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Idaho's Food Scene

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Who invented fry sauce?

The fries at Grumpy’s always come up hot and fast. It’s what goes on them that counts.

There’s always the standard yellow and red squeeze bottles. But at this thirty-year-old burger-n-beer joint in Ketchum, they suggest a third, pink option. Just don’t call it fry sauce.

“It’s secret sauce! They call it ‘fry sauce’ at Arctic Circles in Utah,” barked owner Pete Prekeges. A photo behind the Grumpy’s bar shows a wide-eyed Moe from the Three Stooges, his nose buried in a massive book titled “Grumpy’s Secret Sauce.”

Most Americans dip their French fries in ketchup. But like a Briton takes her chips with a splash of vinegar and a Belgian eats pommes frites with mayonnaise, fry sauce is king in Idaho. Widely available throughout Utah, Idaho and remote outposts of the Intermountain West, the tangy pink goop elicits strange looks from outsiders and strong feelings from enthusiasts.

“It’s not the ingredients that are secret; it’s the ratios.”
-Pete Prekeges

“It’s kind of like a cult,” said Gary Roberts, president and CEO of Arctic Circle, the franchise credited for spreading the ubiquitous dip. “I probably get three people a week who lived in Utah or Idaho, moved away and miss fry sauce. I’ve sent fry sauce to probably every state, and I’ve sent some to France and England and Germany.”

What has become a 150,000-gallon-per-year staple for Arctic Circle began with Preston, Idaho-native Don Carlos Edwards. Edwards ran a traveling food cart and followed carnivals around the West serving up hot dogs, French fries and chicken. He eventually set up shop in Utah as Don Carlos Bar-B-Q and later as Arctic Circle, which has served fry sauce since 1948. Few argue with Edwards as the originator, but that doesn’t stop others from laying their claims.

At Grumpy’s, Prekeges’ fry sauce recipe is secret, and he won’t trust a new employee with the recipe until she has been on the job for at least three months. Nevertheless, a good starting point is two parts mayonnaise to one part ketchup. Variations include adding a splash of buttermilk to thin it out, honey to sweeten or a little pickle juice to boost the tang. For more daring epicureans, barbecue sauce or a couple shakes of hot sauce can spice things up.

“It’s not the ingredients that are secret; it’s the ratios,” Prekeges said. “And there’s something about food service mayo. It’s thicker and better tasting. You can’t make this at home.”

-Debbie Hummel
Photograph Five B Studios



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