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Horseshoe sandwich

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springer May 22, 2002 12:45 AM

Chowhounds... any comments on the delicacy that is peculiar to Springfield, IL called a horseshoe sandwich? As far as I can tell, it seems like a ham and cheese sandwich packed with fries and more cheesy sauce. Anybody had a good one... and is this confined to Springfield only?

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    Old School RE: springer May 22, 2002 10:55 AM

    I encountered the horseshoe sandwich a few months ago in Decatur, Illinois, so its reach extends at least 30 miles from the state capitol. As you suggest, it's a gloppy mess of a thing, and I think the smart money preparation method uses one or another form of the well-known cheese food products--either Velveeta or Cheez Whiz.

    While I'm at a loss to remember the name of the rather broken down roadhouse diner where I had it, I do recall being looked at by the waitress as if I were from another planet when I asked what a horseshoe sandwich was. She simply could not believe I had never heard of one. This particular establishment also had another sandwich listed called a pony, which she explained was the same thing, but somewhat smaller. Naturally, I went with the horseshoe, since I believe on any first tasting of an item you should go whole-hog, and not tiptoe in through a dainty downsized offering.

    Glad I tried it, though I probably wouldn't ever order a second time. Especially downstate, when you're easily 200 miles from a top-flight cardiac unit.

    1. h
      Harry V. RE: springer May 22, 2002 01:08 PM

      Actually a horseshoe need not contain ham, any animal flesh will do, from hamburger to shrimp. The elements of a horseshoe are as follows:

      On the bottom, one slice of a kind of toasted bread often called "ranch" or "Texas" toast;

      upon which is placed cooked animal flesh of some sort;

      then mounded with a generous helping of french fries, medium-cut, which are allowed to strew over the entire plate;

      and finally ladled with cheese sauce, which in some establishments is undoubtedly made with Velveeta or Cheez-Whiz, but which is often confected in a more honorable fashion. A distinguishing note in the cheese sauce is a tangy-ness often derived from Worcestershire sauce, and many chefs use beer as well. The cheese sauce is generally held to be the distinctive feature of the dish.

      Horseshoes are as ubiquitous in Springfield as hamburgers elsewhere, and are served in the same range of establishments, from roadside dives to "inns" that take their food somewhat seriously. The more pretentious places, which try to do "classy" horseshoes, are generally unworthy of note; but the simpler, greasier horseshoes of the dive-ier types of places do offer a certain houndish charm.

      The main interest of horseshoes to me was to reveal the delectable practice of putting fries right onto a cheesburger, which I often enjoy despite the frequent puzzlement of onlookers.

      Please do not cast aspersions against the horseshoe in the presence of Springfieldians; most of them retain at least a bit of genuine local pride in their unique hometown dish.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Harry V.
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        Stanley Stephan RE: Harry V. May 22, 2002 02:52 PM

        I thought putting french fries in a hamburger was a Greek thing. The first time I ever had it was on a trip to Greece. They don't use cheese sauce though...lots of mayonaise. It's kind of addictive. I did this for a few months after the trip.

        1. re: Stanley Stephan
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          Vital Information RE: Stanley Stephan May 22, 2002 02:59 PM

          I thought it was a pittsburgh thing. there, you can get fries on your sandwiches, in your salad, i suppose even with your foie gras if so desired.

          Also do not forget gene and judes stuffs the fries right into the sandwich.

          Rob

          1. re: Vital Information
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            David Hammond RE: Vital Information May 22, 2002 10:15 PM

            My Liverpudlian grandfather used to enjoy French fry sandwiches. My youngest daughter and I eat them sometimes -- they're good, especially with catsup.

          2. re: Stanley Stephan
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            Harry V. RE: Stanley Stephan May 22, 2002 03:14 PM

            Interesting - thanks. I can only say that my first visit to Springfield long preceded my first visit to Greece - which, in fact, has yet to occur.

          3. re: Harry V.
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            Schatz MacArthur RE: Harry V. May 22, 2002 05:09 PM

            As a transplanted Springfieldian, I can firmly assert that my mother would die before serving a horseshoe made with a cheese sauce that did not contain copious amounts of beer. Of course, the beer is Budweiser, and the sauce primarily consists of Velveeta (not that low class cheez whiz stuff! - there's a distinction downstate, trust me!). Oddly enough, it works, though. Though I haven't had a true horseshoe in ages,I remember them fondly, and they were as common at the dinner table as meatloaf, pork chops and lasagna.
            Don't even get me started on Colonial Specials!

            1. re: Schatz MacArthur
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              Seth Zurer RE: Schatz MacArthur May 22, 2002 05:12 PM

              Schatz, are you kidding? Get started...what's a colonial special?

