United States of Hot Sauce: Frank’s, Tapatio, and Tabasco

United States of Hot Sauce: Frank’s, Tapatio, and Tabasco
Es una salsa ... muy salsa! Si, whatever.
Es una salsa … muy salsa! Si, whatever.

Two regional food things surprised me on the trip: beer and hot sauce. Beer is much more regionally varied than the Bud Light commercials suggest — try getting Kokanee in South Carolina … or Yuengling in Yosemite … or Dixie anywhere outside New Orleans. Same with hot sauces. We are not a nation of Tabasco users. Surprised me. Here’s how it breaks down:

The Northeast Favorite: Frank’s RedHot

From the Garden State, Frank’s RedHot has a stronghold in the Northeast. I had it first while attending college in Upstate New York — the local diner had it on every table. It’s the hot sauce that started the Buffalo Wing trend. It’s also quite mild, which makes it one of Lisa’s favorites. Overall, it’s a very balanced, quiet, inoffensive hot sauce — unlike many of the area’s residents.

The SoCal Surprise: Tapatio

Tapatio’s slogan is as cryptic as it is charming. “Es un salsa…muy salsa!” the bottle proclaims. What … the hell … does that mean? According to Google Translate, something along the lines of “it’s a very gravy sauce.”

Whatever it means, it’s a great hot sauce — spicier and bolder than Frank’s. They have it at nearly every taco shack and truck along the West Coast. Based in, not surprisingly, California.

The Louisiana Zinger: Tabasco Pepper Sauce

While Tabasco is probably the most nation-wide of this trio, it’s especially popular in the South. The company is based in Avery Island, Louisiana, so no surprises there. This hot sauce is the most vinegary-sharp of the bunch. Both the spice and the acid will burn you. Best on oysters and in Bloody Marys, IMO.

So which ones are you going to try? Have you experienced the majesty of the Tapatio? Or have you been burned by Tabasco too many times, only to find yourself yearning for the warm embrace of another lover named Frank? Leave a comment. And if there are any other regionally significant sauces I’ve missed, please let me know so I can try them.