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Fry Sauce


What the Heck is Fry Sauce?!?!


Being from Utah, I have grown up with fry sauce as a regular part of my life. However, since moving to Michigan, I have been ridiculed for asking for it at restaurants. Apparently, no one outside of Utah has heard of it. So for those of you that don't have a clue, I have prepared this article to help explain the magical wonder that is fry sauce. It is an article from the Ogden Standard Examiner (a Utah newspaper.)--The statements in parenthesis are my personal additions.

Utah's Fry Sauce Phenomenon

By Michael Burkett
September 17, 1996
It is Utah's tastiest institution. It's as beloved to this state's natives as lobster is to Mainers, as Cajun spices are to Naw'leaners, as Mickey Mouse-shaped flapjacks are to Disney Worldians. But it is so unique to this area and it's people that virtually all visiting outsiders can be counted upon to utter the old, familiar tourist-diner's battle cry:"Fry sauce? What the heck is fry sauce?!?!"...At which point the locally-born-and-bred food server will eye her customer with an expression that seems to say,"Ha ha ha ha ha. You dolt. What corner of Outer Slobovia are you from, anyway?" That's how deeply fry sauce has seeped into the collective Utah consiousness. All over North America, of course, you can slather your french fries with ketchup. In various regions, you can drown them in gravy, melted processed cheese or vinegar. But "fry sauce?" What's going on here? How did a mere condiment, of all foodstuff's, manage to insinuate itself into the very lifestyle of one entire United State while remaining completely unknown to the rest or the world? And what in blazesis "fry sauce," anyway? It's just Thousand Island salad dressing, right? (NOT!)

The Fry Sauce Champion

When you have hardball questions like these, there's only one place to go: the very top of the food chain. Or, more specifically, to the very top of the Arctic Circle fast-food chain--where fry sauce was invented over 45 years ago, and where you can actually hear Gary J. Roberts, the corperation's affable president and CEO, actually exclaim,"I've got fry sauce in my veins!" He laughs when he says it. But it would not be at all surprising to find out that it's true. Like the condiment that has brought both of them glory, Arctic Circle and Gary Roberts are products of Utah. The 44-year-old Roberts was born upstate in the farming communexpiration date of about three weeks. We use it up, and our local manufacturer makes more - fresh."

Another Secret Sauce

Clearly, it is time to toss out one of those aforementioned hardball questions: What's the big deal about fry sauce? Come on. Isn't it just Thousand Island salad dressing served in a little cup?"No, it is not," laughs Roberts, who has been asked this question before."It's got secret ingredients. And I'm not gonna tell you what they are." O.K. then. on a scale of 1 to 10, with Thousand Island being a 10, how close is fry sauce?"It's a 1. There's a real big difference. They both have the ketchup-mayonnaise base, but Thousand Island has pickles and relish and a lot of spices that aren't in our fry sauce. We don't have any relish, so it's just smooth and creamy." (Things that make you go) Hmmm. Food scientists around the globe might like to debate that"real big difference."

Fans of the Stuff

But one fact that can not be dismissed is that, whatever the difference may or may not be, Utahns are is first stand-alone restaurant, at 9th South and Main in Salt Lake, was first called Don Carlos' Bar-Be-Q. In 1950, it became the world's first Arctic Circle."The way I understand it, Don Carlos wanted to be different," says Roberts."McDonald's was starting out about the same time, plus there were a growing number of local independents. All of them were selling hamburgers, and he wanted something that would make his burgers unique. Back then, hamburgers came with pickles, ketchup, lettuce and onion and that was it. So he started experimenting. He decided to put ketchup and mayonnaise on it. He got the taste he was looking for, but he thought, 'Gee, this is awful hard. You gotta put the ketchup on, then the mayonnaise. If we combined them, we could make one sauce out of it!'"What Don Carlos ended up with, says his professional heir, was a substance he called"pink sauce," to which he added garlic and onion and mustard and"all kinds of spices." But Utah's fast-food history was not forever altered until - in one of those inexplicable, serendipitous happenstances that often pass for miracles - Don Carlos picked up a french fryand dipped it into the pink sauce! After taste-testing this never-before-tried combination, Don Carlos uttered five words that have yet to go down in history nex to"Eureka, I have found it!" "Watson, come here, I need you," or"That's one small step for man, one giant step for mankind." According to Roberts, what Don Carlos said was, and we quote:"This is pretty good stuff!" That's not to say Don Carlos would settle for"pretty good." He though some folks might like a little more bite to their fry sauce, so he poured some pickle juice into a second batch to give it a"vinegary flavor." He started mass-producing the stuff, bottling it by the gallon, selling it on the street and to al of his Arctic Circle franchises.

