Spicy foods: Homegrown hot sauces

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Because the heat level of otherwise identical chili-powered dishes can vary greatly daily, and because one person's thermonuclear meltdown is another person's teasing sting, and because some people just plain don't know when to stop - hot sauces are indispensable for ratcheting up the thrill factor for capsaicin heads.

Here's a few terrific homegrown heat-bringing condiments only available in local restaurants. I like these liquid fires so much I usually take extra back with me - and so have included a few "try this at home" ideas.

El Arepazo

Like a Latino aioli, it's mayo-based, rich, creamy, slightly sweet and the color of avocado flesh. Aside from mayonnaise, its alluring flavors come from garlic, cilantro and a dash of jalapeno. Use it like mayo, sour cream or even butter on sandwiches and starchy stuff such as corn or spuds.

Heat factor: 2 out of 4

Aladdin ' s Eatery

I'd call this bright and lively pale gold concoction an Italian salad dressing on steroids. Basically a volatile vinaigrette, it needs shaking up before delivering its chili-seeded and garlicky oil and vinegar thrust. It's also great as a marinade for chicken or fish.

Heat factor: 3 out of 4

Ray Ray ' s Hog Pit

Watch out, this one means business! Thick, sweet, smooth, smoky and complex, it's Ray Ray's homemade barbecue sauce hopped up on a couple wicked slaps of fire-roasted habaneros. Following its intoxicating molasses/ketchup/zesty sweetness is an ever-increasing and lingering sting, so do not overdo it till you know what you're dealing with. A little flick of this adds a ton of depth to Asian stir-fries.

Heat factor: 3.5 out of 4


Warning: recommended only for experienced professionals! This one's fruity and sweet, but before you can say "Call 9-1-1," it'll have your eyes spastically blinking and your stunned nose desperately running as it unloads a wildly explosive wallop of concentrated habenero. Try drizzling a tiny bit into Bloody Marys, chili or even pasta sauces.

Heat factor: 4 out of 4

Northstar Cafe

Comparable to a robust Tabasco sauce with a punch of hot paprika, its big vinegary bite is accompanied by a deep and rich chili-peppery blast. This one is particularly good for balancing out richer dishes or with Mexican, Southwestern and Middle Eastern foods.

Heat factor: 3.5 out of 4

CaJohns Oaxacan Hot Sauce

How could I not include CaJohn - aka the Sultan of Sweat, the Lord of the Fires and the King of Sting - in a piece on hot sauces? I mean he's nationally famous and makes more than 100 zingy condiments (many far off the heat-meter chart of this article!). So though this one is not restaurant-made, it is restaurant-grade. It's cuminy and has a great balance between the heat and the sweet and as its name indicates, is great on all things Mexican.

Heat factor: 3.5 out of 4

El Arepazo

47 N. Pearl St., Downtown



Aladdin's Eatery

Multiple locations


Ray Ray's Hog Pit

Pacemont Road and High Street, Clintonville



410 E. Whittier St., German Village



Northstar Cafe

Multiple locations


CaJohns Oaxacan Hot Sauce

59 Spruce St., Arena District


816 Green Crest Dr., Westerville



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