwiches, that we take down to the Missouri River to eat. Since my kids love them so much I added Tastee Treats to our meal plan every month. We add mustard and pickles. They are great, but the best part is sharing our family’s history & food traditions with the next generation.

  22. My Tavern recipe comes from Cleghorn Cookbook NW Iowa. They were made and sold At basketball games at cleghorn in the 50’s. I’ve had them all my life and am now in my 70’s. Recipe calls for hamburger, lemon juice, vinegar, catsup, br sugar, onion, celery, dry mustard and salt. Delicious. Still make them!

  23. My Uncle was from South Dakota and we loved when his mom would come visit at make real “Taverns” not sloppy joes. Good memories.