Did Arctic Circle invent French fries sauce? Is fried sauce a Utah thing?

When my colleague’s article on French fries sauce was published a month ago, we thought about the question “Who invented French fries sauce?” was impenetrable, left to debate in the annals of Utah lore for millennia to come. But the cold case of Utah’s favorite room-temperature sauce heated up in the weeks that followed. In our hour of despair, a holder of lost memories opened the mystery wide. His name – Rick Edwards.

“You know what I tell everyone when they ask?” Rick asks me rhetorically on the phone, “I tell them anybody can mix ketchup and mayonnaise to make fried sauce, but nobody can make the real McCoy!” The real McCoy, in this case, is Arctic Circle’s frying sauce, the firstborn of all sauce’s children.

Marketing professionals, Argentine Nobel laureates and restaurant rivals have tried to systematically dismantle the fries sauce story over the years. Luckily for Deseret’s team of unaccredited historians, Rick has spent years piecing together the true story and has the good faith to back it up.

Ron Taylor holds Arctic Circle Fries and Fries Sauce at his home in Orem on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Taylor worked at an Arctic Circle in Provo in the 1950s and came up with the recipe for the Fries Sauce after experimenting with different ingredients.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Rick is the only biological grandson of Don Carlos Edwards and Minnie Edwards, the founders of the Arctic Circle Empire. He now runs an HVAC business in California, but his enthusiasm for talking about ductwork pales in comparison to his passionate talk about all things Arctic Circle.

He can tell you about the time a franchise in Grand Junction, Colorado sold 5,700 burgers in one day. He can guide you through the evolutions of the franchise’s adjacent cowboy mascot, Acey Bird. He can cite obscure menu items that were canceled 20 years ago.

With a strong Facebook community of 2,500 friends, his “Don Carlos Arctic Circle” account has allowed him to collect memorabilia from across the West and share his findings with an interested audience. The band is more than just an excuse to assuage nostalgia, however. For Rick, keeping the history of the Arctic Circle alive is a personal matter.

When he was 8 years old, Rick received a watch with his father’s Acey Bird mascot, a few months before his parents divorced. Until he was 25, his father remained absent from his life and the watch was the only reminder of a time when his family was together.

“I tell them anyone can mix ketchup and mayonnaise to make fried sauce, but no one can make the real McCoy!”

Rick and his mother fell on hard times, moving more than 20 times until Rick left home at 19. He wore the watch between rentals and still has it 50 years later. It was when Rick reconnected with his father in his twenties, and they bonded over family histories, that Rick was motivated to become Edwards’ unofficial historian.

Some fill their basements with vintage oars or moldy training equipment. Rick, on the other hand, has built a museum in the basement of the Arctic Circle “Arct-ifacts”, going to impressive lengths to acquire pieces of the company’s history.

He found Acey Bird’s original manufacturer and brought the costume designer out of retirement for one…last…job. Rick tracked down the original blueprints for his favorite 7-foot-tall rotating neon sign and commissioned a replica that now adorns his wall.

Via the back roads and wooded lanes of the internet, Rick stumbled across our original French fry sauce story and realized he was perfectly positioned as a niche archivist to help tell the story well. From his catalog of evidence and the connections he helped us make, we were able to recreate the timeline of French fry sauce, tracing its glorious rise from conception to today.

It all started in 1941 when Don Carlos Edwards opened his first restaurant, Don Carlos Bar Be Q, just off State Street in the heart of Salt Lake City. It was an exciting transition from a carnival food cart to a physical establishment, serving burgers, pork, veal, turkey and chicken sandwiches. He built his following using a super secret white mayo sauce, a sauce still found on the Arctic Circle Ranch Burger 80 years later.

Edwards opened the first Arctic Circle site in 1952, which was attached to the Bar Be Q joint. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to open additional franchises.

Ellis Peay and company opened a location in Provo in 1955. Family friend Ron Taylor worked the night shift with Ellis’ son, Max. That winter, the boys were eager to do something on a particularly slow night. They had always been allowed to experiment while they worked, so they began to synthesize sauce combinations from liquids they found in the kitchen. When the dust settled, the boys had a sauce in front of them that was two parts mayonnaise and one part ketchup.

