Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop

Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop

Looking for a place to warm up the old taste buds in preparation for the Hot Sauce Festival? Check out the Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop, at the east end of the Sixth Street club district. Not only can you gaze in awe at the vast collection of sauces there, you can have a personalized consultation regarding your heat and flavor preferences, taste as many selections as you like, and purchase from more than 300 varieties of salsas, hot sauces, marinades, rubs, and other chile-based condiments. Among the larger selection, the creations of many past competition winners are available to taste and to buy. "Go to the Festival and vote with an informed palate," proprietor Brian Rush urges Austin's sauce-swigging public.

Owned and operated by Brian and his mother Joy Burleson, the evolution of Tears of Joy is an interesting one. Joy began O'Shucks Tamales in 1989 when she purchased a tamale-stuffing machine, set it up in her garage, quit her day job in real estate, and never looked back. From the first commercial location on Ben White, to the Travis County Farmer's Market, to the current headquarters on East Sixth, Joy and Brian have produced many thousands of healthful and delicious (not an oxymoron!) tamales, some classic, some imaginative, all flavorful.

The hot sauce end of the business began in 1998 when Joy and Brian joined forces with J.P. Hayes -- local chile connoisseur, manufacturer of Sgt. Pepper's salsas and hot sauces, and frequent contest winner -- whom they knew from the Farmer's Market days. Together they conceived of the Hot Sauce Museum as a tiny adjunct to O'Shucks, initially showcasing J.P.'s gourmet sauces. In less than two years, that little adjunct has morphed into the Hot Sauce Shop that now fills more than half the store, offering not only carefully selected sauces and salsas from around the globe, but a panoply of pepper-related accoutrements -- custom gift baskets, books and posters, ceramic chili tchotskes, and my drop-dead favorite, wall clocks made from shellacked tortillas with little peppers for numbers.

Brian estimates that up to 75% of the shop's visitors are tourists from outside Austin on their Sixth Street rounds, which makes him a hot sauce ambassador of sorts. And now his merchandise is also available by mail order from the brand-new Web site, www.tearsofjoysauces.com.

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