If there were such a title as "Hot Sauce Capital of the World," Tucson would deserve a nomination.
Not only is the city home to a huge array of authentic Mexican food restaurants (where hot sauce bottles are prominently displayed on every table), but it's also now home to Pepper Palace, a specialty boutique that carries hundreds of hard-to-find hot sauces from around the world.
Pepper Palace is a family-owned boutique chain that got its start as a humble mall kiosk at a central Wisconsin mall back in 1989. Since then, owners Craig and Tanya Migawa have opened more than 30 retail locations in the U.S. and Canada, including their latest location at Tucson Mall.
Pepper Palace is a specialty grocer with hundreds of hard-to-find hot sauces — Photo courtesy of Pepper Palace Tucson
Over the years, Pepper Palace has earned a dedicated following with "chili heads," the shop's nickname for the die-hard hot sauce fanatics who flock to the store to sample the latest palate-burners.
One of the biggest attractions at Pepper Palace is the Flashbang hot sauce. It's crafted from some of the hottest known peppers in the world, including ghost peppers; habaneros; Carolina Reapers (Chinese peppers known for their heat); and Trinidad moruga scorpion peppers.
The Flashbang has been clocked at more than two million Scoville units. In real-world terms, that means it's about as hot as standard grade pepper spray!
Anyone who stops by Pepper Palace is welcome to sample the Flashbang. Just know that you have to be over 18, and the shop requires you to sign a disclaimer.
The Flashbang costs $21.95 for one ounce. Pricey, yes, but keep in mind that half a teaspoon can spice up a whole pot of chili.
(Side note: For a fun glimpse at what it's like to taste the Flashbang, check out the tasting videos the store posts on its Facebook page.)
Although hot sauce is clearly the main attraction at Pepper Place, the shop also carries a wide selection of other specialty food products.
You'll find gourmet butters and jellies; handcrafted olive oils; dips and dip mixes; gourmet mustards and spreads; salsas; marinades; seasoning and spice mixes; novelty beverages and candy; and assorted kitchen gadgets.
You can also pick up Pepper Palace merchandise, including beanies, hats and T-shirts. Plus, Pepper Palace carries its own line of novelty scented candles. Nacho cheese, dill pickle, barbecue sauce and beef jerky are just some of the scents you'll find in stock.
Pepper Palace Tucson is located near the Tucson Mall food court, in the Arizona Avenue shop alley. The store is open daily during regular mall hours.