I was excited to go home to my lovely midwestern hometown of Springfield, IL for the holidays, despite the fact that it was freaking cold there and we just barely dodged the dreaded Christmas storm of 2010. Of course I had to visit a couple of my favorite eateries there, both to let Julia try them and for nostalgia’s sake.
Though Springfield is a small city in downstate Illinois, its state capital status means it has a decent downtown that supports a variety of restaurants and eateries. I am probably very biased toward my somewhat small (some would say quaint) hometown, but I really think it has a lot going for it.
The one place that I knew that we had to visit was Darcy’s Pint where the legendary horseshoe sandwich could be had. As a result of it being featured on Al Roker’s show and its overall awesome bar food, Darcy’s is probably the most popular restaurant in town. Darcy’s started out as a small fairly anonymous bar but slowly gained popularity for putting a spin on horseshoe sandwiches using ingredients that elevated them beyond the cheez wiz, beer, and white bread beginnings. As I mentioned in this post, a horseshoe sandwich is 2 pieces of toast with 2 burger patties covered in fries and a creamy cheese sauce. Certainly Darcy’s horseshoes are still rather simple bar food, but their use of a variety different meats and cheese sauce combinations that made them something more.
Darcy’s really took off, which enabled it to move to the much larger place where it is now housed. This was my first time going to the new Darcy’s Pint as it is now housed in a much larger and more nicely furnished store that is down the street from its original location. Popularity has apparently not waned at all as on a normal weeknight, we still had an hour wait. While I waited I really got chance to soak in the new the much larger new space and its more elaborate Irish pub style furnishing.
Once we were seated, I took a cursory glance at the rest of the menu and focused on the horseshoe sandwich . I chose the deluxe ponyshoe, which included bacon, grilled onions, and spiced ground beef. It was amazing with thick creamy cheese sauce and a perfectly charred burger patty and the bacon and grilled onions were great. I will say that I am out of practice eating heavy midwestern bar food, as I was barely able to finish mine. Julia went with Darcy’s Supreme ponyshoe ,which was spicy cheese sauce, bacon, scallions and a side of hot sauce. Again I think the flavor combination was great, but the richness was all but overwhelming by the end.
Originally the other place we had meant to go was local route 66 attraction Cozy Dog Drive-In, which has been serving corn dogs since they claim to have invited them shortly after World War II. Unfortunately they were closed for the holidays, so we went with another Route 66 attraction, Maid Rite Drive-in, which has had a simple food stand on the spot since 1921. Like Cozy Dog, Maid Rite claims another first, as it states that it was the first fast food restaurant to offer drive-thru service.
Maid-Rite is an old style food stand that specializes in loose meat sandwiches, which are essentially sloppy joes with a lack the sauciness. A basic maid-rite sandwich includes the rich seasoned loose meat and chopped onions inside a basic hamburger buns. We both chose the two sandwich meal and I was more than happy to scarf down my two sandwiches, which were rich and salty just like I remembered. Julia was obviously less than impressed both by the sandwiches and their somewhat elevated prices.
Of course, there are a lot of places that I really love to eat in Springfield, but these two represent two of my favorites. Darcy’s and Maid Rite are two places that always remind me of my hometown and that I will always go back to when I visit.