Despite the hurricanes, the McIlhenny Co. (www.tabasco.com) is moving ahead with plans to open a Warehouse District museum for its world-famous product, Tabasco sauce. The museum and company store will open in the St. Charles Avenue building that once housed the Hummingbird Hotel & Grill. Company president Paul McIlhenny says the museum could be open within a year. The company's production facility on Avery Island in Iberia Parish was untouched by Hurricane Katrina. Located on a salt dome at the highest elevation in the region, its sturdy brick buildings also weathered Hurricane Rita well. But dozens of the company's employees were flooded out of their homes in the nearby communities and much of the locally grown hot pepper seed crop was destroyed. Operations were barely disrupted, however, because the vast majority of the peppers that go into Tabasco sauce are grown on farms in Central and South America.
The storm also delayed the opening of the latest franchise location of the growing Melting Pot (1820 St. Charles Ave., 525-3225; www.meltinpot.com) fondue restaurant chain. The restaurant, scheduled to open Sept. 7, instead opened three months later to the day, Dec. 7, in a former Lower Garden District office building. The local franchise owner is Christopher Womack , a Louisiana native and Tulane graduate who has owned the Melting Pot restaurant in Baton Rouge since 1999. Melting Pot restaurants serve a variety of fondue styles, including cheese, chocolate, oil and broth, used to prepare meals at the table. The company was started in Maitland, Fla., in 1975. After growing slowly through the 1980s, franchise expansion took off in the late 1990s, bringing the Tampa-based company more than 90 locations now. The New Orleans Melting Pot opens for dinner daily at 5 p.m. and also serves its cheese and chocolate fondues at the bar.