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Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005 03:51 am

Yes, it's the same ol' D'Arcy's

New location, but it's still packed and the food's delicious

My friend Joyce, who now lives in Dallas, recently requested two food items during a visit to her hometown of Springfield: a Vose’s corn dog and a D’Arcy’s horseshoe, not necessarily in that order. Joyce isn’t the only one who knows that D’Arcy’s Pint has made a name for itself by serving some of the city’s best horseshoes (its version of this artery-clogging sandwich was featured in an episode of Roker on the Road, a Food Network program that stars Today Show personality Al Roker). And readers of Illinois Times have repeatedly picked D’Arcy’s as the best place in Springfield for horseshoes. Since 1998, it’s also been a popular place for such traditional Irish dishes as shepherd’s pie and Dublin pot roast. So it was cause for consternation when D’Arcy’s closed its doors at its Town and Country Shopping Center this year and moved to a new building just down the road. After the restaurant opened at the new location, I heard rumblings about long lines and crowded rooms — but, to me, that sounded a lot like the old place. So here are my criteria for comparing the new and the old: Does the horseshoe still melt in your mouth? Yes. Is the new D’Arcy’s crowded and noisy? Yes. Will you have to wait for a table? Yes. Is the wait worthwhile? Yes.
The outside of the building, featuring tan stonework, is definitely more attractive than the old D’Arcy’s, although it looks more like a chain restaurant than a neighborhood watering hole. The décor is homey yet elegant, with gold walls and dark-wood wainscoting, a stone fireplace, and massive antique oak bar, with a harp and other musical instruments adorning a wall. The old soul is there, just wrapped in a more upscale package. The new space features an inviting patio for warm-weather dining. When I visited D’Arcy’s recently with three friends, we waited approximately 20 minutes for a table after arriving at 7 p.m. on a weeknight. We started our meal with an order of Irish boxty, D’Arcy’s version of Ireland’s traditional potato cakes. The three flaky cakes, graced with a crunchy coating, were topped with bacon and scallions, then drizzled with homemade cheese sauce. They were a delicious and unusual start to the meal. Other options include an oyster combination platter, spinach-and-artichoke dip, chicken wings, and Irish nachos (made with waffle fries instead of chips). For her entrée, my friend Amy chose a grilled-chicken sandwich with just tomatoes and pickles. It was served exactly as she ordered it, proving that you can order a healthy meal there. I tried the evening’s special: red snapper stuffed with crabmeat. The light, flaky fish, adorned with a gently browned breadcrumb coating, was flavorful and filling. My friend Joyce indulged her craving with a Buffalo-chicken ponyshoe, a heavenly concoction of large, meaty chicken strips, bread, and fries, all covered in white sauce and served with red-hot sauce and blue cheese. (Take our advice: Mix the sauces together to drizzle over the sandwich.) Every bite was better than the one before it. We also tried the hamburger ’shoe, which was slightly overdone. The only disappointment was the french fries — both as a side dish and on the horseshoes — which were soggy and limp. I suspect that the fries were a casualty of a busy night; diners all around us were scarfing down horseshoes, and their fries looked better than ours. The menu also features such traditional sandwiches as corned beef and an Irish Reuben, as well as a muffaletta (an old New Orleans favorite: ham, salami, Provolone cheese, and homemade olive salad, served on French bread). D’Arcy’s also offers a nice selection of burgers and chicken sandwiches. Dinner options include corned beef and cabbage, steak, fish, seafood, and pizza. Irish specialties borrowed from the pubs of Ireland include the aforementioned shepherd’s pie and pot roast, as well as Galway Bay mussels. Most important, the menu still boasts 12 varieties of ’shoe, including ham, corned beef, turkey, bacon, Italian sausage, walleye, and the deluxe, featuring seasoned ground beef, onion, and bacon bits.
D’Arcy’s is located at 661 W. Stanford Ave.; 217-492-8800. Carryout is available.
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