Wednesday Blue Plate: Mama’s Meatloaf at the Roadhouse

Made with love every time!

By Marcy Harris

When it comes to comfort food, meatloaf is a classic. For me, it conjures up all the feels of my mom making it from scratch when I was growing up. She slathered ketchup on it before baking it, which I thought was the best thing ever. When we originally started making our meatloaf at the Roadhouse, we topped it with our housemade spicy ketchup. It definitely gave it some Zing (pun so intended)!!

As a child of the ’80s growing up in the Midwest, I was brought up on store-bought ground chuck. It was what we used in our meatloaf, burgers, meatballs–anything that required ground beef. Looking back, I now realize that ketchup was the overwhelming flavor in my mother’s meatloaf because the beef didn’t really taste much like anything.

There is no mystery to our meatloaf.

Like anything we serve at Zingerman’s, the key is really good ingredients. At the Roadhouse, we use the same dry-aged quality beef that goes in our burgers, and you can really taste the beef. We get it from local, pasture-raised steers that are grass and grain fed, no antibiotics or hormones. By using different cuts of the cow, including chuck, leg, and belly, our ground beef takes on more of a full flavor. The meat is dry-aged for a few weeks, just like our steaks, and marinated in salt and Telicherry black pepper

In addition to the beef, we add in ground pork shoulder from the whole Old English hogs we buy from Niman Ranch. Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw have been working with Niman Ranch for over 30 years. We use their hogs because they are known for quality meat and raise their animals humanely and sustainably. If you’ve tasted our pork BBQ, then hopefully you’ve tasted the difference with how good it is.

As with our burgers, we do a course grind with the beef and pork so that the texture of the meatloaf offers a more rich and flavorful mouthfeel. There is something to be said about a meatloaf that is not mush, but instead offers more of a structured and tender bite.

It’s all gravy!

Years ago, a server at the Roadhouse named Melina Hinton recommended that we try gravy instead of spicy ketchup. I had the pleasure of meeting Melina recently, and when she shared her story about the meatloaf, she was very passionate about helping to effectively improve this particular recipe. We started serving our meatloaf with a housemade beef gravy, and it really added that extra bit of saucy goodness. For Melina, seeing the difference in the way the guests enjoyed the meatloaf after adding the gravy was very rewarding. Ours is already moist, but with the gravy poured over, soaking into the meat, each forkful creates a memorable experience.  I feel a bit guilty because when I eat it I know it’s better than my mama’s, but I won’t tell her that.

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