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Chicago Style Mild Sauce

From: Kimberly
Sent: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 4:17 AM
Subject: Looking for Chicago style Mild Sauce recipe

Hi Phaedrus. I was born and raised on the South side of Chicago, Illinois but now reside in Southern Illinois. 
There are a lot of little chicken shacks and corner restaurants that sell fast food on the south side of Chicago. 
The food is great! You can get Gyro Burgers, Pizza Puffs, Chicago Style hot dogs and polishes, all type of foods, 
but my favorite thing to eat was fried chicken wings and fries with Mild Sauce. They don't have mild sauce or any 
of the little restaurants or chicken shacks where I live now. Harold's Chicken Shack is a famous south side chicken 
shack in Chicago, and they had the best Mild Sauce, although the other restaurants made good ones too. I would really 
like to be able to make some of my own since I can't get it here. I believe it is a mixture of BBQ Sauce, Hot Sauce, 
and maybe some Ketchup, but I'm not sure about the Ketchup. It is really good over fried chicken and fries. 
I hope you can help me.  
Thanks in advance. 

Hello Kim,

It doesn’t appear that Harold’s has posted their actual recipe anywhere, nor that a current or former Harold’s employee has posted it. I had no success finding an identified copycat or “tastes like” recipe. There is a website that claims to have a copycat recipe for it in a PDF file, but that’s a malware site according to Norton. Don’t download it. I won’t give the website address, but you might come across it if you search. It’s almost certainly infected, so avoid it.

There is a website here: Harold’s Chicken Shack and a menu here: All Menus

“Mild sauce” is apparently, as you say, just a mixture of BBQ sauce, ketchup, and hot sauce. While I didn’t find a recipe for Harold’s mild sauce, I found a lot of discussion about it on message boards, and I found the generic Chicago Style mild sauce recipe below. The variables are the proportions, the brand of BBQ sauce, and the brand of hot sauce. The brand of ketchup could make a difference, too, since some brands are sweet-tasting. I’d use Heinz. Several message board posts said Harold’s uses “Louisiana Hot Sauce”, so that’s the brand you should use. The brand of BBQ sauce is probably the most important variable. I read on one message board that the brand Harold’s in Chicago uses is “Moo & Oink’s ‘High Five BBQ Sauce’.” I don’t know if you can get that sauce anywhere else except Moo & Oink. If not, then you may have to make at least one trip to Chicago to Moo & Oink. Moo & Oink’s website is here: Moo & Oink

If you can’t get to Chicago, you can buy Moo & Oink products online at this site: Taste Chicago's Best

You can try other BBQ sauces, but I’ve no idea which brands might work well. You’d have to taste-test sauces until you found one that worked.

There is a purported copycat recipe for Harold’s fried chicken (not the mild sauce – the chicken itself) here: Ziplist


Chicago Style Mild Sauce

1 tbsp of mild barbecue sauce (High Five BBQ Sauce)
2 tbsp of ketchup(Heinz)
1 tsp of hot sauce (Louisiana Hot Sauce)

or equal larger proportions. (double, triple, etc.)
Mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
Subject: Where To Find That J&J Fish / Harold's / Shark's Lemon Pepper and Mild Sauce
From: Jim
Date: 11/29/2019, 12:15 PM

On 11/28/2019 11:17 PM, Jim Jones wrote:

Where To Find That J&J Fish / Harold's / Shark's Lemon Pepper and Mild Sauce

Do you know where I can find the lemon pepper they use in all the Chicago resteraunts - 
(JJ Fish & Chicken, Harolds, Shark's, Uncle Remus, Whales, Island Fish & Chicken)?

Also the mild sauce. Anywhere I can buy it by the gallon?

I've read some older posts on here and there was no definite answers. I'm not interested 
in making either. I just want to know where I can go buy them where people actually tried 
them as well. There are hundreds of different lemon peppers and all the one's I tried aren't 
as good.

I read your response to but it seems like 
they stopped selling the Moo & Oink Barbecue Sauce.

Thank You For Any Suggestions!

Hello Jim,

I'm afraid we're going to strike out on this. I searched again today, and I had zero success finding any place on the Internet where someone, like a former employee of one of those places, says "at J&J Fish / Harold's / Shark's we used xxxx brand of Lemon Pepper and xxxx brand of Mild Sauce." It just hasn't happened, and it may not ever happen.

These places may not buy a brand of lemon pepper/mild sauce that is sold commercially.  They may make these up themselves at a central commissary or they may have an outside vendor make them up to order from the buyer's recipe. The product would then be shipped pre-made to the individual restaurants and would not be available to the general public at all.

