It was supposed to be a fun story about Harold’s Chicken Shack, a 71-year-old Black-owned business that’s become a cultural icon in Chicago. ABC 7 Chicago’s “Hungry Hound” — roving food personality Steve Dolinsky — interviewed the owners for a Black History Month piece, celebrating the chain’s crispy fried chicken from the South and West sides. But on Sunday morning, a since-deleted tweet teasing the story from the ABC 7 Chicago Twitter handle agitated fans both in Chicago and across the country.
“Harold’s Chicken just turned 70!” the tweet started innocently, before dying on the vine. “They specialize in hot sauce on the bird after frying. They have more than 40 locations, including other states.”
ABC’s Twitter account had committed a crime against condiments: Harold’s isn’t known for hot sauce. In fact, Harold’s and other Chicago chicken shacks are known for their mild sauce. The versions vary, but the unifying theme is the sauce has more sweetness than heat, and it’s customarily slathered on fried items like chicken, fish, and fries. It’s often some sort of blend of barbecue, ketchup, and hot sauces. And fans — many in Chicago’s Black community — are obsessed with it.
Dolinsky’s segment was accurate in mentioning mild and hot sauces, since Harold’s does offer hot sauce to customers. Tweets and headlines, of course, don’t offer the full story, but hot sauce is hardly Harold’s signature sauce, and that’s why fans took issue.
In replying to the deleted tweet, Chicago sports radio host Jonathan Hood asked where he could file a complaint: “You know that’s mild sauce. Retraction!”
Others wondered if the people responsible for the post were from Chicago. Some used the gaffe to ask how many Black people worked inside the ABC 7 Chicago newsroom: “How? How did you mess this up?? Hire Black writers.” Comedian Larry Legend, who has demonstrated his expertise on the subject, asked, “Do I need to rewrite this for y’all @ABC7Chicago?????”
The post made it across the country all the way Hollywood to comedian Ron Funches, who grew up in Chicago. He’s been a voice actor in shows like BoJack Horseman, Harley Quinn, and Adventure Time while appearing on @midnight and Kroll Show. Funches questioned if the person responsible for the tweet lived in Chicago.
Dolinsky, who later this month will depart ABC 7, attempted to explain the incident on Twitter, writing that he “never said Harold’s specializes in hot sauce. I simply quote [the] owner. What happened here is someone from @ABC7Chicago web team who wrote headline to my story made a mistake. No need to go ballistic. I’ll let them know.”
A few users felt Dolinsky’s response was a bit defensive, especially in how his own tweet on Saturday also fixated on hot sauce. Dolinsky did not immediately return an email seeking additional comment.
As Super Bowl Sunday dominated the media’s attention, the controversy was a good distraction for Chicagoans who had no interest in the result, commercials, or halftime performance. One user summarized the outrage succinctly: “If you wanna unite Chicago Twitter, post some ignorant stuff about Harold’s Chicken and watch the fireworks,” the user wrote.