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Nifty 50's

Update: Nifty 50's is closed.

In a word: The food is served hot / And you'll get it / toot sweet / The shakes are so creamy / The burgers: loose meat / Nifty 50's

The specs: #0418
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Decider, Happy Stuff, Nifty 50's Sandwich & Malt Shop on Urbanspoon

Latest Nifty 50's news and reviews

JM ate the BBQ pork sandwich with a chocolate shake.
John ate the ranch tasty with cheese and a vanilla Coke.
Josh ate the cheese tasty and onion rings.
Nichole ate the hasty tasty with a peanut butter shake.
Stef ate the pizza tasty with a chocolate shake.
The bill was about $40, or $8/person, altogether.
JM gave Nifty 50's a B; Nichole gave Nifty 50's a B+ (see our grading rubric).

Tasty and onion ringsNifty 50's serves loose-meat sandwiches and fountain favorites in a nostalgic setting in an unlikely strip mall near West Towne. Sandwiched between Sa-Bai Thong, Ginza and Saigon-Noodles, Nifty 50's is as American as apple pie.

Josh and Stef had visited before, and said it would be hard for them to be impartial given their affection for the place. It's the kind of place you usually end up lingering over your shakes and chatting long after your sandwiches are gone. "Come for the American comfort food, stay for the friendly vibe," is their advice.

Inside a Hasty TastyThe idea behind the "Tasty" loose-meat sandwich is steamed seasoned ground beef. Nifty 50's has several varieties, including the Hasty Tasty (plain), Cheese Tasty (plus American cheese), the Ranch Tasty (with ranch dressing), and the Pizza Tasty (marinara).

They're served up wrapped in tidy wax paper, and if you get a shake, the spoon is charmingly tucked into the top. Particularly with the "works," pickle, onion, mustard and ketchup, the flavor and aroma of a Tasty is amazingly similar to that of a McDonald's hamburger, but it has a less greasy mouthfeel and is a slightly bigger, more satisfying sandwich.

ShakeJM's shake convinced him that the desserts are better than the food. The peanut butter shake was excellent, perfectly creamy yet sippable, with bits of crunchy peanuts to add interest. Stef appreciated that the shakes weren't overly sweet, ether.

While John's ranch tasty (below) was satisfying, it was the ambience that he really loved. Fans of real, old-fashioned vanilla and cherry Coke will be pleased.

Ranch tasty

The nostalgic decor at Nifty 50's, from the great free (!) jukebox to the Burma-shave ads hanging off the ceiling, lends the place a homey feel. That said, the ownership can be a bit intimidating in zealous defense of the parking spots in front of the store. Either you will find this abrasive or endearing, but the owner obviously cares a lot for his business and that's good to see.

Comments

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As any Iowan knows, no self-respecting Maid-Rite sandwich (which is what the "Tasty" is) should be eaten with ketchup. Not in a million years.

I didn't want to be the know-it-all that said something about Maid-Rites (not a slight against you, Not gay married, just against me!), but it's true. Mustard is cool, but not ketchup, right?

Wasn't this place actually called Maid-Rite several years ago? Those "loose meat" burgers look unappealing to me (but I'm not an Iowa native, so maybe it's a regional thing) but those shakes look yummy.

It would have to have been a big "several," but I'm surprised to discover (via Google) that yes, this location used to be a Maid-Rite. Now, Maid-Rite obviously spawns a lot of imitators, as well as employees who buy out a franchise that the corporation is about to back out of, and then subtly rename it. So maybe it didn't have the hyphen, or it was spelled differently. Any long-time residents who can chime in, I'm all ears.

Well, as of February 2004 the Maid-Rite on Odana Rd. made it onto Mel and Floyd. No idea if that is the same proprietor.

Yes, this place was called Maid-Rite for a long time, until they quit the franchise about five years ago. They kept the restaurant, but had to change the name. Still the same old wonderful place that I've been going to since I was about eight years old (I even had a birthday party there).

Fascinating! I had no idea. Odana is a black hole of my awareness.

Stopped in for lunch today. Quiet, but for a friend-of-the-owner regular at the counter (to whom I pimped Fringe Foods, on the basis of their Andrew Zimmern conversation topic as I was ordering), but it picked up as I ate.

Sandwich was really tasty (ahem), but I have to correct you on something that I missed when you first posted this review. The spoon tucked into the top is for the meat that falls out of the sandwich. I got a second, long-handled sundae spoon for my shake in addition to the meat spoon.

The owner was working the counter with some similarly aged cohorts, and he indicated (yes, I was eavesdropping) that he eats a Tasty a day. But only one. I parked far from the front door, so parking wasn't an issue; he seemed pretty jovial and nice to me.

Ross and I stopped there today for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it (but don't inhale the sandwich too quickly...they are tasty, but meat crumbs down the wrong pipe are a bit of a pain). The sandwiches were huge! The owner was incredibly friendly and helpful as we pondered the menu. Naive to Maid-Rite etiquette, we dressed one cheese tasty with ketchup and the other with the works...dressed that way they ARE surprisingly like McDonald's in taste without the grease. Had Ross known of this location earlier, he would have made it a regular lunch spot while at work.

Not good, expensive, and slow. Also not friendly -- the woman who took our order barely spoke to us, told us to "sit down and wait" for my $5 malt (which took 15 minutes), and made a face and comment about the the customer behind us.

Will never go back.

My husband and I had the same experience as Sam several years ago. Bad service, overpriced food and it took forever to get our food even though we were the only two people in there.

It was a Maid Rite until that franchise insisted on their store owners using their shipped in - frozen meat. Dick, the owner, preferred to use FRESH ground beef and then split from them. It wasn't until last year, when his mother-in-law passed away, that he thought of joining his wife, who is retired.

They are only open 10 more days - because they choose not to sign a 5 year lease...and their cute little store will be swallowed up by the restaurant next door, who will be expanding.
:(

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