              1. re: Seth Zurer
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                Schatz MacArthur RE: Seth Zurer May 22, 2002 05:36 PM

                I guess Springfield is/was a culinary twilight zone. I, like the waitress in Decatur someone else referenced, thought that everyone grew up eating horseshoes (ponyshoes for the kids) and yes, Colonial Specials, though I suspect my mom might have made that one up, since I've never even seen a chowhound reference to it.
                A colonial special (and I have no clue where it got its name, unless it was my mom's fertile imagination) is a post-holiday, left-over meal, that often found its way into our regular routine. Its leftover turkey, on top of toasted white bread, with crisp bacon on on it, with a very generous portion of bottled thousand island dressing poured over the whole thing. If its summertime, throw some tomatoes and lettuce into the mix. In winter, a slice of boiled potato was a boon. Common substitutes were ham and roast beef, but, as the purist I was at age 8, turkey was the really only acceptable Colonial Special.
                Ahhh, Springfield...

                1. re: Schatz MacArthur
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                  Harry V. RE: Schatz MacArthur May 22, 2002 06:11 PM

                  What a trusting child you were!

                  1. re: Schatz MacArthur
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                    G Wiv RE: Schatz MacArthur May 22, 2002 07:11 PM

                    Leftover holiday turkey...Thanksgiving......colonists... Colonial Special......I get it......~~smile~~
                    Sounds like you had a fun mom.

                    RE Horseshoe: I saw Burt Wolf's Springfield segment, the sandwich did not appeal to me then, or now, I am not a "douse with cheese" kind of guy. Now the 'Colonial Special' that sounds tasty, though what's not to like about tomato, bacon, turkey and thousand island dressing?

                    Enjoy,
                    Gary

                    1. re: Schatz MacArthur
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                      Paulette RE: Schatz MacArthur May 22, 2002 10:34 PM

                      The colonial special sounds very much like the Fields special sandwich. Served open face and layered, bread, turkey, bacon, gobs of iceberg lettuce tomato and thousand island dressing. An old standby that last I was there with little grandkid chowhoundettes for lunch by the tree in the Walnut Room it was still on the menu. I remember it when I was a kid and my mother ordered it many, many years ago.
                      Paulette

              2. m
                Madd RE: springer May 22, 2002 04:50 PM

                Being not only a Chowhound but a TVhound as well, I have seen the Horseshoe sandwich touted on Burt Wolf's show highlighting Springfield foods (curious spellings of Chili/Chilli) and on shows touting the culinary and gastronimic delights along stretches of Route 66. For a recipe, you can go to the Burt Wolf web site and look for the Springfield episode - there are pictures too.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Madd
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                  Harry V. RE: Madd May 22, 2002 06:10 PM

                  Glad you mentioned chili. Springfield is more or less a fine-dining desert, but it has its chow points of interest. Not least of which is its chili scene, which puts Chicago's to shame - there are several places in Springfield serving much better chili than any I've sampled in Chicago. Which of course isn't saying much - Chicago perhaps does chili worse than any other famous dish in the world.

                  Don't get excited, Texas chili fans - Springfield's stuff is midwestern all the way, including tomato and often beans (usually optional). But both are minor elements; beef and chili predominate (not like Chicago where the name "chili" is often given to kidney bean and stewed tomato soup). In addition, several Springfield chili hot spots feature an unusual hot sauce that is basically a heated, chile-infused oil-and-vinegar concoction - kind of like giardiniera without the solid bits, just the liquid. This stuff is kept in a separate pot next to the chilli and is ladled into the bowl per the customer's request.

                  Mind you, in some places this nameless concoction has been supposed to be the drippings left over from the browning of the beef, brightened with vinegar and deviled-up with chile. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

                2. v
                  Vital Information RE: springer May 22, 2002 05:58 PM

                  I should have posted something sooner today, but I was too busy being nasty.

                  This has been one cool thread, especially the detailed description from Harry V. *This* is just the kind of thing I used to get from the Sterns, only on chowhound its even better, with the interaction and all.

                  I know my daughters would love all the Lincoln stuff in Springfield, now I have an excuse to take them. Where exactly should I go?

                  And speaking of Decatur, has anyone else been to the lone remant of the Burger Chef (and Jeff) chain, now stripped of its actual franchise name? I actually forgot its current name. Very interesting just for throwback.

                  Rob

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Vital Information
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                    Harry V. RE: Vital Information May 22, 2002 06:30 PM

                    I think Springfield might be your kind of chow-town, VI. They have a local rival of Krispy Kreme called Mel-O-Creme, and there's also one of the oldest Maid-Rite stands still going.

                    Madd mentioned Burt Wolf's feature on Springfield and it's brief but pretty good; see the link below. Click on both Springfield links, one to get a list of restaurants and the other to get an overview of the town's cuisine. I agree that Joe Rogers is top-notch chili (for a long time this place was called Den's and I'm sure that's the name by which most locals still think of it), but I haven't been to the horseshoe place recommended by Wolf.