Imitation and Flattery

Flash forward to the present. Fry sauce is offered in nearly every eatery within Utah's borders. McDonald's and Burger King were incapable of ignoring the phenomenon; they now produce their own versions. You can even find various brand of bottled"fry sauce" on grocery store shelves."But," says Roberts with a grin, "it isn't the same. Everyone is trying to duplicate our fry sauce, and they haven't even come close. We haven't changed our recipe for 45 years. Heck, we get letters from all over - Florida, New York, even Korea - from former Utahn's who want us to send them cases of our fry sauce. And we do!" One problem with his imitators' fry sauce, he says, is that"their product has to sit there for three months, six months, who knows? They have to add so many preservatives that it really changes the color, the flavor and the texture. Ours has an expiration date of about three weeks. We use it up, and our local manufacturer makes more - fresh."

Another Secret Sauce

Clearly, it is time to toss out one of those aforementioned hardball questions: What's the big deal about fry sauce? Come on. Isn't it just Thousand Island salad dressing served in a little cup?"No, it is not," laughs Roberts, who has been asked this question before."It's got secret ingredients. And I'm not gonna tell you what they are." O.K. then. on a scale of 1 to 10, with Thousand Island being a 10, how close is fry sauce?"It's a 1. There's a real big difference. They both have the ketchup-mayonnaise base, but Thousand Island has pickles and relish and a lot of spices that aren't in our fry sauce. We don't have any relish, so it's just smooth and creamy." (Things that make you go) Hmmm. Food scientists around the globe might like to debate that"real big difference."

Fans of the Stuff

But one fact that can not be dismissed is that, whatever the difference may or may not be, Utahns are nuts about fry sauce. Just get a load of these endorsements from randomly queried costumers at an Ogden Arctic Circle:
"I love fry sauce," gushed Mary Welling of Ogden."I've tried others, but they're usually real light in color, and they don't taste as good."
"I'll take fry sauce over ketchup any day,"
chimed her husband, Lavere.
"Ewwwwww, Ketchup?!" opined 7-year-old Amanda Bierce of North Ogden."Blecch!"
"Fry sauce? What's that?" asked Martin Wyman, who turned out to be visiting from Ohio.
And finally, this unsolicited observation from an esteemed collegue, who recently moved here from Florida:
"I can't eat anything that looks like it came out of a wound."
However unattractively the point is made, you couldn't separate Utahns from their fry sauce with a crow bar. But...why?

Now, the World!

Now that it has conquered Utah, Roberts doesn't have any trouble at all imagining fry sauce becoming nationally beloved."It's already starting to catch on at our franchised in Oregon." McDonald's is now offering fry sauce there, too, so other companies may look at it as a catch for them in New York of Florida or wherever. Chili's restaurants, a national chain, offers a spicy fry sauce with their onion rings."So it's definately catching on - which isn't something I really like to see, because now everbody's got something similar to what made us unique. But at least we started it, we know it's the original, they know it's the original. And, ours is still the best. See? I told you. I've got fry sauce in my veins!"

For Those Who Want (or Need) Fry Sauce

If you are a transplanted Utahn going through fry sauce withdrawal (or a curious outsider), the real and original McCoy can be obtained by writing to:
Arctic Circle
411 West 7200 South, Suite 200
Midvale, Utah 84047

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