I had a meeting with a potential dealer in Springfield, IL recently and afterward I decided to grab a bite to eat at a place I'd heard about for quite sometime, but had never been to before - D'Arcy's Pint on the west side of the Capitol City of Illinois. (See map) D'Arcy's is a large Irish bar/restaurant that is famous for one of the culinary treats in Springfield - the horseshoe sandwich. More on the horseshoe later.
D'Arcy's Pint began in 1998 when co-owners Glenn Merriman and Hallie Pierceall opened in a shopping center on MacArthur Blvd. - the main North-South road through Springfield. It quickly became one of the best places in the area to get good food and a cold beer in a fun and inviting environment. It became so popular that just seven years after they opened they moved to a larger location in a building that features two bars and two dining areas along with an outdoor beer garden.
D'Arcy's Pint features a full menu, but they claim to have the best horseshoe sandwich in Springfield. The horseshoe sandwich is indigenous to Springfield as the history of the food dates back to the late 1920's. Legend has it that a Springfield man, Steve Tomko, came up with the idea of the horseshoe. But historians around Springfield refute his claims and say that a chef by the name of Joe Schweska came up with the idea - or actually, he got the basic idea from his wife.
Schweska was the chef at the old Leland Hotel in downtown Springfield. He was talking to his wife about coming up with something new to put on the lunch menu at his restaurant in the hotel. She suggested doing something that used a Welsh Rarebit sauce on top. Schweska cut a piece of ham into the shape of a horseshoe, placed it on a couple pieces of bread, then topped it with potatoes and the cheese, mustard, Worcestershire sauce that is the basis for a Welsh Rarebit sauce. (Picture courtesy of Roadfood.com)
Schweska eventually moved away and Tomko began to take credit for creating the horseshoe sandwich. But older people remember Tomko as a dishwasher in the kitchen where Schweska was the cook. Nonetheless, wherever Tomko went to work at a restaurant in Springfield, he served a horseshoe sandwich. They were so popular that a number of restaurants around Springfield came up with their own horseshoe sandwich. D'Arcy's Pint is no exception.
But I didn't think I'd care much for a horseshoe sandwich. It is sort of like a "slinger" in St. Louis and a "Magic Mountain" in the Quad Cities - a bunch of stuff thrown together on a plate and served with a cheese sauce. Some places use a white cheese sauce on their horseshoe sandwiches, others will use a cheddar cheese sauce. It just didn't appeal to me at all. No, I wanted something much different than a horseshoe sandwich that day.
It was about 1:30 when I got into D'Arcy's Pint that afternoon and I was surprised to find the place packed with people. As I said, there are two dining areas in the place and both the west and east dining areas were full. There was a handful of people waiting to get a table. The hostess told me there was a spot at the bar in the east dining room if I wanted to eat there. I had no problem with that and I took the last chair available at the very ornate bar.
The menu at D'Arcy's Pint features a number of appetizers, soups and salads for starters. The bulk of the menu is typical bar food that you'd find at an Irish-themed restaurant - pot roast sandwich, cheese steak sandwich, fish and chips, and reubens. They also featured a number of burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches. D'Arcy's Pint also served pizzas and after 4 p.m. they had a dinner menu that featured Irish fare such as Shepherd's Pie, corned beef and cabbage, and a traditional Irish "boxty" - a potato pancake that is stuffed with things like corned beef and cabbage and grilled in a pan. They also have steaks, seafood and chicken items on the dinner menu, as well.
I was torn between the reuben and the Irish-American B.L.T. Darcy's had on the menu. When my bartender asked me if I was ready to order, I told her that I was torn between the reuben and the B.L.T. The guy next to me - obviously a regular - turned and said, "Oh, buddy. Get the reuben. It's the best around."
An unsolicited recommendation is always welcome. I went with the reuben. The bartender asked me if I wanted to upgrade from chips to french fries for $1.50. Sure, what the hell. I also ordered up a Smithwick's to go along with the lunch.
When my sandwich showed up, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lightly grilled, swirled marble rye reuben on my plate. The french fries were nothing special and probably not worth the $1.50 up charge. The sandwich was good sized and full of tender corned beef. As I usually do, I asked for a side of 1000 Island dressing to go along with the sandwich. Some reubens don't have enough 1000 Island dressing on them and I like to dip the reuben into more dressing. I was surprised to find that I was charged - I believe - 50 cents for a 1 oz. container of 1000 Island dressing. I found it somewhat amusing and perplexing at the same time that they charged me for the small amount of dressing they gave me.
But that minor experience didn't take away from the taste of the sandwich. The guy sitting next to me didn't steer me wrong - the reuben at D'Arcy's Pint was as good as he said it was. The corned beef was lean and flavorful, there was a generous amount of sauerkraut and cheese on top, the bread was just fabulous - I'm hoping that it was homemade or - at the very least - made by a local baker for D'Arcy's Pint. The bread was thick and held together even with all the moist fixings inside.
Before I left, I had to use the restroom. I took a look inside the west side dining room and saw that it was equally as large as the one on the east side. However, the bar was much smaller with a short three-sided bar with high backed chairs. I found out later that this particular bar was originally in one of Springfield's original ice cream soda shoppes - the Sugar Bowl - that was in business from 1927 to 1959. I found it rather interesting and sort of neat that they were using an old time ice cream shoppes counter as a bar.
My reuben sandwich, the beer and a tip for the bartender came to just a bit over $15 bucks. Sort of expensive for lunch, but it was a large sandwich with a lot of meat. I'm still sort of amused that they charged me for extra dressing, and the fries weren't worth the $1.50 up charge. But, overall, it was not that big of a deal. I don't know if I'll land that dealer in Springfield, but at least I know of a good restaurant/bar to grab a quick sandwich while I'm in town. D'Arcy's Pint did not disappoint.