I did not grow up in the United States, and certainly not in the Midwest. I might not have gotten as much culture shock as the next foreigner, thanks to years of prep work by my parents. However, I still learn most of the intricate details in this American life from my college days in Champaign. In fact, Malaysian friends I met online brought me to my first meal in Champaign, which is at none other than…. Fat Sandwich (Check out their video on Youtube)! Quick primer, they are famous for piling all kinds of stuff they can fried onto a sandwich. I also used to work next to a local diner, Mary Ann’s, which was known for never closing and serving the horseshoe sandwich. The Horseshoe sandwich? It is a sandwich loaded with melted cheese and fries, on top of a burger patty on a French toast. I might be going all over the place here, but the commonality is that Midwesterners love to pile large amount of fries on their sandwiches. Why use spices when you can use potatoes? Not having lived or visited elsewhere in America, I thought all these are normal, average, absurd American way of living. That way of thinking changed as I moved to Delaware, and have not seen a Horseshoe sandwich ever since. Gene and Jude’s was my first taste back in the Midwest, but that’s still not a horseshoe sandwich. I learnt over the years that the horseshoe sandwich was invented in Spingfield, IL, and the most famous of them all is an Irish establishment known as D’arcy’s Pint.
Some background of Springfield – the capital of Illinois, also one of the most common and boring town name in the United States. It is only about an hour from Champaign, yet, in the 3 years I lived there, did not meet anyone who bothered to visit this place. The biggest events that happened here were Springfield being chosen as the capital, and that Abraham Lincoln lived and worked here as a lawyer for most of his life. (There is a misconception that the Simpsons live here. No, they live in the one in Massachusetts.) Well, as important as those events were, I think that being the place that invented the horseshoe sandwich is probably the most impactful. This amazing idea should have been around, but it took the smart people of Springfield to start this tradition. Kudos, and because of that, Springfield is now on my food radar.
It is easy to tell D’arcy’s Pint serves the best horseshoe sandwich in all of Springfield. I arrive just before it opens on a beautiful Sunday morning, and there is a long line waiting outside. We’re talking about a tiny town, where I hadn’t seen more than 5 people at a time in the last 24hours. I’m glad the line is long, but I’m worry about the lengthy wait. The front desk diligently sends people left and right. Instead of waiting for instructions from the front desk, I should have just help myself at the bar – that’s where I end up anyways. As soon as I sit and peak at the menu, and I place my order of the Italian Sausage horseshoe sandwich. It is only after I glance at the menu the second time that the signature shoes are listed right below the custom options. Next time, get the Irish Cheesesteak, because that has sirloin with mushroom, onion, pepper and cheese. Sounds yummy.
D’arcy’s is famous for their cheese sauce, which is made with Guinness beer. That is the only thing I knew about D’arcy’s, but that’s not enough to prepare me for what comes next. My plate of food is put in front of me, and I’m immediately taken aback. To the uninitiated, the sandwich looks like a pile of cheese fries. The white creamy cheese sauce overflows on the large amount of crinkle fries. Both are pretty good, the fries and the cheese. But you might ask, where is the sandwich? Well, the toast and the sausage patty is located beneath the surface, just under the pile of fries. This is definitely not a one, or even two handed sandwich. I guess that’s why fork and knife are provided – the only way to forward is to slice up the open face sandwich. The meat is slightly spiced, and the toast is a bit dry and tough. In all frankness, all I could taste is still the cheese, so the other components do not bother me.
I could barely finish the horseshoe sandwich. The portion is large, even by my standards, and is basically made with pure carbs; it did not help that I just had breakfast. Overall, the horseshoe sandwich is fantastic. This is very different from the horseshoe sandwiches I had back in Champaign. D’arcy’s is bold, and generous with the amount of cheese sauce. Come to think of it, the horseshoe is more like a bowl of queso; the “sandwich” part is an afterthought. D’arcy’s knows that the cheese and fries are what make this dish so popular, and put the best foot forward by loading the horseshoe with both ingredients. Man, I miss eating fries in my sandwiches.
Visited: July 2nd, 2017 at 12pm.
Address: 661 W Stanford Ave, Springfield, IL