I have a bit of a backlog of fry sauce experiences (which makes me concerned for my dietary choices) so I decided to focus on two for this post because they were diametrically opposed. Both were restaurants I had eaten at pre-pandemic and both are locally owned (not a chain).
I had high hopes for Station 22 because I have had great experiences eating there. It has a fantastic energy and unique touches like a wall of specialty sodas. It has a wide array of sauces and was nominated for the fry sauce in particular, but it’s a long, narrow restaurant with little room for spacing out tables so we did the takeout option, which was not an option when I last ate at the restaurant.
Somehow on a Thursday night they were slammed. Understaffed, they didn’t even have time to attend to the folks who walked in, hoping to be seated (or pick up their takeout!). When one guy said he had been waiting for five minutes without anyone acknowledging him, I walked back to the server station to get an update. I felt bad pressuring them when they were so obviously distressed, but I had already paid for my food online an hour prior and we were starved.
We did eventually get sustenance (in about double the promised wait time) with unfortunate substitutions for the pie we ordered and missing biscuits, but the whole thing was a Curbside Cautionary Tale. Even the best dining experience, though, couldn’t have saved that fry sauce.
It was sauce. We put it on our fries. It wasn’t fry sauce. It was more of a honey mustard dressing mixed with a dab of ketchup. I had the fleeting thought that maybe they had made another unfortunate substitution, but I had double checked at the restaurant that this was what they were marketing as fry sauce.
It made me realize that the essence of fry sauce is the mayo. This is a mayo-based sauce and the best sauces highlight that, celebrate that. Station 22’s sauce ran away from its mayo roots and in doing so lost what make it distinctive.
Compare this to Taco Amigo’s extremely light pink sauce. It’s somehow more bland than TopGolf’s fry sauce but it’s also 100% better. This is because it leans in to the mayo. It knows it’s a mayo sauce. I had always thought it was a matter of getting the tang just right (and that can be a factor in fry sauce efficacy) but embracing the bland can be just as powerful. Utah, home of the fry sauce, is much the same way. Don’t discount the bland. The bland is the whole point. Love your pasty white condiments. There is beauty all around–even in the mayonnaise and the white picket fences.
But Taco Amigo isn’t actually the second restaurant in this Tale of Two Fry Sauces (it was a side epiphany in the avalanche of deep friend potato experiences I’ve been having of late). The second restaurant was Seven Brothers in Riverwoods.
I had eaten there once a few years ago and hadn’t fallen in love. I had ordered a burger built for a much larger mouth than I had. I hadn’t ordered fries. I hadn’t gotten fry sauce. So when I had an hour to kill in North Provo at lunchtime I decided to try again. I had lunch in the very socially distant dining area (it was a pretty slow day) at this locally owned burger joint. This time I knew to not let my order exceed my jaw capacity and I had a lovely conversation with my server about their saucing.
They make it fresh every day and go through 3 five-gallon buckets of it on weekdays (four or more on weekend days). It was just mustard, mayo, and ketchup with a chive garnish (unknown ratios). I was not a fan of their distinctive fries, which seemed like the love child of potato chips and potato wedges (forbidden love that is forbidden for a reason) but the sauce…hands down the best of the restaurant sauces. It was perfection. The whole plate was very pretty (the potato love child was nothing if not pretty) and the sauce had just the right amount of tang in just the right amount of bland.
What I am realizing with these local fry sauce adventures is that if a restaurant serves you pre-packaged fry sauce you should brace yourself for mediocrity (I’m looking at you: Chick-Fil-A, Culver’s, Arctic Circle etc). Fry sauce was meant to be mixed fresh. It is the ultimate “mix to taste” item and when it is standardized, it ceases to be fry sauce.