The St. Nicholas Hotel building seems to have been a cursed place for restaurants over the last 10 years or so. We're hoping that Twisted Fork, a new downtown restaurant, will break that curse.

Twisted Fork identifies itself as "Comfort food with a twist! Not a greasy spoon ... a Twisted Fork." And that's a pretty good summary of the place.

click to enlarge Twisted  Fork
Twisted Fork recently opened in the St. Nicholas Hotel building and bills itself as "comfort food with a twist."

We visited very early in the lunch hour and were the first guests to be seated. My dining companions were a bit skeptical of my choice and needed some convincing to join me, but the offer to pay for their lunch won them over. Turns out they liked it so much I was tempted to ask them to pay me back.

Twisted Fork's space is open and airy. The mosaic floor, vaulted ceilings, dark colors and repurposed tables give off some good vibes. You can really feel the splendor of Springfield's past. It's classic, but certainly not stuffy and formal. It's a good balance, and Twisted Fork has taken maximum advantage of the beautiful space. We preferred the seating against the windows (always nice to be seen), but there are plenty of other options, including a separate private room presumably available for events.

Our fellow diners were mostly tourists (we saw many enjoying an adult beverage), and by the time we left, Twisted Fork had a pretty good crowd.

click to enlarge Twisted  Fork
The Railsplitter horseshoe with breaded pork tenderloin.
There is a separate lunch menu that's pared down from the larger dinner menu. It's pretty basic – smashburgers, chicken sandwiches, a pork tenderloin sandwich, some salads and a few other items. Fun items included the S'mac Yo Mama mac and cheese (available with barbecued pulled pork and croutons), The Smoking Garden salad (mixed greens, apples, red onion, celery, cranberries, cashews and smoked gouda, served with house-made honey mustard dressing), and the chicken tenders (Mister Sanders-style with 12 herbs and spices, choice of dipping sauces). All sandwiches come with fries, and for a $3 upcharge, premium sides like cheese curds or beer-battered mushrooms can be substituted.

We decided to each start with the Holy Mole Chile, which was advertised as a mole-based chili with no beans. It was an excellent start to the meal. It came with sides of cheese, onions and crackers. The taste was complex and rich with a small bit of tang on the backend. None of us found the mole to be particularly noticeable, but it was a fairly unique and delicious dish.

For our entrees, we decided on the OG smashburger, the Meat Your Maker smashburger and the breaded pork tenderloin.

click to enlarge Twisted  Fork
S'cool pizza, "Just like the lunch lady used to make."
Both burgers featured a beautifully caramelized, crispy-edged patty topped with melted, oozing cheese. The Meat Your Maker featured Swiss cheese, whiskey balsamic onions and a house-made Maker's Mark bourbon mushroom sauce. The OG came topped with American cheese, whiskey balsamic onions, shredded lettuce and a house-made burger sauce. Flavorwise, these were both reported as umami bombs. The beef, which appeared to be simply seasoned with salt and pepper, shined with its rich, beefy taste enhanced by the Maillard reaction, which created those deeply caramelized crusty edges. The cheese added a classic, slightly salty creaminess that paired perfectly with the meat. Both guests reported that their respective add-ons tied together well and enhanced, rather than dominated, the dish.

Although neither of my guests complained, I did note that while the OG was supposed to come on a sesame bun and the Meat Your Maker on a kaiser, both came on a whole-grain bun. I would have preferred to see a simple brioche or potato bun.

Other than the whole-grain bun, the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich was also a winner. It was definitely house-made. A golden brown, crispy pork cutlet extended beyond the edges of the lightly toasted bun, showcasing its generous size. Fresh, vibrant toppings like crisp lettuce, juicy tomato slices and dill pickles peeked out invitingly. The sandwich was neatly assembled and promised a satisfying bite. It excelled in texture. The breading on the pork was perfectly crispy, providing a delightful crunch that contrasted with the tender, juicy pork inside. The fresh lettuce and pickles added an additional layer of crunch, while the tomato offered a juicy, refreshing bite. Finally, the pork cutlet was seasoned just right, enhancing the natural flavors of the meat. The breading was flavorful and not overly greasy, allowing the taste of the pork to shine.

All of our meals came with a generous helping of fries, which were well-seasoned and crispy.

Service was good and friendly, although it did take some time for our meals to come out. But I chalk that up to the fact that we were the first diners of the day.

Twisted Fork is certainly a great addition to the Springfield dining scene. We will definitely be back.

Address: 400 E. Jefferson St., Springfield

(St. Nicholas Hotel building)

Phone: 217-503-4838


Kitchen hours: Tuesday thru Friday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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