Road trip: Houston to New Orleans
TL;DR: Start at the restaurant and sample all the flavors, then take the self-guided tour.
Tucked away on Avery Island, Louisiana sits a family-owned and -operated company that has passed down their family recipe from generation to generation. This recipe is so popular that it has been labeled in 25 languages and dialects and can be found in over 195 countries and territories.
The TABASCO® factory, founded in 1868, was inspired when Edmund McIlhenny decided to enrich the bland and dull food of the time. A spicy, tasty pepper sauce would do the trick; 150 years later, it still does.
ITINERARY: Upon arrival at the TABASCO® factory, head to the ticket counter to the left of the general store to buy $5 tickets for the self-guided walking tour; time spent is 45 minutes. Navigate to the other end of the shops to the TABASCO® restaurant and have lunch; I recommend the red beans and rice or po'boy with coleslaw. Each table has a cart filled with every type of TABASCO® sauce so you can try them all. When you're full, proceed back to the ticket counter and enter the museum to start the self-guided walking tour.
This tour provides a generational tree of the family, history of the pepper and sauce process, supplies 'free smells' along the way and shares what TABASCO® means. You get to see insider tricks like the little red stick ('le petite bâton rouge). This stick is used to match the peppers to the perfect shade of red, meaning prime for picking. Don't miss your chance to smell the official TABASCO® aroma when you enter the containment part of the tour.
Once you've have seen how TABASCO® is grown, harvested, prepared and cooked, it's time to shop and purchase your favorite flavor. Visit the TABASCO® general store for TABASCO® merchandise and so much more. Great place to pick up souvenirs for friends or family. Ever tried TABASCO® ice cream or soda? Head to the back of the store for free samples; yum!
Ever wonder what the name TABASCO® means? After owner Edmund McIlhenny was given seeds from Mexico or Central America, he grew his first batch and sold to wholesalers with the name believed to mean "place where the soil is humid" or "place of the coral or oyster shell". It took off from there, selling throughout the US and even to Europe.
This has personally been one of my top five favorite road trip stops ever. The stop at TABASCO® factory was perfectly timed so I could take a break, stretch my legs and get a bite to eat. While I don't typically eat spicy food, when in Rome you must sample all the sauces. Yes, my mouth was on fire for a bit but it faded after awhile. Outside of this opportunity, I probably would have never tried Raspberry-Chiptole or Scorpion; and they were so good!
Recommended for all travelers: The walking path is well maintained and the length of the tour is not strenuous; I spent 45 minutes from start to finish. Inside the buildings and factories, there are stairs, elevators, benches and air-conditioning aside from Stop 1 Greenhouse where they grow the peppers. The signs that lead you from location to location are easily seen, and all signs are in large print and easy to read. Although, there is a 'watch for bears' sign, so there's that.
Favorite part of the tour was seeing the salt chunks and salt piles on top of the barrels. Being that Avery Island is a salt dome and was once heavily mined for salt, you'll find large chunks of salt in some of the factories. The giant white, translucent boulder looking items are actually salt pieces; don't lick them. Be sure to read up on way they use heavy amounts of salt and what that does for the sauce. Trying to read the labels on the barrels and see when the tasty sauce would be ready for its next bottling was a fun moment; just like wine, the barreling and waiting period are important to the process.
Sadly I missed the factory production as I went on Sunday, when they are nonoperational but it was still an impressive assembly line. So shiny and clean! In one section, you could see 'Tokyo' on the white board, naming that those bottles and labels were being sent aboard. The info boards along the production lines tells you how many are made, how fast the bottles move, where they may be sent and more TABASCO® facts.
Again, this was a great stop and one that I'd be happy to do along another road trip. While it might be a tad out of your drive, it's worth the stop and a fun experience to tell friends and family about. Chances are that you've had TABASCO® sauce and loved it, stop and find out more! Don't miss your choice to tour and taste the "TABASCO® Brand is the most famous pepper sauce in the world" according to Tabasco.com.
Find more of what to do in New Orleans but visiting the free itinerary, www.itinerarytraveler.com/new-orleans