There are few things less healthy to eat, and few things more satisfying, than fries with fry sauce. It's kind of a Utah thing – it was written up during the Olympics, it showed up on pins and posters, but still a locally acquired taste.
It's not just ketchup mixed with mayonnaise; there's a bit more kick to it than that. When I was growing up in Utah, there were several local burger eateries, and Mom and I went to them all in turn. We often went to Dee's, which was… just okay. My uncle Charlie had done some photography for their local ads for them, and used to tell stories about how they had to engineer their flagship burger to look appetizing on camera. This affected our perception of Dee's, and it wasn't our first choice, but it was our cheapest choice other than McDonald's. For some reason, it was the favorite of one of our neighbors, who we often took along for jaunts (maybe she liked the price? ). So that's where we went, most often to the one in Sugar House. I can't remember what's there now, since the area has undergone a major gentrifying makeover.
But the better burger, and also a pretty awesome frozen lime concoction, was found at the Arctic Circle (always pronounced "Artic" Circle). They had this stuff to put on the fries that was really, really good, and they put it on the burgers too. The burgers themselves compared to a Big Mac, really, but the sauce elevated them to "better than McDonalds" status.
There are a still a few local burger places in the Salt Lake area – one of them famous for incredible milkshakes, the Iceberg Drive-in. It was located pretty far from home, as we reckoned it, but not far at all by my adult standards. The location I remember best was just down the street from the hospital where Mom landed in June -and several family members decamped for a break and a creamy, frosted treat there. They had really good onion rings, and of course the shakes were incredible and super-thick. Just click on the thumbnail and have a good look at the shakes -yes, the ice cream is towering above the rim of the cup – and the thick hand-cut onion rings. And that bun, with an honestly grilled burger peeking modestly out, promises a big mouthful of mmmphfalicious juicy beef. They have their own "homemade fry sauce" as well.
But the best of the locals, and the place Mom and I went as a special treat, was the Hires drive-in downtown. Even when I was getting over a really nasty stomach bug, I wanted Hires. More recently, when Timmy and I were starting to clear the decks in Mom's house and get things organized so they could be given away to family or donated, we wanted a big nasty Hires and a frosty mug one day instead of lighter fare.
Let there be no mistake: Hires' burgers are awesome, their root beer (served in a frosty mug!) is awesome. Everything on the menu is fresh, the buns are baked to their own recipe, the meat is top shelf. But the fries and onion rings postively sing when dipped in fry sauce. This is a burger to make you go "Mmmmmmm," whether you're sitting inside getting table service, or out in your car listening to your radio while waiting for the carhop to bring you a tray of frosty mugs and big, juicy burgers wrapped in paper marked D + O (for "double with onions" ) in black marker. And the fries, of course. With extra fry sauce dripping on the upholstery…that's the best. Even better if you're driving a rental car, as you'll never get the smell out and you'll find yourself getting unaccountable cravings when the weather warms up.
I've been there a couple of times in the last year, and the fry sauce there was better, to my mind, than what I remembered of Arctic, sorry, Artic Circle's. It sticks to the fries (and your ribs and arteries) and is completely addictive. It's all comfort food, even if it does pack on the pounds if you don't ration your visits.
Now that I'm on a much more healthy food-and-fitness kick, fry sauce is pretty much out of the question. And besides which, it's all the way back in Utah, so I'm safe enough, or would be if it weren't for teh evul Internets.
Er… two pack? Hmm.