There are a lot of good sandwiches that don’t involve barbecue, of course, and many of the good ones are especially linked to a specific locality. Think of New Orleans and the the Muffuletta, Buffalo and the Beef on Weck, Louisville and the Hot Brown, or Salt Lake City and the Crownburger. Some, sandwiches like the Phillie Cheese steak, take their name from a particular city but spread nationally. The best cheese steak I’ve ever had was in Loveland, Colorado at the excellent Curbed Hunger food truck.
Gastro Obscura has an article on the Horseshoe Sandwich, a special in Springfield, Illinois. The horseshoe originally invoked an open face sandwich, with two slices of white bread forming the base. On top was a layer of ham cut off the bone so as to create a horseshoe shape. This was covered generously with a cheese sauce — probably Welsh rarebit — and decorated with potato wedges (the nails in the horseshoe) around the sides. That didn’t last, of course. The article says that the horseshoe “has been transformed from a satisfying, stately midday meal into an excessive, gut-busting pile of meat and toppings.” The ham can be replaced with hamburger(s), buffalo chicken, pastrami, walleye or, God help us, veggie burgers. And the “nails” are now a pile of crinkle cut french fries. There’s a knock-off signature sandwich in Bettendorf, Iowa, called the Magic Mountain. It’s made with steamed ground beef topped with what one reviewer claims was Cheese Whiz. The terrorists have won.
“Gut busting pile” is pretty harsh. Small-minded people could with equal fairness apply the phrase “excessive, gut busting pile” to just about every salad bar in America, if you think about it. (Look at the calorie charts at McDonald’s.) Those with less heroic appetites can get a Ponyshoe, a small monument to moderation. Sort of. And there’s a lot to be said for a relatively complex cheese sauce on a pub sandwich.
The most highly regarded horseshoe sandwich can the found at D’Arcy’s Pint in Springfield. If you find yourself in Springfield, you should go to Darcy’s Pint and have a horseshoe, or at least a Ponyshoe. You owe it to yourself, and to America.