Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Nov 12, 2006 08:32 PM

Emil Villa'a barbeque sauce

Many months ago I posted a short history of Emil Villa's barbeque restaurant company. My complaint
was that the original barbeque sauce
had been supplanted with something
called " brown sauce" a tasteless
vinegery bland mess. I had commented that the Hayward unit
had about four years ago come up
with the real deal. About six weeks
ago I was in to revisit the Hayward
unit. It was a Tuesday early evening.
On that particular night the real deal
occured. The following week on Thursday I brought a small party in
and sadly on this day, the "brown sauce" was served. I also in the mean
time did go to the LIvermore unit and
their sauce was just so so. It had taste but not the mouth watering
want to come back again and again
taste that made Emil Villa's so famous. I hope to return to the Hayward unit sometime soon in the
evening on a Tuesday in hopes that
it has something to do with who makes the sauce.
BTW. the so called original sauce is labeled EVB on the menu. In the meantime also I came across a woman who had eaten at Emil Villa's
first unit a few years before I was
born. She to this day remembers the
original sauce. Her fiancee took her
there for dates before they were married. Good luck everyone.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. In the mid-seventies, I worked as a waitress for a year and a half at the original Emil's on Telegraph in Oakland. I was finally out of Cal and desperately needed money. We waitresses wore polyester pastel uniforms that we purchased and washed, the cooks were all men for whom the restaurant provided showers and freshly laundered clothing each day, and the management very old style. I believe the story about EVB adapting an old Kiowa Indian meat cooking method appeared some years after Clorox Corporation bought the restaurant chain for $7M cash (yes!) from Emil himself after I left in '77. When I worked at EVB, the restaurant choices in the Oakland area were rather limited so EVB was a very popular place! However, after several later corporate changes, quality degradation, and Oakland's improved restaurant choices, the restaurant chain lost it's appeal and broke up. The original "brown sauce" was the only sauce available til long after Clorox purchased the chain and the relatively recent red barbeque sauce was an improvement over the brown sauce (now called "brown gravy"). The original brown sauce recipe is long lost, I'm sure-during my time at EVB, I remember that one of the cooks had to return early from his vacation as the restaurant chain was beginning to run short of the brown sauce and he was the only one who knew the ingredients and how to make it! My husband and I still occasionaly visit the Walnut Creek pit (now named for a later owner) but find that quality lacks in several important areas (the ribs are a mere shadow of what they once were!), although it remains quite popular even now.

    1. The only thing about Emil Villa's that stands out for me, is their fresh cole slaw in a garlicky, creamy sauce....does anyone know how to replicate it???

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChowFun_derek

        I totally agree about the cole slaw. I don't even care for cole slaw that much. I would buy a case if I could find it. I'd never had anything like it. I remember thinking that it almost had a curry taste to it. I'd love the recipe or to be able to buy it by the jar. I do remember that they used to sell the dressing as well as their sauce at the restaurant but that was years ago.

      2. For some reason, I'm thinking the secret ingredient in the brown gravy was dill pickle juice.

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. The original tasting brown sauce indeed can be found at the Hayward
            unit on Mission Blvd just past the junction of Foothill and Jackson st
            on the right hand side. Parking is available. The trick is to figure out
            which day the cook who knows how to make it has done his job.

            Having followed the chain since about 1957 when my parents would
            buy Emil's barbeque ribs and pies from the Telegraph store to take out
            I have a keen memory for the real thing. I went to the Walnut Creek
            store a few months back and complained about the sauce, whereupon
            the manager became defensive and insisted it was as it always had been.

            Pathetic!!! It's too bad because when I was a teengager we lived in
            Pleasant Hill, frequently we would go to Emil Villa's. After Clorox
            ran it into the ground and subsequent owners mismanaged the restaulrant
            chain, it was quite a surprise to find one last hold out to the original
            receipe. The only units I haven't been able to go to as yet are the San
            Ramon and San Carlos units so I can't report on the quality or lack
            thereof of their brown sauce.

            I must say though, at the Hayward and San Leandro units the quality
            and quantity of the meat servings is very substantial.

            The best buy is the Family size ribs. There's enough there for four
            and some left overs to take home.

            Getting back to the taste of the sauce, I really can't describe it but
            when it is made perfectly there is a lingering taste on one's lips
            that doesn't really want to go away, and so one leaves the restaurant
            with a reminder of what had transpired in taste, before.

            Richard SprossÄ

            2 Replies
            1. re: Richard C.Spross

              Ok, I remember EVB. I was born in 66. My parents would take me there every Sunday morning. My Grand Dad was friends with Emil. It had a diner setting. We were in Hayward. I was a young girl and I also ordered the same thing. Center cut adult plate of ribs, the fries were always hot and were steak fries and I always got a shredded lettuce salad with blue cheese. It was heaven. The sauce was brown, but not thick. I live in Wa. now and my desperate wealthy brother had ribs/sauce sent same day to us. The brown sauce is not the same now 30 years later. I would give anything to have the recipe for the sauce. It is indescribeable, not gravy, not BBQ sauce, but rich and brown and just the right consistency. God I miss that place. I wish someone had the recipe. I remember a sign above the kitchen door in the dining area...fresh mince pie. My mom always had it. We always went at least once a week and sat at the bar (eating bar) and had peaches and cream or strawberries and cream, fresh of course. Those were the days.
              Selene Norris/WA

              1. re: sjoynorris

                I grew up in Hayward and I remember the restaurant that near the library. I remember the cow head on the sign that looked like it was mounted like a hunting trophy. :) I always wanted to go there as a kid but my parents didn't go out much. I didn't get there until I was an adult and I wish I'd not wasted all those years.

                Other smells and tastes of Hayward that are not there are hot dogs at a little place near Palmer's drug store. The Big Top grocery store that had a mechanical clown out front. Inside had little stands of different types of food and the smell when you walked in was to die for. My cousin and I would walk there and buy bulk candy. I remember rock candy that looked like real rocks, not sugar crystals. Ahh memories. I'd love to take a vacation to the tastes and smells of my childhood. :)