A few weeks back, Nick sent out an email blast looking for intel on something called a Horseshoe Sandwich. A few minutes of internet research later, and I was fully apprised of the Springfield, IL specialty. For those of you who haven't skipped off to conduct your own searches, a horseshoe consists of slices of toasted white bread topped with various proteins, a healthy ladle of welsh-rarebit style cheese sauce, and handfuls of french fries. Apparently, the dish was invented in 1928 by two hotel chefs, with a U-shaped slab of ham representing a horseshoe, the fries nails, and its heated metal serving dish an anvil. Years later, a descendant of one of those chefs realized his familial penchant for culinary symbolism, moved to the big city, and opened Moto. (I may have made up that last part.)
Though prolific downstate, it seems the only real place to find a horseshoe in Chicago is at Springfield ex-pat owned 6 Degrees, a nondescript bar on a sleepy stretch of Damen. Though the menu pays lip service to all the barroom menu favorites, you're here for two things: a Horseshoe ($12.00), which comes with two protein choices, or a Ponyshoe ($8.00), which comes with one. From here it gets complicated: there are 10 protein options to choose from. Luckily for you, Nick and I did the heavy lifting and tried four of them, spread out over two horseshoes.
The Buffalo Chicken is a popular choice, and the one I was most excited about. Unfortunately, the vinegary buffalo sauce gets a little intense after a while and the cheese sauce creates a less than ideal environment for the breaded tenders. Guess I'll go back to enjoying my buffalo chicken wrapped.
I took it as a good sign that I had my choice of doneness for the Hamburger. That's about all I can say for the under-salted patty, though. Doused with cheese sauce, the chewy meat bore too close a resemblance to the Hamburger Helper of my college days for my liking.
The menu boasts Bari Italian Beef, which we all know now is a must order. Unsurprisingly, the Italian spiced nuance is lost in this preparation. Instead, you're left with a pretty solid open-faced Philly Cheesesteak with fries, if such a dish existed.
But best of the bunch was the the thick-cut Ham, the original, and at least at 6 Degrees, most successful horseshoe iteration. It doesn't get much better than ham and cheese, and here the good quality salty slabs are balanced nicely with the deluge of fondue and fries. Maybe it was just delirium setting in, but we thought the perfect way to round out the dish would be a poached egg or two on top. I'll be sweet talking my way into that order next time, for sure.
A few final notes on the horseshoe: First, the fries are way better than they need to be. Shoestring thin and generously sprinkled with a pixie dusting of salt, they're more than a little reminiscent of what you get at the Golden Arches. And second, while I usually skip Tabasco, it's essential here: the sweetness is a perfect complement to the cheese sauce and adds much needed acidity to the rich dish. Douse early and douse often.
I like a big pile of cheesy meat fries as much as the next person, but the horseshoe is so much more than that. Deftly ordered with the proper protein, it's a surprisingly balanced beer soaker of a dinner. I knew I was going to leave 6 Degrees full- I just didn't expect to genuinely enjoy the process.