The horseshoe sandwich is the official sandwich of Illinois, but many Illinois residents north of I-80 have never heard of it.

If you are one of those that have never heard of it, I assure you it's really Illinois' official sandwich. At least according to Google it is, and Google hasn't lied to me yet.

Joe Dredge
Joe Dredge

I had not encountered, or heard, of a horseshoe sandwich until I was about 19 or 20 years old and went to visit a friend at Western Illinois University in Macomb.

My buddy was telling me about this "great horseshoe sandwich" that you can only get in central Illinois. He said it was one of the best things he ever ate.

Now, it should be noted that my friend's favorite restaurant was Old Country Buffet, and I had never seen him eat anything more adventurous than a box of Velveeta mac and cheese. I should have been weary about his food recommendations, but I was young and dumb and went for it.

I don't even know where we got the sandwich but it was a non-descript, central Illinois, restaurant/bar kind of place. You know what I'm talking about. We ordered our horseshoe sandwich and Cokes (wink, wink) and I waited to be transported to taste nirvana.

Unfortunately, I was not transported to any sort of nirvana. Instead, what I received was a sloppy plate filled with toast, a burger, fries, and an absurd amount of cheese. The first two bites were fine, good even, but then once everything started to co-mingle, the plate in front of me transformed from a meal into a task.

I'm not here to yuck anyone's yum but there's probably a reason why this sandwich hasn't migrated north of I-80 in Illinois.

Horseshoe Sandwich Origins

So where did this lunchtime version of biscuits and gravy come from? According to the Visit Springfield website:

attachment-BRILLIANT! (68)

It is apparently called a "horseshoe" sandwich because the shape of the cut of ham used resembled a horseshoe.

I don't know what that means. I've never seen any cut of meat resemble a horseshoe, but maybe that was a thing 100 years ago.

The French fries are supposed to represent the nails of the shoe, and the hot platter it is served on represents the anvil used to shape horseshoes.

One of my favorite things I found out about the horseshoe sandwich while writing this post was the fact that Chef Schweska formally announced his secret recipe in the 1939 Christmas Edition of the State Journal Register.

SECRET recipe? What's the secret? How to make cheese sauce? We've been doing that for awhile now. That's like releasing your secret recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Where Can I Find The Best Horseshoe Sandwich

Now this is the part of the blog where I'm supposed to show you where the "best" horseshoe sandwich in Illinois is located. But here's the deal, I don't know where that is, and I'm not going to just slap up whatever restaurant Yelp tells me is the best.

If you really want one, just drive south until it looks like you've left civilization. Stop at a gas station near a town and ask the guy at the counter where you can find a great horseshoe sandwich. That's far more reliable than anything Yelp will give you.

Just remember that a "good" one looks like this.

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