                    I still haven't had a Cozy Dog, the original corn dog. But I might take care of that this weekend.

                    Link: http://www.cooking.com/burtwolf/bw_to...

                    1. re: Vital Information
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                      zipperchest RE: Vital Information Dec 13, 2002 12:12 PM

                      Hey, the last Burger Chef is not in Decatur, its in Danville, IL. Sadly, I had to live there for 9 years. Danville is the armpit of Illinois. I have tried to block out most of that town and I can't recall the name, but its on Voorhees St. It reminded me of the indy burger joints that were wannabe MickyD's when I was a kid. Not bad.

                      Now I live in Springfield, and can attest to the horseshoe as the local delicacy. Since I had bypass surgery last year (age 38!) I've not had one, but if you want to go all out, go to Ritzy's little fryer and order the "Clydesdale." 4 pieces of texas toast, 4-1/4 lb patties, covered with mounds of french fries and cheese sauce. I hear that if you can finish it, its free, and your name goes up on the wall. Don't have an addy offhand, but they're in the phone book.

                      1. re: zipperchest
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                        Vital Information RE: zipperchest Dec 14, 2002 05:59 AM

                        Thanks for the correction of Danville for Decatur. You are right on, and as I commented before, the chow in Springfield's pretty good too.

                        VI

                    2. t
                      The other Jim RE: springer May 24, 2002 05:01 PM

                      I'm not a big Horseshoe fan, but I lived in Springfield for several years and have friends who love them, and ponies. The residents seem to swear by Wayne's Red Coach Inn, which claims to be part of the history of the dish, and Norb Andy's Tabarin.
                      Norb's is a colorful downtown bar/restaurant with a nautical theme, frequented by politicians. The original recipe supposedly called for rarebit sauce, but I think mose places use a processed cheese sauce from a jar. yum.

                      1. r
                        Ron Hatcher RE: springer Oct 29, 2002 08:43 PM

                        I am a native of Springfield, Ill., so I grew up thinking horseshoe sandwiches were like hamburgers -- they were everywhere and commonplace.

                        Then I went in the military (1966-1992) and learned they were unique to Central Illinois (not just Springfield). None of my Army buddies had ever heard of such a concoction. I live in Indiana now -- just 250 miles from Springfield, and you won't find a Horseshoe on a menu anywhere in town.

                        I think, sadly, this a Central Illinois thing only. I wish there were places in Indianapolis where you could get a Horseshoe, or a Pony!

                        1. j
                          John RE: springer Dec 16, 2002 01:52 PM

                          I now live in Montana but grew up in Springfield. I miss the horseshoe (And Mel-o-Cream donuts) dearly. My uncle Steve Tomko is said to have invented the Shoe in the 1930's at the Leland Hotel and then took his recipe with him to the Red Coach restaurant. Neither place exists today, but a horsehoe is right around any corner in town. Even the local Hardees chain sold their own inedible version for awhile.

                          One of the secrets of any good Horseshoe sauce is a bottle of Old English Cheese. Not Velveeta, please.

                          Whenever I travel home, the first stop is always D'Arcy's Pint. They have an unbelievable Buffalo Chicken Horseshoe. I'm a big eater, but I still can only reasonably handle the Pony sized Shoe. I have fiends that swear by the Shoe at Suzy Q's. Others like the mess at The Barrelhead (Their Shoe is interesting because you can order it with tator tots instead of fries).

                          I am making Horseshoes for my friends here in Montana this weekend. They are looking forward to them. But a routine Montana response to a description of the Horseshoe is disgust and disbelief. That, from people who put tomato juice and Clamato juice in their beer!

                          1. j
                            jsteve RE: springer May 25, 2003 01:53 PM

                            I now live near Sikeston, Missouri, home of Lamberts Cafe throwed rolls. I wish they had the horseshoe sandwich here. We have tried to educate some of our new friends in the Missouri bootheel to the delites of the horseshoe and ponyshoe. It is a sacred duty of Springfield expatriots to spread the word about horseshoes like missionarys educating the heathens as we travel the country. They are as great to the taste buds as they are bad for the heart, but who wants to live forever?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jsteve
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                              Ex-Rivertonian RE: jsteve Jul 7, 2003 10:52 PM

                              Looks like this message board hasn't been active for a while, but if anyone is looking for a horseshoe in Springfield, and it's after 11 p.m., head for one of the two Steak 'n' Shakes. You probably were anyway, as those are the only two non-Denny's restaurants open 24x7.

                              The Steak'n'Shake horseshoe can't compare to the ones at Darcy's Pint or Westwoods, but they're much better than average, are a bargain at $5.35, including tax, and are the best possible food to eat when it's 3 a.m. and you've been drinking.

