Heaven On Seven in Chicago, Illinois

So much hot sauce!

Named both for its unusual location—on the seventh floor of downtown Chicago’s historic Garland Building, which was built in the early 1900s—and for the aromas and tastes that greet diners, Heaven On Seven has been serving Cajun fare for decades. It’s most distinctive feature, though, are the hot sauces that cover the tables and even the walls.

The restaurant did not feature a hot-sauce collection when chef-owner Jimmy Bannos and his family took over the eatery in 1980, which served Jewish deli foods. But when a cousin married into a family from Mississippi, Bannos told Serious Eats,  they were introduced to stuffed crabs and catfish and smothered steaks. Soon enough, they were selling popular gumbos in Chicago and substituting smoked Polish sausage for andouille sausage (which wasn’t yet available).

Rave reviews are common for the jambalaya, gumbo, étouffée, fried catfish, and shrimp & grits, and Heaven on Seven serves more than 20 kinds of po’boys. The restaurant also offers a full breakfast menu, stacked with pancake and waffle choices (including bananas foster), and copious omelet and poached-egg choices. Bannos is known for his use of spices and seasonings to create dishes that are spicy without being overbearing, and Heaven on Seven is one of those places that manages to be popular with both tourists and locals.

Of course, for anyone looking for overbearing spiciness, there’s plenty of hot sauce on offer. Lining the walls top to bottom and placed freely on tables and the bar, they come from all over the world: from household favorites to bottles likely unknown even to connoisseurs.