The following history of
the Horseshoe Sandwich are personal remembrances of Tom McGee of Springfield, IL.
Tom says, "What knowledge I have of the Horseshoe Sandwich, I have from
my deceased brother-in-law, Joseph E. Schweska Jr., and to a
lesser degree from personally knowing Chef Joe Schweska. My
brother-in-law often helped his father after school or when
special events or parties were being held at the Leland Hotel. I
knew the dad, Chef Joe Schweska, before I ever knew my
How did the "Horseshoe Sandwich
The actual idea
for the Horseshoe Sandwich came from Elizabeth Schweska, Chef
Joe Schweska's wife. Chef Schweska came home one day and
remarked to his wife that he needed a new lunch item for the
Leland Hotel's restaurant's menu. She had seen a recipe using
a Welsh Rarebit Sauce and suggested the possibility of an
open-faced sandwich using this sauce. Joe Schweska liked the
idea and developed his own sauce and sandwich and named this
sandwich creation "The Horseshoe."
Horseshoe sandwich was originally made from ham cut from the
bone in the shape of a horseshoe. The first potato (the nails)
were wedges of potato (not the frozen French fires you see used
today). Also, if I remember correctly, the sauce was poured over the meat and bread
and the potato was on top instead of sauce being poured over the
whole works. Originally, it was a potato cut in eight wedges. I
did eat the horseshoe at the Leland while Joe was still there
but that was a long time ago.
was Chef and Chief of Staff at the Leland Hotel from the late
1920s until the beginning of World War II. During the war, he
left the Leland Hotel and moved his family to Decatur, Illinois
and worked in a defense facility cafeteria. After the war, he
returned to Springfield and became head chef at an upscale
Springfield restaurant known as "The Mill". It was located in
Springfield close to a Pillsbury mill and was owned by two men,
Louie and Herman Cohen. Around 1952, Chef Joe Schweska's wife
was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and the medical advice
was to change climate. At this point, Joe Schweska Sr. and most
of his family moved west - first to Arizona and ultimately to
California. He became chef at a country club in Temple City, CA.
and he and Elizabeth spent the remainder of their lives there.
FICTION: Most historians falsely give
credit to Steve Tomko, a then dishwasher at the Leland Hotel in Springfield,
Illinois, as the inventor along with the Leland Hotel's chef Joe Schweska.
FACT: Steve Tomko did work in the
kitchen at the Leland Hotel, but he started as a dishwasher and learned his
culinary skills from Chef Joe Schweska. At the time of the creation of the
Horseshoe Sandwich, Steve Tomko was only 17 years old and was a dishwasher,
not a chef. Steve Tomko had nothing to do with originating the sandwich. He only began to claim that he did after Chef Joe Schweska had died.
Steve Tomko worked at various
Springfield restaurants including NorbAndy's and Wayne's Red
Coach Inn. Every restaurant Steve Tomko worked, he served the
Horseshoe Sandwich. At one point, around 1986, a local food
writer did a feature on Wayne's Red Coach, and in the article
Steve Tomko boldly claimed that he had originated the Horseshoe
By this time Chef Joe Schweska was deceased, his widow
was seriously ill, and most of the Schweska family had left
Springfield. At one point my brother-in-law, Joseph E. Schweska
Jr., called his mother and told her of Steve Tomko's claims.
She was seriously ill an simply replied, "Oh, let it go". That
ended any resistance to claims being made by Steve Tomko.
family were simple, humble people. It was not their nature to
seek fame or the limelight. To Chef Joe Schweska, his sandwich
creation was no big deal, and he freely gave the recipe to
anyone who asked for it.
December 28, 2008
The following history of the Horseshoe Sandwich are personal remembrances of Verney Blackburn.
I worked at John’s Lounge in Springfield, IL. In the late
1967, Steve Tomko was one of the cooks. At that time I was 15 years old, and I started as a dish dryer, then
salad boy, and then busboy. I had talked with Steve, and he said that he had gotten the recipe from a man that taught
him how to cook.
At that time, people would line up out the doors and down to the
state garage. I made as many as 500 salads on Friday and
Saturday nights. Steve would make the horseshoe sauce in the morning. There is one
ingredient that you forgot that gave the sauce a little
zing and made the horseshoe sandwich so popular back then. Steve Tomko
would leave at 2:00 p.m., and that was when the other
ingredient was added by a cook named Sharlot. She would add
some A-1 sauce to taste. That is why that no horseshoe
sandwich to this day has the same great taste.
John's Lounge then was sold to Wayne who called it the Red Coach
Inn. John’s lounge had great food that made it a hit, but
the main attraction was Big John Somonik. The ladies would
pack in to see Big John, and on one very late nights, we would hold mass at the bar.
I could go on and on about my great years that I worked there.
October 19, 2009