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The Horseshoe - A Springfield Dining Tradition
The Horseshoe from D'Arcy's Pint in Springfield
The Horseshoe - Springfield's Entry to the Culinary World
Growing up in Springfield, there are some things you become accustomed to anything to do with Lincoln and the horseshoe sandwich. The horseshoe sandwich has been a Springfield delicacy since the 1920's. Many historians of Springfield have pinpointed the inventor of the horseshoe sandwich to Joe Schweska, chef at the Leland Hotel in Springfield.
When Chef Joe Schweska first created the horseshoe sandwich, he used ham sliced in the shape of a horseshoe, potatoes cut into wedges (the nails) on toasted white bread covered with a Welsh Rarebit cheese sauce. Joe's wife, Elizabeth may have inspired the idea of the horseshoe sandwich suggesting a new lunch item at the Leland Hotel using the Welsh Rarebit cheese sauce.
Some historians suggested chef Steve Tomko invented the horseshoe sandwich. Tomko worked at the Leland Hotel at the same time as Joe Schweska. Tomko later was a chef at Springfield establishments as NorbAndy's and Wayne's Red Coach Inn. Both restaurants were noted for their versions of the horseshoe sandwich.
Most Springfield restaurants serve their own version of the horseshoe and ponyshoe (smaller version with one piece of meat and bread) sandwich. Even the chain restaurants have added the horseshoe sandwich on their menus. Now, you can have your choice of hamburger, buffalo chicken, pork tenderloin, or the breakfast version of the horseshoe. Charlie Parker's Diner created a breakfast version with your choice of bacon, ham, sausage, egg, toast, hash browns or fries covered in cheese sauce and/or sausage gravy. When I have the breakfast shoe, I go half cheese sauce and half sausage gravy. I must say it is very good.
Personally, my favorite horseshoe comes from D'Arcy's Pint in Springfield. Since D'Arcy's Pint opened in 1998, they have been regularly voted as Springfield Best Horseshoe. D'Arcy's has been regularly featured on shows such as Man V. Food and Travels with Al Roker. D'Arcy's twist with the horseshoe is the kind of cheese sauce they use. D'Arcy's uses a white cheese sauce that is very delicious. Many of the other restaurants use a yellow cheese sauce and some have added a white cheese to compete with D'Arcy's.
Top Places to Eat a Horseshoe
Here are my top places to eat a horseshoe in Springfield:
1. D'Arcy's Pint - No Doubt the best
2. Dublin Pub - Very Good. They offer two kinds of cheese sauce, yellow and white. At their Vineagar Hill location in downtown Springfield, they offer the Pony Express Bar at lunch time. The Pony Express bar is for those workers who are hungry and have a short period of time to eat. It features Texas toast, five kinds of meats (hamburger, ham, bacon, grilled and breaded chicken), grilled green peppers and onions, fries, and two kinds of cheese sauce. The Pony Express Bar is served from 11AM to 130PM Monday through Friday. It was offered on Saturday's but just found out that they stopped serving as of 6/19/10.
3. Sgt. Peppers Cafe - I think they are Springfield's most underrated place to get a horseshoe. My favorite is the Phily Horseshoe. It is great. Also, you can get both white and yellow cheese sauces.
4. Charlie Parker's Diner - I love their breakfast shoe. I had the half gravy/half cheese sauce for my breakfast shoe. That is the only way to go.
Other places I would recommend not in my top four are Barrel Head, Maid-Rite, Steak N Shake (best of the chain restaurants), and The Bakery.
The Fieldhouse Pizza and Pub reopened in the fall of 2009 and they have introduced their unique twist to the horseshoe, with the Shoe Burrito. Recently, the local newspaper in Springfield, The State Journal-Register featured an article on the Shoe Burrito. It is packed with 2700 calories and it is fried. If you leave the restaurant hungry after consuming this burrito, that is your fault. I can say that I have comsumed the Shoe Burrito and I thought it was just ok. The Shoe Burrito is very big but the day I had it there was not enough cheese sauce, meat and fries comparison to a regular horseshoe sandwich.
I can honestly say, I have many a horseshoe sandwiches while living in Springfield. Many of my friends that grew up here or lived here miss the horseshoe the most. It is unique, tasty, and worth all the high calorie consumption. You only live life once and if you are visiting Springfield, Illinois, take a bite out of the horseshoe. You will not regret it.