The Horseshoe Sandwich

Back in August, I mentioned that Ryan and I were embarking on a “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” style road trip to Illinois. The original intention of the visit was family-oriented, but after seeing an episode of triple D where Guy stops in Springfield, IL to sample the infamous horseshoe sandwich, the goal of the trip (at least for Ryan) started to head in another direction. Ryan was watching and drooling, and once I told him that he was witnessing an Illinois staple being made, he couldn’t wait to experience the legendary sandwich in person. Now, for those of you who have no idea what a horseshoe sandwich is (which I would imagine is most of you), let me paraphrase the Wikipedia entry for you:

The horseshoe sandwich, which originated in Springfield, Illinois, is an open-faced sandwich beginning with 2 thick-slices of toasted, buttered bread, over which some sort of meat, most often hamburger patties or ham, is laid. The meat is then topped with french fries and smothered with a “secret” cheese sauce. There is a large variation in horseshoes! Horseshoes can also be made using other meats like deep fried pork tenderloin, grilled or fried chicken breast, and fried fish filets. There is also a “breakfast” horseshoe that uses eggs and hash browns, and you can even order a “Pony Shoe” (only one slice of bread) if you aren’t up for conquering a full horseshoe.

Once we got to Illinois, we had the daunting task of picking to which place Ryan would lose his Horseshoe virginity. We weren’t sure where we were going to end up getting this Horseshoe from, but we knew we would be sampling at least one over our nearly week-long trip. Luckily we were around family that could give us some good input; we started talking about Horseshoes, and of course, they all had suggestions about where we should go. Chain restaurants in the area offer them, as do small local diners, but my aunt who lives in Springfield swore by this place called D’arcy’s and insisted that if we were going to get a Horseshoe (Ryan’s first!), it would have to be from there. So of course, that is where we went! It was amazing. I mean, Ah-MAY-zing. Ryan had never been so excited about food before in his life! We actually took a cell phone picture of his, The Supreme Signature Shoe from D’arcy’s:

(Seasoned Ground Beef, Spicy Cheese Sauce, Diced Tomatoes, Bacon, Scallions & a side of Hot Sauce)

He and my dad each ordered one of those, and neither of them could conquer the Horseshoe. The true gigantic nature of the sandwich cannot be expressed in that picture. Ryan fell in love that day… not with me… with a sandwich. For the rest of the trip he kept asking if we could find another horseshoe and if there was any way to “swing back through Springfield” on our way home. He even started seriously talking about wanting to move to Illinois, and I think it was all because he was caught up in the love affair with an unusual sandwich. Sadly, however, it did not come to be that Ryan would get another Horseshoe. Until now.

My aunt, who thought it was hysterical that we were so excited for these sandwiches and knew how much Ryan loved his, came across a link to a Horseshoe Sandwich fan page which listed a “secret” recipe. Since she knows how much I like to cook, and assumed Ryan would be jonesing for one hardcore by now, she passed on the recipe so I could bring a little taste of what she lovingly calls “a heart attack on a plate” to Georgia!

First, I’m going to give you the recipe she gave me. It’s for the “secret” sauce, and then they tell you how to use it to make a basic horseshoe. I’ll let you in on how we made ours after that!

Joe Schweska’s Horseshoe Sauce – Leland Hotel, Springfield, IL
Circa 1950-1970
1 stick real butter
1/2 to 1 cup flour
2-1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp dry mustard
1-1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 cup chopped Old English Cheese (or sharp cheddar)
1/2 pt room temperature beer

Melt butter – careful not to burn
Add flour & salt and stir to a paste. Brown just a little.
Slowly whisk in milk.
Stir in pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, & cheese.
Continually stir to a smooth cream sauce.
Just before serving, stir in beer.

Sauce freezes well but do not add beer until it has been thawed and reheated.

To make Horseshoe sandwich:
Butter toasted white bread and lay side by side on plate.
Top with 2 hamburger patties or other meat.
Cover open-faced sandwiches with cooked french fries (“nails”).
Cover entire dish with Horseshoe Sauce.

We followed the sauce instructions exactly as written. I wish the sauce had been a bit cheesier in the end, but it did have a great flavor. I would probably be sure to find a very sharp cheese for future endeavors. Otherwise, it had a really great bit of heat and depth of flavors from the spices.When it came to assembling our sandwiches, we did things a little differently. First of all, we were mimicking them to be like the ones we ate at D’arcy’s so Ryan’s was The Supreme again and mine was the Chili Cheese Dog so ours were a bit more work and ingredients than the basic model this recipe lists. Second, these should really be served on Texas Toast or the like, but we just used a couple slices of regular 12 grain bread we always have on-hand. So after we toasted our bread, we got to work.

Ryan covered his with taco meat, fries, cheese sauce, scallions, and tomatoes.

I topped mine with all-beef hot dog, cut in half, covered with Amy's black bean chili, fries, cheese sauce, and scallions!

They were both a big hit! It is obviously not a diet-friendly recipe, but it is well-worth the splurge! They came together rather easily, and we each got exactly what we wanted. And, the best part? When Ryan had that euphoric feeling of falling in love – this time it was for me because I made him his beloved sandwich! It didn’t quite live up to D’arcy’s, which I would highly recommend visiting should you ever have the opportunity, but it was darn good!

What kind of local treats do you have in your area?


March 30, 2010. recipes.


  1. MERgetsMRSed replied:

    This is my hometown!! We’re serving horseshoes at the rehearsal dinner for my wedding!

    Darcy’s is the best by far!

  2. Joanne replied:

    What a feast! No wonder you guys like it – it’s loaded.

  3. Bruce replied:

    OK. Instant heart attack. But itlooksand sounds delicious. Sarasota Fl. boast a restaurant called Munchies 420. The menu cantains something called fat sandwiches. Which along with the Blazing hot buffulo wing challange were featured on the food network on Man Vs. Food. Check the Munchies420 Website for pictures and a menu. Unreal, great and also, an instant heart attack.

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