There is some discussion about the lemon pepper on this forum: J&J Fish Lemon Pepper This person may not be correct, but he says: "you might wanna check some of the warehouse stores (i.e.: 70th & State), where they sell a lot of restaurant stuff in bulk. Check to see if they might carry it there."
"Great choice! (70th & State) You will also find the mild sauce used at Harold's Chicken there too. - Bonne Chere (iirc) in the Gallon jugs."

Shark's fish & chicken has a Facebook page  where they say they use "'Sprinkle-On' lemon pepper": Sharks Matteson You can buy "Sprinkle-On" products here: Sprinkle On

There are several lemon pepper products for sale online that claim to be like the ones used by Chicago restaurants. See:

Buffalo Enough Lemon Pepper

Lemon Pepper - Chicago

Chicken Crack Seasoning

The thing is, the only way you're gonna know whether one of them is close enough, is to try them yourself.

Same thing with the mild sauce. There are several brands of commercial mild sauce. One brand of BBQ sauce, "Bonne Chere BBQ Sauce" was mentioned on two different sites as tasting like the mild sauce used at Harold's. You can buy it online. Amazon has it:  Bonne Chere BBQ Sauce

I know you said you didn't want to make the sauce yourself, but there are several copycat recipes on the web, including the one I have posted here:


That recipe gets more visits than any other recipe on my site, so people must like the recipe. If "Moo & Oink" bbq sauce is no longer available, I'd try using "Bonne Chere".

The problem with mild sauce is that, while it's basically a mixture of bbq sauce and ketchup, the various recipes have other things added, such as hot sauce, etc. that make each one a little different. Plus, the brands of bbq sauce, ketchup, etc., may be different from recipe to recipe, and each variation can change the taste.

I'll post this for reader input, but I've had no follow-up responses in five years since that 2014 posting, so I don't expect much. However, it's always possible that a former employee of  J&J Fish / Harold's / Shark's might see this and respond.


Nutty Economics

From: Ray
Sent: Sunday, January 19, 2014 5:04 PM
Subject: Nut Bowl Economics

Good Evening UP--

The sun is just about set here in a clear sky and soon the "Shadow of the Earth" will rise in the eastern sky 
and then night set in. I marked the end of the day with some reading and some shelling of nuts (and eating them).  
As the nutshells collected in the "nutshell bowl," I began to wonder, "What IS the most 'economic' nut to buy?"

The loose nuts in bins for sale at my local mart are Brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts.  I take the 
provided scoop and pick up a selection of the last three kinds, which are easy to separate from their shells 
(Brazil nutmeats are too annoying with their reluctance to come free from the shell).  As usual, all the nuts 
are the same price per pound, which seems more a matter of convenience for the store at check-out weighing (
folks, like me, often mix all the nuts types into one bag) than a reflection of the actual true cost of the nuts.

In any case, looking at the accumulating shells, I wondered, "Which nut actually has the highest weight ratio of 
edible meat to discardable shell?"  That is, if one were purely interested in maximum nutmeat per pound of unshelled 
nut, which one should you buy?  Not that I am so obsessed with return on my dollar, but, just askin'.

I see the shadow now in the east, and above it the "Belt of Venus," something visible any clear night, but rarely 
given much consideration (or actual note), save to a skywatcher such as myself.

Back to the nut bowl and my century-old (or older) nutcracker.


Hi Ray,

Good to hear from you.

Regarding skywatching, I just got a great app for my android phone. (Probably available for I-Phone, too.) It’s called “Skyeye Pro”. It’s great for skywatching. It shows the sky at your location and identifies everything up there, including satellites, space junk (amazing how many old rocket boosters are still up there.), the Hubble, the ISS, comets, planets, stars, etc. You can point your phone at different parts of the sky and the display changes as you move your phone to show what’s in that part of the sky. There are multiple apps that do this, including “Google Sky” and “Star Chart”. I tried three different ones, and this was the best. Costs $6.00, but worth it.

On to the nuts... I didn’t have as much success with this as I hoped. I wanted to find a chart giving the meat-to-shell-ratio for all commercial nuts, but I had no success with that. Searching for nut “meat-to-shell ratio” led me to discussions of everything from bird seed to crabs and lobsters to clams and oysters in spite of the “nut” that I used in the keywords. I did find that there is a term used for the ratio – “crackout” – although in some cases that term is not strictly the meat-to shell ratio, but also includes a factor representing the difficulty of removing the shell. Still no chart, even for crackout. I was finally reduced to just looking for a ratio for individual nuts. I did find a few: pecans – 40%, walnuts – 56.25%, almonds – 57%. I didn’t find any numbers for Brazil nuts or hazelnuts. Something that has to be considered is the varieties of these nuts. There are several different types of pecans and almonds and walnuts, and the different varieties may have different shell thicknesses, and therefore different meat-to-shell ratios.

