D’Arcy’s Pint, Springfield, Ill.
In the capital of the Land of Lincoln sits an open-faced sandwich known as the Horseshoe, which can only be found in Springfield. OK, so maybe you can find imitators in other places in Illinois (and even Iowa, where Ross’ Restaurant’s Magic Mountain is kind of a copy of the Horseshoe), but the only place you can get the original is where I-55 meets I-72 in Illinois.
What is a horseshoe? Basically, it’s an open-faced sandwich made with Texas toast, topped with your choice of meat, French fries and cheese sauce. Some places will allow you to add a couple of toppings here and there, but those four things are always part of your basic horseshoe.
With that being the case, as you might have guessed, this isn’t the healthiest thing in the world to consume. But boy, is it tasty, and it’s hard to imagine a place doing it much better than D’Arcy’s Pint. It is a little weird to think that an Irish restaurant would make the city’s best horseshoe, but being in Springfield, it’s darn hard to be a successful restaurant if you don’t make this specialty.
What made D’Arcy’s the place to get a horseshoe is its famous cheese sauce. Traditionally, the horseshoe was made with a standard yellow cheese sauce, but D’Arcy’s decided to change things up with a white cheddar-based sauce, and the result is heavenly. It’s pretty common knowledge that I love the taste of white cheddar, which tends to complement the things surrounding it, rather than overwhelming it the way the yellow/orange cheddar can. The white cheddar sauce at D’Arcy’s is perfect with the fries and meat, making for a gooey and delicious combination.
The other thing that makes D’Arcy’s shoes stand out is the plethora of meat choices available to you. The horseshoe’s standard meat is either ham (my choice and the original) or hamburger (the most popular version), but you can also go with corned beef, turkey, bacon, chicken, pastrami, Italian sausage, walleye, roast beef, tenderloin and buffalo chicken. I’ve heard some really good things about combining the buffalo chicken with blue cheese sauce, but I wanted to go for the original.
It’s hard to say anything was wrong with that decision. Ham works so well with just about any kind of cheese, and when you throw in fries as well, it’s something that goes to a level of deliciousness that only great dishes can reach. Plus, the way D’Arcy’s does it, you don’t initially get to the ham. It starts out looking like a plate of cheese fries, and only later do you see the ham, and there’s a lot of ham in there.
However, horseshoes are far from the only thing that makes D’Arcy’s a place worth visiting. Most places serve breaded and fried mushrooms, which are quite delicious but tend to be the same button mushrooms at every establishment. At D’Arcy’s, however, they use portabella mushrooms, which make for a completely different flavor, especially when paired with the restaurant’s cocktail sauce. I’m not the biggest fan of cocktail sauce on my mushrooms (I prefer ranch), but it’s definitely worth trying a few of the mushrooms in the sauce, as it does add a nice bite that changes the flavor. But I’ve got to say, I like it better without. I would recommend saving a shroom or two to dip in the cheese sauce, as that works very well.
Whatever your choice is, any horseshoe gives a true taste of the Illinois state capital. It’s not something that should be on anyone’s menu every day, but as an occasional indulgence, it’s hard to do better than D’Arcy’s.
Time to go: Lunch or dinner. It’s an Irish pub, so I’d assume you will also be able to get some good beer if you choose. I would not recommend visiting on St. Patrick’s Day. Having lived with a guy from Springfield in college, I know it’s a big deal there, and an Irish pub is just asking for a long, long wait.
Wait during my visit: Not substantial, but it can get long. D’Arcy’s is very popular and lines have been known to go out the door.
Location: D’Arcy’s Pint can be found at 661 W. Stanford Avenue in Springfield, Ill.
Parking: Not a problem. D’Arcy’s is a good distance away from the capitol building and the rest of the state government and has a nice-sized lot.
Cost: It’s pretty affordable. You can get a horseshoe for under $10, and that will be enough to fill you. You could push $20 if you decide to add an appetizer.
Seating arrangement: Tables and bar seating is available.
Website: D’Arcy’s Pint
Signature item: Horseshoe sandwich, battered portabella mushrooms