LINCOLN SQUARE — When it finally opens to the public on Saturday, Savory Spice Shop will be the hottest store in Lincoln Square. Literally.
Among the hundreds of herbs, spices, salts and seasonings carried by the shop, look for the world's hottest pepper: the Trinidad Scorpion chili.
How hot is it? It's so hot, its growers have to wear chemical masks and body suits to cook with it.
"It's painful," said store manager David Trout, who added that a "bit of bravado" comes into play among people willing to give the chili a try.
For those intent on scorching their taste buds, the weekend's grand opening festivities will include copious amounts of sampling, as Trout and his staff of five introduce customers to the store, 4753 N. Lincoln Ave.
"Come on in and we'll give you a tour of cinnamon," said Trout.
The location is the 29th Savory Spice Shop, a national franchise founded by former Lincoln Square residents Janet and Mike Johnson, who've since moved to Denver.
"It's awesome," said Janet Johnson of the homecoming. "Mike and I lived on Giddings [Street]."
The Johnsons were in town to help put the finishing touches on the store, which will be something of a "flagship" among Savory Spice Shops.
The Lincoln Square store will not only carry regional blends specific to the Midwest, but also blends unique to other stores, including Portland, Denver and Charlotte.
During a sneak preview of the shop, Trout opened jar after jar for a whiff of his favorite Savory Spice Shop offerings like Cook County Charcoal Seasoning, which gets its smoky flavor from burnt coconut shells. Or Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt, which smells like a campfire.
"We grind things in small batches, so everything is as fresh as we can get it to you," he said.
The shop is divided into sections, including curry, peppercorns, baking spices and extracts, locally-made products and exotics like Dried Kaffir Leaves.
"That's part of what makes us special," said Trout. "Just the sheer breadth of our offerings."
Items can be purchased by the jar — there's a new 12-ounce size for frequently used spices and seasonings — or by the ounce, which gives customers an incentive to experiment.
"There's plenty of stuff for your home lab," said Trout.
Though the build-out of Savory Spice Shop, including a new facade, went smoothly, the process wasn't fast enough for some.
Said Trout, "I've heard so much from people, 'Just get open.'"
This weekend he obliges. Hours are: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays; 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Sunday.