Discover the Legend of Heinie’s Hot Sauce

If you’ve ever come across hot sauce from the Southeast Side of Chicago, you know it’s a color not found in nature. It’s a synthetic orange, a shade as unique as neon relish on a Chicago-style hot dog. But there’s more to this hot sauce than meets the eye. Let’s delve into the fascinating story of Heinie’s Hot Sauce, a culinary gem specific to the Southeast Side.

A Taste of Southeast Side History

The first time I sampled this legendary sauce was at Loncar’s, the famous South Chicago bar on 92nd Street. Loncar’s is renowned for its $1.50 deep-fried beef tacos every Wednesday. As I asked the cook about its content, he pulled out a gallon jug labeled “Quality Brand Hot Sauce.” The ingredients listed were water, vinegar, mustard seed, salt, turmeric, spices, and oleoresin capsicum. A quick Google search revealed that oleoresin capsicum is the active ingredient in pepper spray.

When squirted over Loncar’s fried chicken, this hot sauce resembled a child’s artistic creation gone wild at a Sherwin-Williams store. As its ingredients hinted, the predominant flavor was mustard. Unlike South Carolina mustard sauce, where honey mellows the pungency, Heinie’s hot sauce had an unmistakable pepper-vinegar zing on top of the sharp layer of yellow mustard. Balance was not the goal; this sauce was designed to hit you between the eyes, and it succeeded.

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The Legendary Name

Around these parts, customers refer to it as Heinie’s hot sauce, despite it being served at Loncar’s. The words “Heinie’s hot sauce” are dyed in the neighborhood’s wool, becoming part of the local vernacular. People from out of state even come in and ask for Heinie’s hot sauce, leading to a good-natured laugh between staff and patrons.

Surprisingly, Heinie’s hot sauce wasn’t invented by its namesake restaurant. Heinie’s has been offering it for over 60 years, and the two have become inseparable. The name Heinie traces back to Henry McCarthy, a Southeast Side steelworker who, in 1947, decided to open a restaurant with his sons Bob and Eddie. This family-run establishment became immensely popular, with multiple locations, including one in Orland Park, and a flagship store at East 104th Street and Torrence Avenue.

The Flavors of Heinie’s

As soon as you approach Hienie’s, located at 10359 S. Torrence Ave., your senses will be tantalized by the aroma of their signature fried foods. Flour-coated chicken, gizzards, fish, and shrimp are expertly deep fried in hot beef tallow and vegetable shortening until they emerge golden and irresistibly delicious. This artful process, devoid of kitchen timers, ensures a perfect balance of crispness and tenderness. While Hienie’s also offers burgers and Italian beef, their reputation primarily revolves around their mouthwatering fried delicacies.

A Power Couple from the Southeast Side

Larry and Denise Dal Santo, the current owners, took over the family business 11 years ago. Denise is the daughter of Bob McCarthy, and Larry was a baker for Gonnella bakery. The Dal Santos are a well-respected couple in the Southeast Side community, thanks to Hienie’s longstanding presence and commitment to treating their patrons with utmost respect. This mutual respect has helped the restaurant preserve its reputation, ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. Unlike many establishments in the area, Hienie’s lacks bulletproof glass and other security measures – a testament to the trust they have earned.

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The Saga of Heinie’s Hot Sauce

Heinie’s hot sauce has a rich history that dates back about six decades. Originally created as an accompaniment to Vitner’s pork rinds, this sauce has evolved into a spicier and thicker version exclusively available at Heinie’s. Henry McCarthy, while purchasing potato chips from Vitner’s, discovered the unique mustard taste of the sauce, which he believed would perfectly complement Hienie’s fried chicken and seafood. Today, customers use this beloved hot sauce on everything from scrambled eggs to pizza and even sprinkle it on potato chips and Cheetos bags.

Every day, Hienie’s sends out around 10 gallons of their iconic orange hot sauce in various containers. This impressive volume is a testament to the sauce’s popularity among loyal patrons.

Celebrating Heinie’s Hot Sauce

Such is the nostalgia and affection for Heinie’s hot sauce that a dedicated “Hienie’s Hot Sauce” fan page emerged on Facebook. While the Dal Santos didn’t create the page themselves, they are amazed by its popularity. As of the last count, the page had nearly 6,000 enthusiastic followers.

Visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill for a Scrumptious Experience

If you’re in search of a culinary adventure that captures the essence of the Southeast Side of Chicago, look no further than Hook’d Up Bar and Grill. With its vibrant atmosphere and mouthwatering menu, including their own unique hot sauce, Hook’d Up Bar and Grill offers an unforgettable dining experience. Come and savor the flavors that make the Southeast Side a true culinary gem.

Hook’d Up Bar and Grill