Tapatío is a popular brand of hot sauce that can be found at any self-respecting taqueria in California, and has begun to make a reputation nationally. Together with Cholula, it is responsible for a subculture of hot sauce lovers who sprinkle their brand of choice on just about anything they eat. Tapatío is great on pizza, grilled meat, steamed veggies or casserole, or added to a tomato-based soup of any nationality. You can add a dash of it to your batch of homemade salsa cruda to spice things up, or use it as a base for your taco sauce. It's got a pleasant burn that doesn't last too long, and it's mild enough that it can be used almost like a salsa.

In Southern California, devotees of Mexican-style hot sauce brands tend to crystallize into the Cholula camp and the Tapatío camp. Though there is little rivalry between the two groups, your choice of hot sauce is sure to influence the Mexican eateries you inhabit. Statewide chains such as La Salsa mitigate this factor by thoughtfully providing a bottle of each, at every table.

The depiction of the smiling, mustachioed, sombrero-wearing man on the front of the bottle would tend to suggest that the hot sauce is of Mexican origin. The word "tapatío" refers to a native of Guadalajara, capital of Jalisco. In fact, like so many other tasty "Mexican" treats, Tapatío has its roots in California. The company was founded in 1971 by a man named Jose-Luis Saavedra. It was (and continues to be) family-run, and until recently was a small-time operation with a human-run factory and a daily output measured in cases. The Tapatío company's recent successes have afforded them a brand-new robotic manufacturing facility, but the quality and taste of their product are unchanged.

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