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Interview Mon Apr 22 2013
North Center's Bad Apple, like so many restaurants, has jumped on the all-natural bandwagon. The restaurant is free of chemicals, pesticides and preservatives, and has been since it opened almost four years ago. Everything has been all natural and as-local-as-possible since the day the restaurant opened its doors. Well, everything except for the ketchup.
Chef and owner Craig Fass opened Bad Apple with a mass-produced ketchup but quickly converted to making their ketchup in-house.
This housemade ketchup is made two to three times a week, 15 gallons at a time, producing over 120 gallons a month. The pot, larger than most toddlers, sits on the stove for six hours. If you're a cook at Bad Apple, here's your routine: put a burger on the stove, stir the ketchup, flip the burger, stir the ketchup, put the burger on a bun, stir the ketchup, add toppings to the burger, stir the ketchup. Get the idea? It's a time-consuming process.
So, why make housemade ketchup?
"For the kids," says Fass. "We opened up with another ketchup here and I saw so many kids come in here and the only thing that had high fructose corn syrup in it was the ketchup. It really bothered me. So I wanted to figure out how to make ketchup."
Unfortunately for Fass, making a ketchup worthy of the beef from New York's famed butcher Pat LaFrieda isn't easy. He tried 13 different recipes over 18 months before perfecting the recipe used today: a blend of Italian tomato purée, vinegar and sugar.
The ketchup was designed to elevate the flavors of the steak-quality burgers without overpowering, and still pair well with french fries. It's a Goldilocks balance of flavors with all the levels of acidity and sweetness just right. It's not a simple remake of the typical ketchup though. It's a darker red, it's not as sweet, and the consistency is smooth but not as smooth as mass-production makes possible.
"I make my ketchup with love," says Fass, and guests can taste it. It is an excellent addition to the line of housemade condiments at Bad Apple, including barbecue sauces, mustards and hot sauces.
Not everyone is a fan though. Based out of Pittsburgh, Heinz dominates the ketchup market nearly worldwide. "I've seen people pull out Heinz and put it on the table." But don't try it. Bad Apple is not a Bring-Your-Own-Ketchup establishment.
"You come here for our food and our beers, so why not try our ketchup too?" says Fass.
The savory Bad Apple ketchup is currently only available at the restaurant, but Fass has hopes of bottling the tomato-based condiment. That is, if he can find someone to bottle it. He been on the lookout for a bottling company for 16 months without success.
But Chicagoans, don't worry. Despite being a ketchup connoisseur from New Jersey, Fass does not put ketchup on his hot dogs.
Bad Apple is located at 4300 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL 60618. Hours are Monday to Wednesday 4:30pm - 2am, Thursday and Friday 11:30am - 2am, Saturday 11:30am - 3am, and Sunday 11:30am - 2am. Photos by Brent Knepper.