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“Unchanged since 1930s...a must stop in Ottumwa”

Canteen Lunch In The Alley
Ranked #1 of 79 Restaurants in Ottumwa
Certificate of Excellence
Description: Features loose meat sandwiches.
Restaurant details
Description: Features loose meat sandwiches.
Oldbiker49
Level Contributor
34 reviews
12 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
“Unchanged since 1930s...a must stop in Ottumwa”
Reviewed June 19, 2013

Call them loose-meats, taverns, or Maid Rites, the sandwiches at the Canteen are virtually unchanged for 80-plus years. Be prepared to wait. There are only so many round counter stools. Part of the fun is watching the ladies prepare the sandwiches. A cast iron steamer, custom made for the Canteen, sits in the center. The ambiance is a working-man's dream. You're not here to examine the wine list. Grab a seat, order a canteen, a malt (they too are home made) and a slice of pie (also home made). Sandwiches come dry, moist (a little grease) or wet (grease will drip off your elbow). On a good day the Canteen will serve 900 to a thousand sandwiches.
If you're in southern Iowa, head for the Canteen in Ottumwa.

  • Visited June 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank Oldbiker49
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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132 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    99
    24
    4
    3
    2
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Japanese first
  • Any
English first
Martinsburg, Iowa
Level Contributor
23 reviews
20 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“Over 30 years and still the best sandwhich you can get”
Reviewed June 3, 2013

Been going since I was a kid. It is a shame that there isn't a better sign or way to let people know about the place; because it is worth the trip. Dry- cheese- extra salt for me. If in Ottumwa you owe it to yourself to go to this small and now somewhat hidden place. PS- you won't go wrong with a piece of pie or a malt either.

  • Visited May 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank Mike J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Oswego, Illinois
Level Contributor
19 reviews
17 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“Always a treat...”
Reviewed April 5, 2013

We always make the Canteen a stop on our trips to Ottumwa. This time, we managed to shoehorn in two visits and, as it's been for the past 40 years, we've never had a bad meal yet. The Canteens are great (loose ground beef, steamed with special light spices and served on a large hamburger bun) and the pie is, if anything, better. Hard to find; impossible to beat.

Visited March 2013
Helpful?
Thank RAM1964
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sigourney, Iowa
Level Contributor
22 reviews
10 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“Best little canteen in the USA....”
Reviewed January 18, 2013

This serves the best loose-meat sandwiches in the USA...even beats Maid-Rite which is hard to do....It is listed on the historical site, so the city of Ottumwa had to build their parking ramp around it and they continue to serve up sandwiches each day, usually to a standing crowd waiting to be served....

Visited December 2012
Helpful?
Thank Irene C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
2 reviews
“Best food ever!”
Reviewed December 19, 2012 via mobile

If you're ever in Ottumwa, Iowa you've got to check out the Canteen. I think its been there since the 1930's but the loose meat sandwiches are the star of the show. I always get mine with cheese and everything which is ketchup, mustard, onion, and pickle. Don't dare call these a "Maid-Rite" as these are steamed rather than fried. Often you'll hear the phrase "Grease out" which means that they are skimming the fat and getting ready to cook more. They also have potato chips, pie, and milkshakes to round out your meal.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank scanny99
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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