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Capt. Terry Griggs

Man, I don't know what those Newton Maid Rite sandwiches taste like, but they sure aren't like the other Maid Rites then. I'd take a Canteen 100 times over any Maid Rite I have ever tasted. Just had a couple of Maid Rites in Davenport, and the next day a Canteen in Ottumwa. No Comparison. canteen wins, hands down! Makes one wonder if he has shares in the Maid Rite co. in that he lives in Newton!

Capt. Terry Griggs

Just a couple more additional thoughts. The reason you thought five people working there was too many, was that you probably did not stop during their lunch/dinner hrs. If you had, you would have seen customers coming and going at a very fast pace, taking their Canteens home/out vs. staying at the establishment. People wait against the walls to be able to sit there if they want to stay at the establishment. I am assuming you probably were waited upon, served, and out the door rather quickly. A lot quicker than any Maid Rite I have ever been at.
Speaking abt. senior citizens waiting upon you, I remember the Dubuque Maid Rite having somewhat the same aged servers. Would you believe these seniors can even count the correct change you receive when you pay your bill without having to look at a screen to tell them how much it is, ha!

Capt. Terry Griggs

By the way, I live in Lancaster, Pa.

Enjoy your blog, but think ya need to revisit the canteen again to get more of the story. Hope you noticed the map on the wall w/ all the pins stuck in it. These represent the locations where people live who have visited the Canteen. It's a shame as it's only a USA map. Canteens have been sent all over the world, would you believe.

Jim Snook - Wanderingstar

I just can't believe this fellow hasn't something wrong with his taste buds. Obviously he has grown up with these things, but I have never tasted a loose meat sandwich that can compare with a Canteen in the Alley burger from Ottumwa. You see, you really only have to say "Canteen", because there is nothing like it any where, and it's ONLY in Ottumwa. SOoo, CANTEEN says it all, nothing else needed (ie, "Newton" Maid-Rite, "Marshalltown" Maid-Rite, or "Quad-Cities" Maid-Rite) Maid-Rite went out of business in Ottumwa and many other cities where they have tried to establish a business presence.

They got too big (Francised) and that is never going to create a QUALITY situation. May make lots of $$$, may cut down costs, may get you a great Bottom-Line, BUT just never provides for quality, craftmanship, etc.

As for Ottumwa as a City, I'm sad to say, it's not the Ottumwa I grew up in. However, the "Canteen in the Alley" is the same place it was 60 years ago when I sat there and ate my first Canteen. Only the five ladies (not all are older than 55) have changed, same Pie Case, same Stools, same Counter, you've got to love that ! ! I'm certainly glad I grew up there. It was wonderful and I will always be Proud to be an Ottumwan ! !


Over the years, I've made friends with many people from Ottumwa. Like the comments on this entry, I don't know of a town in Iowa where people defend their hometown with more conviction than those from Ottumwa.

With that said, I have made it back on a couple occasions to the Canteen in Ottumwa. While it's still good, I still like the Maid-Rites back in Newton a little bit better. Sure, the Canteen hasn't changed in years, but neither has the Maid-Rite in Newton.

I'm sure that if I grew up in Ottumwa, I'd be fiercely loyal to the Canteen. It's certainly a taste that one gets used to while growing up and there's nothing else like it anywhere. I still think the Maid-Rite in Newton has the best Maid-Rites. As I told Capt. Terry Griggs in a private e-mail, the Maid-Rites in Davenport are horrid. The franchised Maid-Rites are horrid, as well. Only the original ones like in Newton and Marshalltown are the best. There's a good one in Marion and non-Maid-Rite places like Ross' in Bettendorf and The Canteen both do a great loose meat sandwich.

I'm going to go back to The Canteen at some point and do a little more of an in-depth post on the place. It's been over a year since I was last there and I'm sure things haven't changed all that much.

Jim Cruchelow

The comments are very interesting. I am an old Ottumwa boy and grew up on Canteens. First of all a little history about the Canteen and the location of the parking ramp. City Fathers wanted to build the parking garage and tear down the Canteen. Such an uproar had never been heard before in Ottumwa. The compromise was to leave the Canteen alone and build the parking garage AROUND the Canteen, which was done! Good Move Eh! Well if you, my dear sir would have asked for a moist sandwich, you would have gotten one and not dry as you describe. Try it IF you keep your promise and return. Maid Rites. YUK! Last time I was in a Maid Rite was in Albia, Iowa. It has been closed for some time now. The Maid Rite understand, not Albia. I went in for lunch and ordered my sandwich and a coke. The damn thing was so small (And I am a BIG guy) I called the little old lady who was running the joint over and ordered another burger. She replied, "if you wanted two, you should have ordered them to begin with." I told her to give me my bill and she could take the SECOND SANDWICH (MAID RITE) and put it where the sun didn't shine. She could have cared less when I left and she lost my business. Last time I was in a Maid Rite. I'm going to the Quad Cities in a couple of weeks and I will get under the I-74 bridge and try one of those sandwiches. I went to Newton from Knoxville to try a Maid Rite that you profess are so good. Buddy, your taste buds are shot! You need transplants. Terribe....Give me a Canteen anytime and don't knock us just because we grew up in Ottumwa. When we grew up in Ottumwa a number of years ago it was and still is a fine city. We are proud to say, "We are from Ottumwa, home of the Canteen."


People and Canteen observations-My Uncle, one of the highest paid executives in the U.S. at the time came back for my Father's funeral.He'd been gone from Ottumwa for years and never experianced a canteen. We got some takeouts and when he had finished the sandwich, this wealthy executive who smoked expensive cuban cigars, took off his glasses and put his faced down on the wrapper which still contained crumbled burger and onion bits and licked up the remainders.-Bull Ellis, a tough, good sized lineman for the Bulldog football team took a bet on the number of canteens he could eat in one sitting and WON! He ate SIXTEEN!!

jack l. bosker

i dearly love CANTEENS. i left ottumwa in 1955 to join us air force. went to japan right away. upon my returned to ottumwa canteen was one of the first places i went to. they are delicious. haven't been back since 1989 but i know they have not changed. my wife (from california) loved canteen first time she tried one.(1967) a lot of things have changed in ottumwa but canteen has not changed that much. keep her open would enjoy getting email from friends still in ottumwa. my email address: now reside in deland florida.

Jack Garner

Grew up in Ottumwa and had Canteens on a regular basis until I came back in 1954. Whenever I return the Canteen is the first place for a meal. Will return in August.J

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