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The spicy roots of this iconic sauce

Here at Salsa Grille, salsa is the name of our game - literally. But how did our favorite condiment migrate to Fort Wayne from Mexico? The history of salsa is a bit of a slow burn - so let’s start at the beginning. 

According to primary sources, salsa-making has remained pretty much the same over the last several centuries. The original salsa recipe dates back several hundred years to indigenous cultures throughout the Western hemisphere, including the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans. These recipes called for a mixture of squash seeds, tomatoes, beans, and chiles, and it was served alongside meats like venison, lobster, and turkey to add flavor and heat. 

When the conquistadores and missionaries brought the mixture to Spain in the 1500s, the Spaniards took an intense liking to it and made their own tweaks, adding Old World ingredients like onions and garlic. The concoction was formally named “salsa” in 1571 by Spanish missionary Alonso de Molina, using the generic Spanish word for “sauce” to describe the unique mixture. Nowadays, however, “salsa” has the connotation of a (usually) tomato-based mixture that belongs on Salsa Grille’s fresh-never-frozen Endless Salsa Bar.

But how did Americans come to know and love salsa? When salsa began to cross the border into the United States in the 1800s, there was no place for it on a pioneer’s plate of plain cornbread and butterbeans. Before Americans could truly enjoy salsa, they had to learn to enjoy spice. 

That process started with the production of Tabasco and other spicy pepper-extract-based sauces in Louisiana in the mid-1910s. As Americans gradually built a taste for heat, they began seeking out more condiments to add spice to their dinners - and salsa was there to fit the bill. 

Remember how we said the history of salsa was a slow burn? This is where salsa really starts to get “hot” in the USA. 

During the late 1940s, household-name brands such as La Victoria (in Los Angeles) and Pace (in Texas) began producing lines of taco hot sauces and picante sauces respectively. Between the 1950s and 1970s, salsa companies sprang up all over the country from Texas to Vermont. 

In the late ‘80s, the sales of Mexican-inspired sauces and salsas grew almost eighty percent. That boom in sales was facilitated by Mexican restaurants using salsa as a “table sauce” with tortilla chips to entice American customers. By the early 2010s, salsa had surpassed the sale of ketchup to become the predominant American sauce.

What’s the big draw about salsa, as opposed to ketchup and Tabasco? Unlike most sauces, salsa is easy to make and endlessly customizable, but because of the simplicity of the concept, freshness is key to making a great salsa. 

At Salsa Grille, we take the idea of fresh ingredients to heart. Every day, we make delicious, fresh, and high-quality salsas, pico de gallo, and guacamole to go along with your choice of gluten free chips (click here for our GF blog). All our meats, veggies, and salsa ingredients come directly from George’s International Market, which sources the freshest, most authentic ingredients from around the world. 

In keeping with George’s, Salsa Grille is dedicated to using fresh, premium ingredients to show Fort Wayne big, fresh flavors! We keep our salsa stocked at each of our three locations with a variety of our favorite salsas, including George’s Signature Hot Salsa, the Signature Mild Salsa, Salsa Verde, and the Grilled Pineapple and Chipotle Salsa. At Salsa Grille, you can find a salsa for any taste, from sweet and mild to super spicy. 

But our salsas aren’t just toppers, of course! You can load up any of our salsas onto your tacos, burritos, nachos, and more. Because really, who wouldn’t want that level of fresh flavor layered into every part of their meal?

Come to Salsa Grille to get the best Mexican-inspired dining experience!

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