Saturday, June 13, 2009

Culinary Claims to Fame

Springfield, Ill (mile 1240)

June 10

Springfield is famous for two regional specialties, and we managed to sample both on the same day (a feat we do not recommend). When you read about them, you may wonder, as we did, about the cholesterol levels and artery health of the natives of the Land of Lincoln.

Lunch at the Cozy Pup Drive-In

Springfield was home to the inventor of the corn dog on a stick, Ed Waldmire. He had a food service job in the Army during WWII, and began his experiments with hot dogs on a stick while in the service. He perfected his technique when he got out, and officially invented the corn dog as we know it in 1946.

He called his invention the "Crusty Cur." Fortunately, his wife interceded in the naming department, convincing him to change the name of his product to the "Cozy Dog." Without her rebranding intervention, the world might well be without corn dogs today.

Ed opened the Cozy Dog Drive-In along old Route 66 in 1950, and even though he died in 1993, his legacy lives on there today. We both proclaim our Cozy Dogs the best corn dogs we have ever eaten. They are also the first corn dogs we have ever eaten. They may be the last we ever eat. But, we are glad we had the opportunity to bite into local history.

The Horse Shoe

Every restaurant in Springfield, it seems, has Horse Shoes on the menu. We knew we had to have one, and our very knowledgeable tour guide at the Dana Thomas House told us where to get the best ones in town. So, off we went to D'arcy's Pint for dinner. A plaque on the wall and a newspaper article told us that Al Roker came there to eat a horse shoe for a "Roker on the Road" segment, so we knew we were in the right place.

A horse shoe is a sort of open face sandwich with fries and cheese sauce on top. There are many variations;
we decided to try one of D'arcy's "signature" dishes—the chili burger horseshoe (at $7.75 one of the pricier options). We decided to just order one and share it, which turned out to be a brilliant decision. Here is what our server set down in front of us—a massive serving platter heaping with food, in layers, from the plate up:

  • A couple slices of Texas toast, smashed to ¼" thickness by the weight of the items on top of them.

  • A massive burger, more like a small meatloaf, weighing in at an estimated ¾ pound.

  • A ladle full of chili with beans, smothering the burger and sloshing over the side of the platter when it was set down.

  • Three cups of French fries piled like a big hay stack on top of the chili.

  • About ¾ cup of white cheddar cheese sauce ladled liberally over the fries.

This was supposed to serve one person!

We shared it and couldn't finish it.

Our server could not adequately answer the question, "Why is it called a horse shoe?" I hypothesized that it was because if you try to eat it all you feel like you have a horse shoe in you stomach. Although I believe this is a legitimate explanation, our internet research turned up another origin of the name, full of symbolism:

  • The bread is the shoe.

  • The meat is the hoof.

  • The fries are the nails.

There is no mention here of the sauce, but our server did refer to the cheese sauce as "the glue that holds it all together." Hmmm—glue, horses . . . I guess it fits.

1 comment:

  1. I heard about horseshoes when I was in Springfield last year, but didn't have courage to try one; Bravo!