Gallery: Dip into It: 9 Sauces, Condiments, and Dressings We Love in Chicago

Homemade Ketchup at 2 Sparrows
Homemade Ketchup at 2 Sparrows

The only thing better than giant tater tots is something equally as impressive to dip them in. These giant tots come with homemade ketchup that includes over 20 ingredients but no sugar, and has a great level of spice to it. It's just thick enough, has complex flavor, and makes me wish they sold it in bottles.

2 Sparrows, 553 W. Diversey, Chicago, IL 60614 (map); (773) 234-2320; 2sparrowschicago.com

Curry Mayonnaise at Belly Shack
Curry Mayonnaise at Belly Shack

Belly Shack first lured me in with their Korean barbecue, but now I crave these fries above all. A large factor in that? This mayo. The fries are already generously dusted with togarashi, and the curry mayo just gives them an edge. It has a very mild curry flavor, so mild even the spice sensitive could handle it. Instead it just enhances all the other spices involved, and my only complaint is I wish I had three times the amount.

Belly Shack, 1912 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-252-1414; bellyshack.com

Malt Vinegar Gastrique at Farmhouse
Malt Vinegar Gastrique at Farmhouse

The malt vinegar gastrique comes with either the beer-battered whitefish sandwich or the fish and chips. It's made with two kinds of vinegar: mostly malt, but also some cherry. Both brown and yellow mustard seeds give it a sharp kick, and brown sugar rounds it out with sweetness. They reduce it until it's nice and thick, giving a sticky and tangy complement to the perfect crispy fried coating on the fish.

Farmhouse, 228 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60654 (map); 312-280-4960; farmhousechicago.com

Vegan Ranch at Handlebar
Vegan Ranch at Handlebar

I'm not attracted to most things marked vegan. I love vegetables, but don't usually want anything to do with substitutes for the real thing. However, this vegan ranch, made with Vegenaise, makes me stop being such a hater. It almost tastes like green goddess dressing, but it also has a hint of ranch. It has the tang of the all-American dip, but without that strong flavor that comes in a bottle of Hidden Valley.

Handlebar, 2311 W. North Ave. , Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-384-9546; handlebarchicago.com

Cheese at Phil's Last Stand
Cheese at Phil's Last Stand

I guarantee that this intensely cheesy dip that comes in an order of cheese fries is unlike any other you've had. It cannot in any way be considered sauce, since it's too thick; a fry can stand up in it all by itself. Made with Merkt's cheddar, the best way to describe just how cheesy it is is by comparing it to a semi-liquid Cheez-It. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Phil's Last Stand, 2258 W. Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (map); 773-245-FATS; philslaststand.com

3-Chile Salsa at Xoco
3-Chile Salsa at Xoco

While you receive two dips with an order of chips and salsa here, it's the red 3-chile one rather than the tomatillo one that shines. It has a deeper flavor than most salsas. You can see the chopped chiles floating around, which result in the fire on your tastebuds. It's not chunky at all, but also isn't runny, with a slight thickness to it. The chips that come with it aren't too salty so they don't distract from the dip. It's so much better than a heavily tomato-based salsa, and it has just the right amount of hurts-so-good heat.

Xoco, 449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654 (map); (312) 334-3688; rickbayless.com/restaurants/xoco.html

Banana Ketchup at Pecking Order
Banana Ketchup at Pecking Order

This banana ketchup is less sweet than you'd expect. It's mild and somehow manages to bridge the line between tomato and banana remarkably. It's especially good with the fried plantains, which works well without feeling repetitive.

Pecking Order, 4416 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60640 (map); (773) 907-9900; peckingorderchicago.com

Hot Fudge at Mindy's Hot Chocolate
Hot Fudge at Mindy's Hot Chocolate

If there's any restaurant that knows what it's doing with sweet dips, it's Hot Chocolate. This staple menu item of brioche donuts with hot fudge and caramel corn makes it clear why people flock here just for the desserts. You could easily miss the fudge, since it's below the donut tower stacked in the glass, but that would be a mistake. While the puffy donuts are great alone, they were absolutely meant to soak up this fudge. It's not too thick, so it's easy to slather the donuts in it, and the hint of caramel flavor makes it stand out.

Mindy's Hot Chocolate, 1747 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-489-1747; hotchocolatechicago.com

Aioli at Au Cheval
Aioli at Au Cheval

Au Cheval makes a performance out of their fries. The crispy fries come with a fried egg on top, along with aioli and mornay sauce on the side. But once I ordered just the fries and aioli alone, eschewing those extras (which are great but not always what I want), I realized how great great this aioli really was. It's thick and light at the same time and packed with garlic, making this just the right companion to some of the best fries in the city.

Au Cheval, 800 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607 (map); 312-929-4580; auchevalchicago.com