Some L.A. restaurants make condiments that are so popular they (almost) become the point of the meal. The best of them often get bottled and branded and sold. From Jamaican hot sauce to strawberry and rose jam, here are a half dozen of our favorite sauces and preserves that have made the leap from plate to jar.
Thai sauces from Ayara Thai Cuisine
When the Asapahu family behind Ayara Thai Cuisine found themselves filling up takeout containers with sauce for regular customers, they decided to start packaging Ayara Thai Sauces. Ayara started offering bottles for sale at the restaurant in 2012, and later began selling them online — and last year they began wholesaling to markets around the country. Their lineup currently includes seven sauces, with Thai Peanut and Thai Chili-Lime among the best-sellers. The sauces are still made and bottled in the Ayara restaurant kitchen, although the business is expanding and soon will include an off-site packer in Orange County. 6245 W. 87th St., Westchester; (310) 410-8848; ayarathaicuisine.com.
Reggae Hot Sauce from Front Page Jamaican Grille
Front Page is known for owner and chef Valdo Carlyle's personal recipes for Jamaican dishes — and he makes his own sauces, too. The Reggae Hot Sauce is a favorite at the Inglewood restaurant, and for almost 10 years Carlyle also has been selling it by the bottle ($5 for 5 oz.). But what is Reggae Hot Sauce anyway? The blend of spices and peppers includes Scotch bonnet and habanero, with a taste as bright as the color. It’s spicy but has flavor in addition to heat. Front Page's Reggae Jerk Sauce also is available by the bottle ($9 for 16 ounces). 1117 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood; (310) 216-9521; frontpagejamaicangrille.com.
Mole from Guelaguetza
Guelaguetza is the flag bearer for Oaxacan food in L.A., and the star of its menu is, of course, mole. These rich sauces made from chiles, nuts, spices and Oaxacan chocolate are great for dips or poured over a plate of rice and poultry. Three of the moles on the menu at Guelaguetza are bottled and for sale both online and at the restaurant: the mole negro (extremely deep, dark and sweet); the mole rojo (rich, but a little brighter than the negro and with less chocolate); and the mole coloradito (milder and versatile, this is the sauce served as the salsa with chips in the restaurant). As our restaurant critic Besha Rodell notes, “This may be the most famous mole in the country.” 3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown; (213) 427-0608; ilovemole.com.
Jam from Sqirl
Unlike the other condiments on this list, which were bottled after gaining popularity at restaurants, Sqirl jams pre-dated the hip breakfast and lunch spot. Chef Jessica Koslow started Sqirl as a preserve company, making jams with local organic produce and unusual flavor combinations (such as strawberry and rose or wild blueberry and tarragon). When Sqirl moved into its current space on the border of East Hollywood and Silver Lake, the small commercial kitchen became a home for jam production. The jams are still made and sold in what is now the restaurant ($12 for 7.75 oz.), and are also sold online and in gourmet markets. With a serious commitment to making jams from organic, local and fair-trade ingredients with minimal sugar, Sqirl jams have drawn a serious following. You can even join the jam club and receive in the mail four seasonal jams a year. 720 N. Virgil Ave., East Hollywood; (323) 284-8147; sqirlla.com.
Habanero hot sauce from Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza, the popular Yucatecan restaurant inside Mercado La Paloma near USC, is proud of serving authentic dishes made from scratch — including its house-made habanero sauce. Dishes of cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) and chicharrones (fried pork rinds) are some of the popular items to douse with the sauce, but start gently and respect the heat. Made and bottled at the restaurant, the sauce is available for sale on site and online in several sizes. There's also an extra-spicy, roasted habanero version called Chile Kut ($3.50 to $6.50). 3655 S. Grand Ave., Historic South Central; (213) 741-1075; chichenitzarestaurant.com.
Salsa de chile de árbol en aciete at Las Amigas
Many Mexican salsas are tomato-based, but salsa de aciete means “salsa in oil” — and Las Amigas, a casual Mexican stand in downtown L.A., offers a flavorful and spicy salsa de chile de árbol en aciete. The salsa is made from toasted, thin red peppers (chile de árbol) in oil with garlic, salt and chicken bouillon, making an extremely flavorful oil with a spicy kick that varies depending on how much of the pepper paste you scoop with the oil. (You can also mix the salsa with mayonnaise or sour cream to create a milder, rich dip, as the owner recommends.) Regular customers here have been buying this salsa in plastic containers for years ($5), and owner Adolpho Vega has looked into bottling the sauce more officially. He's still navigating that process, but Vega's salsa could be the next local restaurant condiment that ends up in our pantries and on supermarket shelves. For now, fans often make the trip to the eatery just to pick up their home supply. 830 San Julian St., downtown; (213) 627-1067.