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Capital City Sauces: How some of our city’s iconic sauces were created

By
From the Spring 2014 edition

O’Reilley’s Crack Sauce

Served alongside sweet potato fries, Crack Sauce—a spicy salmon-colored liquid—is a combination of Frank’s Red Hot, mayonnaise, jalapenos and a few undisclosed ingredients. John Shanahan, O’Reilley’s main cook (don’t call him a chef), says the recipe was a gift from Tip Top’s Tim Lessner, who granted Shanahan permission to serve it five years ago. Have a hankering for the original? The folks at Tip Top call their version a more subdued “Spicy Mayo.”

Ray Ray’s House Sweet BBQ Sauce

Every weekend James Anderson and his team make 80 quarts of the food truck’s most popular sauce. Spiked with three types of sweeteners (molasses, brown sugar and another “top secret” addition), this sweet and fruity sauce is a modified version of Anderson’s father’s recipe. While each of the truck’s four sauces are available for sale in 16-ounce jars (they sell 80 to 100 jars a month), they don’t do much to promote the retail sales. Simply put, Anderson says, “We’re meat cookers.”

Jeni’s Salty Caramel Sauce

Jeni Britton Bauer started making Salty Caramel Sauce in the North Market, when the ice cream company’s original location made experimental sundaes for weekend customers. Now the sauce—made with real caramel, specks of real vanilla bean seeds and, according to Britton Bauer, “a little extra sea salt”—is bottled and sold at all Jeni’s scoop shops and at retailers across the country. Her favorite way to eat it? “I like it with Ndali Estate Vanilla Bean and some toasted pecans,” she says.

The Grass Skirt’s Spicy Teriyaki Aioli

Designed to accompany the tiki bar’s Hawaiian burgers, this Asian-influenced sauce provides a little spice (thanks to sriracha) to complement the sweetness of the sandwich’s grilled pineapples. Faced with a possible shortage of her not-so-secret ingredient, owner Carmen Owns admits she’s stockpiling cases of sriracha (shipments from the most popular maker of the chile sauce were temporarily halted in December) to ensure their burgers and sweet potato wedges remain adorned with the restaurant’s most popular sauce.

El Arepazo’s Cilantro Sauce

Dreamed up by Carlos Gutierrez for the Latino Festival, this cool and creamy sauce is a take on Venezuelan guasacaca, without the discoloration that comes from avocados. When he opened El Arepazo in 2006, he started making and bottling the sauce nearly every day. Available in 12- and 24-ounce bottles, this sauce made of fresh cilantro, mayo, garlic and, of course, a few secret ingredients, is ideal with empanadas, arepas and fried sweet plantains. The sauce crosses culinary borders, too. According to co-owner Carolina Gutierrez, customers have been known to put it on pasta and pizza as well.

Mikey’s Late Night Slice Slut Sauce

Slut Sauce is a combination of sauces found at the Kroger near Mikey’s shack in the Short North. “We would get bored,” explains owner Mikey Sorboro. “And when you’re bored, you eat.” He and his partner Jason Biundo perfected the sauce—which contains ranch, hot sauce, barbecue sauce and garlic sauce—in the first round. While it was designed as a pizza topper, now that it’s bottled and available for retail sale, it can be used for just about anything that tastes good with ranch, hot sauce, barbecue sauce and garlic sauce.

Jill Moorhead is marketing director for Eat Well Distribution, a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams company. She blogs about the culinary adventures of traveling the world at iterantfoodies.com.