Tendermaid Hamburgers in Austin, MN

The Heavy Table is pleased to feature an upcoming biweekly series of food-focused illustrations by the artist known as WACSO (Walking Around Checking Stuff Out). “Five-Star Food, One-Star Dives” is intended to showcase gems in the rough — easily overlooked little restaurants that offer up wonderful gastronomy in a humble wrapper.

“Hamburger” really isn’t a good way to describe a Tendermaid, because its meat doesn’t come in the typical hamburger patty form. “Loose meat” is more accurate: Think sloppy joe with all of the sloppy and none of the joe (no sauce) — ¬†just steamed ground beef on a bun. The recommended version comes with the following: ketchup, mustard,¬† chopped onions, pickles… and a spoon. You’ll need the spoon to scoop up the other half of the meat that didn’t stay on the bun. The malts are tasty and the “Tender-Dog” (Tendermaid meat on a hot dog) comes highly recommended. Side note: It’s hard to call this place a “dive.” It’s one of the cleanest restaurants I’ve ever been in; I would eat off the floor, and that’s no joke. Can all you fancy-pants bistros say that?

Tendermaid Hamburgers
217 4th Ave NE
Austin, MN 55912



  1. brian

    It’s weird but this is the third web article in the past week I’ve encountered talking about these “loose meat” sandwiches. How did I go the past 33 years prior without knowing about them?

    Anyway, nice illustrations.

  2. Dulcey

    Based on this recommendation, I ate here a couple days ago. It is GOOD! The taste, the atmosphere, the service. It was fun watching the cheese plopped into the vast steaming vat of ground beef, more meat placed on top, and then scooped up and “sandwiched,” with more meat on top. And you definitely need the spoon to eat the meat off the wrapper.

    I want to know who can do the Tendermaid Challenge: 10 cheeseburgers, a malt, 8 waters, and a bag of chips in 30 min. ONE was really filling, with part of an excellent malt.

    I brought one home in a cooler for a family member who had to work, and it was decent reheated too, though not as “loose.” And for those who want to make a day of meat celebration, this is only half a mile from the Spam Museum.

    Anyone know of a loosemeat place in the Twin Cities metro?

  3. Greg

    I’ve eaten at the Tender-Maid literally thousands of time when I was growing up in Austin. Knew Jerry & Mildred Thatcher very well (they opened the Tender-Maid ‘way back when’). Mildred baked fresh pies every day and Jerry, well, Jerry was just a neat guy (used to go to their cabin on Cass Lake for fishing opener every year)! I do take exception that the word ‘dive’ could even be associated with the Tender-Maid. Even the current owners keep the place spotless and cheerful. Jerry & Mildred would be proud! Everytime I’m back in town I have to get two with everything, chips and a vanilla malt. Grab a couple of mini Tootsie-Rolls as you head out the door and go take a nap under a tree. Nuthin’ better in the summertime!

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