Plaque commemorating the Horseshoe sandwich has been unveiled in downtown Springfield

Plaque commemorating the Horseshoe sandwich has been unveiled in downtown Springfield

A central Illinois staple and beloved sandwich is forever remembered as where Texas toast first met buttery cheese sauce.

Visit Springfield, a tourism division of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, has unveiled a plaque to commemorate the birth of the Horseshoe sandwich in the historic Leland Building at the corner of Sixth Street and Capitol Avenue in Springfield. The location is where the Springfield Horseshoe Sandwich was created.

Springfield marketing manager Amy Beadle said the idea for the plate came from tourists who asked if the Leland Hotel still served horseshoes.

“I got to thinking; knowing that this is the Leland Building and no, it’s not a hotel and no, you can’t eat there,” Beadle said. “What can we do to promote a different experience for people who are interested in horseshoes – that’s what drove us to the idea that we needed a marker.”

In partnership with the Illinois Commerce Commission, the agency that currently occupies the historic building, the plaque on the east side of the building indicates the date the first horseshoe was created and the history behind the cultural dish.

“The building has so much history and it’s so important to bring people downtown,” said Jonathan Feipel, executive director of the Illinois Commerce Commission. “It’s great to be able to support local restaurants.”

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What is a horseshoe?

The classic Horseshoe, an open-faced sandwich unique to central Illinois, is a holy pairing of Texas toast layered with seasoned meat, fries and cheese sauce.

Almost every restaurant has a variation of the sandwich: from beef patties to pulled pork and fried chicken; almost anything can go in the sandwich as long as it’s covered in carbs and sauce.

The reason the sauce or meat isn’t defined is because different restaurants, such as Scoop Du Jour at 95 Plummer Blvd. in Chatham, have put their own spin on the shoe by creating a variation of chocolate sauce ice cream.

What is the history of Horseshoe?

The Signature Horseshoe Sandwich was created in 1928 at the Old Leland Hotel by Joe Schweska. The idea came with the help of Elizabeth, Schweska’s wife, after she came home saying she needed a new lunch item for the Leland Hotel restaurant, according to Visit Springfield.

The name “pocoava” was derived from the shape of the cut of ham used in the original sandwich. French fries represent the nails of the shoe and the sizzling plate represents the hot anvil.

“It’s really special to see this tribute to my grandparents creating the recipe,” said Jan Militello, Schweska’s granddaughter, surrounded by the cook’s cousins ​​and other family. “It’s amazing to see how he’s become such a Springfield icon.”

How does Springfield celebrate the Horseshoe in other ways?

The gold and onyx plaque joins Springfield’s other recent foray into the world of culinary tourism, the Horseshoe Trail.

The trail, which launched in January of this year, is a scavenger hunt for toasted cheese sandwiches available to anyone with a phone; using an app Springfieldians can download a “travel pass,” just like a punch card.

Since the launch of the tourism event, approximately 1,300 permits have been distributed to people from 20 states.

“We’ve had close to 1,000 check-ins at participating area restaurants,” Beadle said.

The permit runs until December 31, 2025, so tourists and locals alike have limited time to complete the circuit of more than two dozen participating restaurants.

Claire Grant writes about business, growth and development and other news topics for the State Journal-Register. She can be reached at [email protected]; and on X (formerly known as Twitter): @Claire_Granted