Think about the qualities of Tabasco sauce and you’ll come to understand the rich essence of New Iberia. Located two hours west of New Orleans, this community is home to the factory that makes the world-famous Tabasco pepper sauce, a staple of Cajun culinary creations. Indeed, New Iberia is known for its sauciness, whether it’s Tabasco hot pepper sauce or its food, music and festivals.
The Spanish founded what became known as New Iberia in 1779 on the banks of Bayou Teche. French settlers later came here from Nova Scotia and came to be known as Cajuns. The region became a melting pot of not only Spanish and French, but also African-American and Creole cultures.
Although the area was settled by the Spanish, it is the Cajun and Creole food that simmered to become a world-renowned cuisine, including gumbo, boudin, étouffée, jambalaya, boiled crawfish and other fresh seafood. Asian food is also a favorite, since the area is home to one of America’s largest Laotian populations. Experience Louisiana’s Bayou Bounty Culinary Trail with great restaurants and their exceptional chefs.
Planning a visit? Consult the Iberia Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The origin of Tabasco sauce says a lot about the evolution of this community diverse community.
The diet of the Reconstruction South was bland and monotonous, especially by Louisiana standards. So businessman Edmund McIlhenny decided in 1868 to create a pepper sauce to give the food some spice and flavor. Selecting and crushing the reddest peppers from his plants, he mixed them with Avery Island salt and aged this “mash” for 30 days in crockery jars and barrels, then blended the mash with French white wine vinegar and aged the mixture for at least another 30 days. He packaged his creation in French cologne-style bottles.
Over 140 years later, Tabasco sauce is made much the same way except now the aging process for the mash is longer—up to three years in white oak barrels—and the vinegar is high-quality distilled vinegar. Tabasco is labeled in 22 languages and dialects, sold in over 165 countries and territories, added to soldiers’ rations and put on restaurant tables around the globe. It is the most famous, most preferred pepper sauce in the world. You can learn all about this famous sauce during a factory tour.
Beauty abounds at the garden tours in New Iberia. At the Jefferson Island Rip Van Winkle Gardens, tour the Joseph Jefferson Home, Rip’s Rookery and a semitropical garden surrounding Lake Peigneur.Jungle Gardens, home of “Bird City,” founded by Tabasco sauce magnate E. A. McIlhenny, is a three-mile driving tour around the remains of an unusual nursery. It’s 170 acres of extraordinary, beautiful, strange and useful plants, as well as a refuge for many animal species of special concern.
March through April, visitors will notice Azaleas blooming on New Iberia’s award-winning Main Street amid moss-draped oak trees, stately homes and quaint cottages.
Built for a wealthy sugar planter in 1834, the Shadows-on-the-Teche was home to four generations before becoming a National Trust Historic Site. Live oaks draped with Spanish moss cast shadows on the house, gardens and Bayou Teche. Family letters and furnishings present an authentic picture of life in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Another beautiful tourist spot is Antique Roseville. The circa 1830 Renoudet cottage and its surrounding gardens are listed in the National Directory for Gardens in America. Another historic attraction is the Joseph Jefferson Mansion, built in 1870 and home to the Rip Van Winkle Gardens, 25 acres of carefully cultivated tropical plants.
Another popular attraction near town is the country’s oldest operating rice mill owned by the Konriko Co., which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012. Watch a slide presentation on the history of the Acadians and tour the mill.
History buffs will enjoy a walking tour of the East Main Street National Register Residential District. This is “home” to Detective Dave Robicheaux, the main character in novels by James Lee Burke, a New Iberia native and Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
New Iberia also was home for William “Bunk” Johnson, a jazz musician who taught Louis Armstrong and other Jazz legends. Learn more about Bunk Johnson and his music in the historical collection at the Iberia Parish Library’s main branch. Visit his grave at St. Edward’s Cemetery, as well as the Memorial Plaza dedicated to his memory on Hopkins Street. The Bunk Johnson Festival is held every year in May.
New Iberia also is home to the Rosary House, which draws visitors from far and near to buy handmade rosaries, devotional candles, statues and medals.