The way a low-key Taylor tells it, after tasting their concoction for the first time, they were like, “boy, this is pretty good.” Over time, they started sharing this ketchup mayo combo with friends and customers. It didn’t take long for customers to start asking for it.

Stan and Sarah Taylor, Ron’s parents, bought this Arctic Circle from the Peays in 1957. The name was changed to Stan’s Arctic Circle Drive-In, and they exclusively served Ron and Max Sauce from the previous winter as a dip for French fries. Don Edwards’ proprietary white sauce was still used on all burgers.


Ron Taylor poses with Arctic Circle fries and fry sauce at his home in Orem on Thursday, June 16, 2022. Taylor worked at an Arctic Circle in Provo in the 1950s and first mixed the precursor into fry sauce after experimenting with different ingredients.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

During a regular inspection, an Arctic Circle representative from headquarters tasted the sauce and asked to bring it back to headquarters. That was the last the Taylors heard of their experience for some time.

But Don Carlos, back at headquarters, tasted and approved of the concoction, encouraging all franchisees to mix it up for their restaurants. This created extra work for the employees. They were mixing up the super secret mayo-based sauce for the burgers, and another batch of mayonnaise and ketchup for the fries.

The Grofts started one of the company’s first franchises in 1952 on North Temple and 8th West. In 1954, they decided to pack up and move to Las Vegas. In Nevada, Archie Groft was free to get creative with little oversight from a very particular Don Carlos. Lance Groft, Archie’s son, said: “Dad was always a rebel. He did things his way. »

To reduce the workload, Archie and his brother-in-law Howard Jensen decided to mix the ketchup with the secret white sauce, foregoing the regular mayonnaise and avoiding the hassle of mixing two separate sauces. The sauce was so addictive that they used it on burgers and as a dip for fries, and bottled it to sell by the pint.

“Without Ron, the fried sauce would never have happened.”

In 1958, Don Edwards and the other venue owners gathered in Las Vegas for the company’s annual retreat. Edwards caught wind of Groft adulterating his special sauce and stormed into Archie’s kitchen to catch him in the act.

Archie’s wife Naomi, now 92, remembers Don Carlos feeling hot under his collar that day. Martha Sedlymer, also 92, was employed at the time. She confirmed Naomi’s memory: Edwards, although upset that his recipe had been tampered with, was so impressed with the sauce that he sped all the franchises as fast as he could.

“It’s been a bigger deal than I could have ever imagined,” said Ron Taylor. “A few years ago we went to clean up an old mountain town in Washington. Dag gum they had fried sauce!”

Rick Edwards traveled to Las Vegas a few years ago to collect memorabilia from the Arctic Circle. He met Naomi and Lance Groft. They swapped stories and laughed at memories of the restaurant.

He contacted Ron Taylor to compare his notes on the phenomenon born from this Arctic Circle to Provo. In 1967 Stan’s Arctic Circle Drive-In became independent and became Stan’s Drive-In. Stan Taylor was a much-loved local figure, who remained active in Provo until his death in 2016.

Ron Taylor told me “The base has always been this simple Max and Ron French Fries Sauce.” He was largely written out of the story, but his late-night experiences as a boy created the need for Archie to ramp up production, which led to Edwards’ secret white sauce colliding with dude. ketchup. Rick Edwards said, “Without Ron, Fried Sauce would never have happened.”

Rick keeps the secret recipe for the Original French Fries Sauce. He does it from time to time for his friends in California where he lives. To do it right, he bought a 5-gallon bucket of Hellman commercial-grade mayo. He says “it has more of something in it, maybe an egg. It’s definitely better.”

Fried sauce has spread like wildfire across the west since the first spark 70 years ago. It’s a mandatory schmear for restaurants in Utah selling crispy bits or animal butt. I even saw a taco truck the other day with soft tubes of fritada salsa.

Don Carlos would have liked that, I thought to myself, although I don’t know his opinion on Mexican food. I would like this, I remembered and handed out crumpled tickets for a sassy torta ahogada.

You can hear the pride in the voices of those who had a bit of a hand in creating the sauce. And while the details get fuzzier as the years go by, the fry sauce just keeps getting better with age.*

*Please refrigerate your Fry Sauce

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