The question seemed to startle the man behind the bar at the Brew-haus. His answer:
"You're not from around here, are you?"The same question to a woman on a hotel elevator. Different answer.
"It's a heart attack waiting to happen."
What is a horseshoe?
It came up during a conversation with the couple at the next table. The subject was Springfield dining.
"Whatever you do," said the gentleman, a Springfield transplant with roots in Hyde Park and Evanston, "do not have a horseshoe. It is an abomination.
"But half a dozen restaurants in town consider it a local legend."
One of them is Norb Andy's Tabarin. Norb Andy's is a downtown neighborhood-friendly bar with food, housed in a building that, for a time, also was home to a funeral parlor.
Its menu lists eight variations of its "World Famous Horseshoes." The variation recommended and brought by server Ashley Eubanks was this:
Two pieces of toast, each topped with a substantial hamburger patty, all covered with an ample amount of pleasantly sharp but unheavy cheese sauce, and all of that under a heavy blanket of french fries. $6.95.
In other words, a dish that--in the tradition of the distantly related chicken-fried steak--contains every food group known to cut years off your life.
"Some people," noted Eubanks, "cover it with ketchup."
The true origination of the horseshoe is, like the true perpetrator of the Great Chicago Fire, a matter of debate. Eubanks, a native, related the conventional wisdom.
"The story goes, they were doing some repair work at the old Leland Hotel [which stood near her workplace], and the chef wanted to do something special for the workers."
Which was this. Why the name?
"I guess the presentation was arranged like a horseshoe."
Now, to put this in a way that will not offend: Ashley Eubanks, 26, does not have the overall look of, well, someone who packs away horseshoes.
"Not anymore," she said. "But I've had my share."
Eubanks' tale, this being a saloon, naturally inspired comment from the room.
"Two or three places claim it," said one patron.
"People fight over who has the best horseshoe," said another.
"Apparently," resumed the first, "the secret's in the sauce. I don't know . . . "
A waitress at another place had her version of the creation.
"There was a little restaurant. It's long-gone . . . "
Hers, she said, uses Texas toast, the thick stuff. The order of the layers is slightly different. Ham, turkey, chicken or other protein can sub for the burgers.
"But it's always toast, always meat, always fries and always cheese sauce," she said. "Everywhere in town, they try to change it. Most of 'em are all good."
For an abomination. Which I finished. And now crave.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times