                              If anyone knows of any horseshoes served in the Chicago area, preferably authentic and tasty ones, please post!

                            2. t
                              tshoward74 RE: springer Aug 14, 2007 01:42 PM

                              I can't even tell you how excited I was to find not only this post, but a mention of Horseshoes in "You Want Fries On That?" article (http://www.chow.com/stories/10678).
                              I grew up eating horseshoes/ponies in my hometown of Illiopolis (just 20 miles East of Springfield on I-72). And yes, they are two pieces of Texas toast (or one, for the Ponies) with a similar serving of some type of meat (burger, ham, shrimp, turkey, chicken strips, etc.) on top. Then the fries, and then the cheese sauce.
                              And yes, the sauce is what makes the dish from location to location. Only the cheapest, fastest places (usually short-order grills) use a shortcut sauce from a can. The best establishments make their own, and they almost always include beer.
                              Growing up, my Grandmother worked as a bartender at our local bowling alley, The Roese Bowl. They had a restaurant, and the owner, Fred Roese, made what is still to my mind the best Horseshoe sauce ever. My Aunt actually married Fred's son, and he and his siblings still make batches of the Roese Bowl's amazing cheese sauce. He also refuses to give me the secret recipe. I do know that beer was a key ingredient.
                              And like everyone else on here, when I was younger I had no ide that there were such things as "local delicacies," and just assumed they had horseshoes everywhere. Now that I live in Chicago, I wish that were true. I recommend that transplanted Springfieldians experiment with their own versions using a basic fondue recipe as a base. I use beer in place of the wine, and the results are delicious.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: tshoward74
                                DetectDave RE: tshoward74 Aug 16, 2007 03:10 AM

                                Ah, the tasty horsehoe. I had many a breaded pork tenderloin shoe at the Red Coach. Sadly, my last trip w/ that particular culinary delight in mind was thwarted when I found the Coach was closed and it appears to be for good. Darcy's is a good backup and I seem to remember an old hotel downtown that had pretty good ones in years back. Perhaps the Midway?

                              2. k
                                kimmelt RE: springer Aug 16, 2007 06:03 AM

                                I am new to this group, I hope you don't mind me jumping in. I lived in Lincoln, IL for many years and we had the horseshoe sandwich. I am sorry to say the restaurant has now closed. I always liked the shrimp one best. If I remember right the horseshoe was 2 pieces of Texas toast and the pony was only one. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: kimmelt
                                  DetectDave RE: kimmelt Aug 17, 2007 04:03 AM

                                  What was the name of that place on the corner...The Oasis or something like that...N/W side? I used to order them there too when roadtripping through.

                                  1. re: DetectDave
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                                    kimmelt RE: DetectDave Aug 19, 2007 10:11 AM

                                    The name is the Tropics. It has been 30 plus years since I have lived there, so I guess I am remembering better than I think. lol. I used to work at the corrugated box factory which was a block south on 55 of the restaurant so I ate many lunches there. The factory is still there, but I think a Bonanza or something like that has replaced the Tropics.

                                2. g
                                  gap316 RE: springer Mar 31, 2010 11:07 PM

                                  http://www.6degreesbucktown.com/
                                  Try a Horseshoe or Ponyshoe here in Chicago in Bucktown. I've never been there but know some Spfd. people who say it is good.

                                  1. Son of a Chef RE: springer Jun 27, 2010 11:17 AM

                                    Finally made it to Springfield, finally tried a famous Horseshoe, and after a 45-minute wait on a Saturday, ate one at Darcy's Pint.

                                    I went with a standard ground beef, sauteed onions, bits of real bacon -- I think it was called The Deluxe. Amazing amazing comfort-food taste. That cheese sauce and those crinkly crispy fries are magic. Wife asked the waitress what was most popular Shoe, and the answer was the Buffalo Chicken, to which my wife frowned. The waitress had been thru this before, said 'Even if you're not a Buffalo Chicken fan, you're going to love this, plus the sauce is served on the side.' Wife afterwards said the waitress was right!

                                    A couple of things -- Darcy's is an Irish Pub, yet just about every table we walked by was covered with plates of Shoes, not Irish fare. ... Also, I made it thru about 3-quarters of a Pony Shoe, which is the smaller version. Wife barely made it thru half of her Pony. Our two 8-year-olds shared a Pony and couldn't even get that far. These servings are HUGE, even the Ponies. Also, and I hate to say this but it really struck us, seemed like 9 out of every 10 people chowing down on the Shoes were ... how do I say this ... really FAT. ... Methinks this dish can really do a number on you.

                                    Ate a Shoe, now I can check it off the list and never do it again. But it was dee-lish!

                                    -----
                                    Darcy's Pint
                                    661 W Stanford Ave, Springfield, IL 62704

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