Dipping french fries in ketchup is fine for some folks, but here in Utah we prefer fry sauce on our deep-fried spuds.
While local restaurants and burger joints are likely to make their versions of this pale pink condiment — a mixture of ketchup, mayonnaise and spices — there are also four Utah companies that bottle fry sauce so customers can enjoy it at home.
Hoping to find out which of these bottled brands is best, the Tribune decided it was time for a Fry Sauce Showdown.
Last week, we gathered 20 staff members — reporters, editors, photographers and page designers — for an informal blind taste test of the four bottled fry sauces made in Utah. Tasters rated each sauce on appearance as well as how it tasted alone and with french fries. Sauces were scored on a scale from 1 (disgusting) to 10 (excellent).
After much dipping — and some grimacing — tasters decided you just can’t beat the Arctic Circle’s Original Fry Sauce. This flavorful, well balanced sauce averaged a score of 7.
Hires Big H Fry Sauce was a close second with an average score of 6.5. Stephen’s Gourmet Fry Sauce earned a 5.5, while Some Dude’s Fry Sauce scored an average of 4.5.
It should be noted that Utah grocery stores also sell a fry sauce made by the Famous Dave’s barbecue restaurant chain. It wasn’t included in our taste test because any fry sauce made in Minnesota should be despised much like — insert cowboy twang here — salsa from New York City.
Here are the details about our fry sauce contenders and what our judges had to say.
First • Arctic Circle’s Original Fry Sauce
This is the sauce that started it all. In the early 1940s, Chef don Carlos Edwards created his signature “pink sauce” for the hamburgers at his restaurant. By chance, he dipped a French fry in it and the Utah fry sauce phenomenon was born. This was the only sauce in our taste test that required refrigeration before opening. We suspect that freshness played a part in its top scores.
Main ingredients • Tomato concentrate, soybean oil, whole eggs, distilled vinegar, high-fructose corn syrup and water.
Cost • $4.30 for a 16-ounce bottle.
Where to buy • Arctic Circle restaurants.
What the tasters said • This sauce had the “best balance,” as well as a “nice texture,”and the “most flavor” of all the competitors, tasters wrote. It also was the only one that “didn’t overpower the fry.” Two of the tasters gave this sauce a 10 — the highest score possible. One clever tester noted that french fries and this sauce “are the perfect pairing. Think Donnie and Marie, Brad and Angelina, Bert and Ernie.”
Second • Hires Big H Famous Hamburger & Fry Sauce
Salt Lake City’s Hires Drive-In, founded in 1959, is famous for its Big H hamburger and frosty mugs of root beer, served with a side order of hand-cut fries and this original fry sauce.
Main ingredients • Tomato concentrate, soybean oil, water, high-fructose corn syrup, vinegar and whole eggs.
Cost • $4.59 for a 16-ounce bottle*
Where to buy • Associated Food stores and online
What the tasters said • “This is the best, most savory sauce of the four,” wrote one taster. “It has an even taste with a good tanginess,” added another. The taster who ranked this a 10 liked the sauce because it has a “touch of sass” and “blends really nicely with the salty fries.” Not everyone was complimentary. A few tasters complained that it was “bland,” or had “too much mayo.” “Let’s put it this way,” wrote one editor, “it didn’t move me.”
Third • Stephen’s Gourmet Fry Sauce
This is Utah’s newest addition to the bottled fry sauce line-up, and its name may sound familiar because it’s made by the same folks who make Stephen’s Gourmet Hot Cocoa.
Main ingredients • Soybean oil, water, tomato concentrate, eggs, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup
Cost • $3.45 for a 16-ounce bottle*
Where to buy • WinCo, Smith’s Food and Drug and all Associated Food stores
What the tasters said • Several tasters praised this “slightly sweet” and “creamy” sauce for being “tangy” and “bringing out the flavor of fry.” It also had “a uniform consistency” that “looks fresh.” Others offered harsh criticism saying it was “nondescript,” “a bit to sweet” and had “too much mayo.”
Fourth • Some Dude’s Fry Sauce
Michael Thompson, a former Union Pacific Railroad employee, started this Utah fry sauce company in 1991 at the urging of his four children. More than 20 years later, it’s available in stores across the Intermountain West.
Main Ingredients • Soybean oil, tomatoes, water, vinegar, eggs, Sante Fe chiles and corn syrup.
Cost •$3.89 for a 17.5 ounce bottle*
Where to buy •Wal-Mart, Winco Foods, Albertsons, Target, Associated Foods stores and Smith’s
What the tasters said •Tasters were all over the map on this sauce, with several saying it had a “good sweetness” that complemented the salty fries. But others thought it tasted “bland” and had a “strong mayo flavor,” which made us think it might be better as a hamburger spread.
*Prices vary depending on the store.
Restaurant fry sauce
Now that we’ve told you about Utah’s best bottled fry sauces, it’s time for readers to share their favorite restaurant versions. Email picks to email@example.com, put “fry sauce picks” in the subject line.