There’s a great site here about nuts: The Popular Home

I’m not so much of a nut fancier, although if a bowl or can or bag of them is placed in front of me, I will munch on them compulsively, particularly cashews and pistachios. Pecans, for some reason, give me a headache.

Thanks for another interesting question. Sorry I couldn’t find that chart. There must be one somewhere, but it may not be on the web. Maybe it is on the web, but I just couldn’t come up with the right search criteria.


From: Ray
Sent: Monday, January 20, 2014 4:11 PM
To: Phaedrus 
Subject: Nutty Behavior


Well, this is the result of a very small sample size, but I have a scale that's good to the gram, and so decided to 
look at the ratio of nut meat to the whole unshelled nut on a selected number of nuts, though so few as not likely 
to produce strong statistics, but had some fresh nuts from the mart:

                                  Whole Weight (grams)         Shelled Meat Weight       % That's Edible

10 Hazelnuts                      29 gm                                10 gm                          34%

10 Almonds                        28 gm                                12 gm                          43%

5 Walnuts                         66 gm                                27 gm                           41%

With this small sample size, not too much is to be said, except that hazelnuts seem the worst return on investment 
(when all the nuts sell for the same per pound, as these did [$3.88]), but almonds and walnuts are so close that 
I'd only be willing to say that it's a wash.  I can say, however, that walnuts take a little more fuss to get the 
meat from the shell bits, so I give an edge to the almonds.   If Brazil nuts came free from their shell easily, 
I suspect they might be the "best buy," but I'm not about to take this "experiment" any further.  The thought of 
scraping the nutmeat from the clinging shell of a Brazil nut for weighing calls for an end to the investigation.  
The nut bins did not offer a selection of pecans, probably because they are more pricey.  I seem to recall reading 
that demand for them in China has cheered the owners of pecan orchards, but raised the price a lot for the rest of us.  
Pecans are very fine, except the need for being sure you get all the non-nut material out of the pecan's crevices; 
otherwise a tannic surprise.  Fortunately for my allergies, I have no nut allergies, but this is not so fortunate 
for my weight.  For my brother, hazelnuts are perilous.

The nuts that I extracted I chopped lightly and toasted in one of those hot-air corn poppers.  As long as you keep 
an eye on them and stop the process before they char and burst into flame... 

Winter storm warning for tomorrow hereabouts; just what's needed for the first day of the new semester.


Hi Ray,

While it is a small sample size, it’s probably good data.

I’ve been watching the weather, and it looks as though that storm is mostly going to miss us up here. We’re only going to get an inch or so of snow. Frigid temps, though.


Howard Johnson's Barbecue Sauce

From: ron
Sent: Monday, January 20, 2014 1:50 PM
Subject: Howard Johnson's bbq sauce

Dear Phaedrus, 
Back around 1950, my father worked at a Howard Johnson Restaurant.  Twenty years later, I worked for the company in 
their Manufacturing and Distribution division.  One of the items my father always talks about is their BBQ sauce.  
Every time a bbq sauce is served, he compares it to his memory of the HoJo's sauce.

I went to the HoJoLand website and didn't find any recipes.  When I searched for the sauce in my google search, 
I hit your website.  I know HJ made a lot of their own products.  They used to have a condiment factory in Quincy, MA 
and I understand that Wyndham Worldwide now has the rights to the brand and products.

Is there any way you could track down this recipe?  It would be a great gift to my father if I could provide him with 
this version of bbq sauce.

Thanks for your help.  

Hello Ron,

I had no success finding even a mention of HoJo’s BBQ sauce. As you say, HoJo operated under a commissary type system. Most things were made in their commissaries or out-sourced to third party vendors. It’s likely that this was true of their BBQ sauce. With only two HoJo’s still operating (Lake Placid, NY and Bangor, ME), the BBQ sauce being used currently is probably a third-party product. I had no success locating a copycat or “tastes-like” recipe for their sauce. Only a former commissary employee would know anything about the recipe if the sauce was made by HoJo’s, and a buyer would know the source of the sauce if it was bought from a 3rd party.

If the sauce used by the currently operating HoJos is the same as what your father remembers, then you might contact them. They might tell you something about it. If the current sauce is not the same, then a former employee is about the only source of information I can think of.

HoJoLand has a Facebook page at: HoJoLand on Facebook
That page may be frequented by former HoJo employees. If so, you might join the group and then post a request for information about the BBQ sauce.


From: "Mark" 
To: "Phaedrus" 
Subject: Re: 02/24/2014 Howard Johnson BBQ Sauce AND Chicken Croquettes Requests
Date: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 5:58 PM

     I saw on your site 2/24/2014 a request for the "old style BBQ 
Sauce" that Howard Johnsons had many years ago, not necessarily the 
sauce from the "commissary" type of supply that HJ's had years later. I 
believe I can fulfill Ron's request so that his father can have the "old 
Style BBQ sauce" that he remembers from 1950.
    I own a kitchen copy of the Howard Johnson's master chef's kitchen 
cookbook that were given to all the restaurants way back when. Various 
sources tell me it is the kitchen copy of plating and recipes that were 
used from about the years 1946 through the early sixties for various 
menu items before all the HJ's started a more standardized menu in the 
mid/late 1960's and started also using the "commissary" for getting in 
prepackaged items for food preparation.
   I have a reluctance to extend many of the recipes out of the book as 
a good friend has been working (when possible) with me on a "Revisit to 
Howard Johnson's" Book that may encompass many of the most popular and 
unusual recipes besides info & pictures about Howard Johnson's.
   I do so enjoy your website and at times submitting recipes for those 
searching for items I know are so hard to find and do appreciate your 
valiant efforts in helping the people and their requests. I therefore 
submit to you the following recipes from an original chef's kitchen copy 
of the Howard Johnson Restaurant Manual for the recipes for scratch done 
Barbeque Sauce and the elusive Chicken Croquettes that people want. 
Remember though, these recipes make large quantities and scaling them 
down might make a difference AND undisclosed ingredients like what 
type of breadcrumbs/deep fat for frying was used for the croquettes.
   I have attached a PDF showing the recipes as they are originally 
shown in the book (it has about 151 pages of plating and recipe 
instructions). Please ask that anyone copying the info from your site 
give credit back to your site and me for the submission so I can see how 
far to other sites copying happens (GRIN).
Take Care,
Mark R. in NJ 
Howard Johnson's Bar-B-Q Sauce - 2 Quarts

1/2 can #10 tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1/2 # onions
2 oz fat
10 oz Worcestershire Sauce
4 1/2 cups catsup
1 cup vinegar
1 qt water
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
4 drops tabasco sauce

Method: Put tomatoes through a seive. Chop garlic and onions
and fry in fat. Mix Worcestershire sauce, catsup, vinegar and 
warm water together. Add black pepper, salt, celery salt,
paprika, cayenne and tabasco sauce. Combine all ingredients 
and cook for 10 minutes.
(If you republish this recipe, either on another website or in print, please credit Mark R & Uncle Phaedrus)
Dear Phaedrus,

I passed along the copy of the recipe to may father and he was ecstatic.  My mom and he made the recipe 
yesterday afternoon and it is as he remembered.  The color (one of the most important aspects), texture 
and taste are right on.  They only made an 8th of a batch as a #10 can of tomatoes is about 12 cups.  
So they scaled the recipe by 8 and created a long lasting memorable treat.  I tasted it too, and it's how I remembered it.

Thanks for your assistance with finding this recipe.  Will it be posted to the website?

Best Regards, Ron

Steak & Ale Ranch Dressing

From: Terese  
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 6:14 PM


Im hoping you can help me!
I was googling recipes and came across your site. I am looking for the recipe for Steak and Ale's Ranch Salad Dressing! 
It is also called the house dressing. It's labelled "Original Hidden Valley" but the bottle or dry mix isn't he same. 
It is for a special event for a huge fan! I have been looking all over for it. I read that it was mixed in the kitchens. 
Please help!

Hello Terese,

Sorry, I had no success. I could not find even a hint. I did find a post on a message board from a former S & A employee (He says he was an S & A manager in the 80s) that said this:
“The dressings were propriety items so no one actually knew what was in them but Marzetti’s dressing that you find in the Produce sections of most grocery stores was an approved vendor if you ever ran out.”
See :

The original Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix called for mixing with mayo and buttermilk - not sour cream and not plain milk. If that’s not the one you tried, then perhaps that’s the problem. Also, the brand of mayo used can make a difference. Mayos run the gamut from sweet to lemony. Hellman’s or Kraft would be the best choice to make this tangy dressing.

I see that you have already posted requests for this on a couple of message boards and received no helpful replies. I don’t see any other way to pursue this. I’ll post your request on the site.


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