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EV Brown Sauce recipe? (Split from SF Board)

Brad Goeppert Dec 23, 2007 01:23 PM

Greetings to all of you EV Brown Sauce lovers! My wife and I took my mother out to lunch yesterday to the Hickory Pit and guess what we had? Those ribs really brought back memories of when my grandparents, my parents and my two brothers and I would go their for dinner in the late 50's early 60's. I was born and raised in Walnut Creek and my two older brothers attended Las Lomas HS directly accross the street from the restaurant. I'm now in search of the EV Brown Sauce recipe and do hope that my search isn't in vain. Surely someone out there has something close. I still have my wife's leftover ribs in the refrigerator that I can only savor for one or two more days! Please help me so I don't have to go through the Brown Sauce withdrawal and make my Christmas a memorable one!

PS - I too use to eat the bar-b-que at Barney's lots of times in the early 70"s when I worked down that same strip at Payless Paint Center. Does anyone have Barney's sauce recipe which was very similiar to EV's?

  1. j
    jerry i h Aug 11, 2008 05:41 PM

    OK, I have decided to take stab at recreating EV's brown sauce they put on their ribs. I still remember it, because, for the first time, I tasted the meat rather than just sauce with chunky bits underneath. So, this is a worthy effort IMHO.
    There are 3 basic ways to get a brown sauce:
    1) classic Escoffier-style, ala sauce espagnole; think veal bones and cow feet
    2) cajun/brown roux style
    3) modern chemical: you know, beef bouillon cube, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, caramel color...
    Based on my flavor memory, I will start out by trying #2 with malt vinegar.
    Hey, you do not suppose it was something stupidly simple like HP Steak Sauce ('Brown Sauce') mixed into beef stock thickened with cornstarch? If you do remember what it tastes like, please post here, and how you think it was made.
    When I figure it out, I will list the recipe here.
    OTOH, if it is that good, you won't here a single peep as I open my own chain of BBQ joints...

    16 Replies
    1. re: jerry i h
      Brad Goeppert Oct 23, 2008 09:23 AM

      So Jerry, have you come up with anything that remotely resembles this sauce? I'm in the mood for some good "Q" this weekend.

      1. re: Brad Goeppert
        jerry i h Oct 29, 2008 08:49 PM

        Sorry, I have not. I posted requests for fans to post their memories of same, assuming that my personal memories are of marginal reliability (hint, hint). Sadly, I got no responses: I know that there are people who know what this legendary BBQ sauce tasted like, yet no responses are forthcoming. However, note that this is on the top of my 'to do list'; I really need a fascimile of this sauce for my everyday meat eating.

        1. re: jerry i h
          tobycat Jun 24, 2009 11:33 PM


          I'm still curious about this too. I have moved out of the area and I haven't had the ribs in ages. I ate them my whole life so I am seriously craving.

          I looked at the site, and they mention using soy sauce on the ribs, which was surprising, along with the sauce as a marinade. So maybe there is some soy in the sauce. I think the Worcestershire is right on also. Green pepper surprised me, but it made me think that maybe the Holy Trinity is in there??

          I remember it being peppery spicy. As a kid it was strong to me, but I liked it.

          Thanks Jerry for your attempts.

          1. re: tobycat
            jerry i h Jul 6, 2009 05:38 PM

            Eureka! Well, sort of.
            Thanks for the reminder. I tried to come up with a recipe, but failed and just forgot about it. So, this time, I tried again and came up with a reasonable recreation. What I remember most was that it was a thick-ish liquid with an almost oily texture, slight peppery and vinegar taste. It did not get gloppy when cold, so it was not based on roux, nor was texture like pureed vegetables. So, I tried cornstarch, and the texture came pretty close.
            Basically, it is beef bouillon with a dash of pepper and vinegar, and thickened with cornstarch. The problem is that my taste memory is rather vague. I have published the recipe in the “sauces” section.

            1. re: jerry i h
              tobycat Jul 14, 2009 01:21 AM

              Thank you so much!

              1. re: tobycat
                Brad Goeppert Aug 15, 2009 12:26 PM

                I posted a recipe quite some time ago that shared several of the ingredients that were in common with the recipe that" jerry i h" posted in the sauce recipe section as Barbeque Sauce a la Emil Villa's. I have to admit that I have not put together either of these recipes and was wondering if anyboby out there has. I sure would like some feedback from anyone who has been pursuing an Emil Villa's clone recipe and has actually given either of these recipes a try. To me, this would be like finding the Holy Grail of barbeque sauce recipes!

                1. re: Brad Goeppert
                  Richard C.Spross Sep 4, 2009 08:15 PM

                  Hi Brad,
                  I can't get behind Jerry's well intentioned attempt. It is too simple in my humble
                  opinion. Based on years of eating Emil's original sauce, before he even built
                  the Walnut Creek and San Leandro stores, and based on what employees
                  stated about the time it took to make the sauce I think it isn't close. From what
                  I know it took at least all night to make, because it was cooked in a large vat
                  to hold all the quantity needed. Also it was said that he used lots of vegetables, in it which took a lot of time to cook down to nothing. I do agree
                  that it was beef based. Then also when he began the business in the
                  twenties the ingredients had to be cheap and easily available in those
                  hard times. and in large quantities. I doubt he would have used a commercial sauce like liquid smoke, A 1 steak sauce or any such thing,
                  because it would have been too expensive to use as a basic ingredient.

                  Anyway I'm going to have some soon and maybe I'll get lucky and who
                  ever happens to make it may get it right..

                  1. re: Richard C.Spross
                    rachellemu Sep 6, 2009 10:18 PM

                    Hi people. Good news...sort of. While I don't have an exact recipe I do have a mother that was a waitress at Emil Villa's for over 10 years starting in the very early 80's. Here's what I was able to gather from her. Hickory Pit bought all their supplies from Cisco so she thinks the base started off as a powder mixed with water, your typical brown gravy base. A lot of veggies were thrown in: yellow onions, garlic, turnips, carrots, celery, and potatos. Worsteshire, soy sauce, kitchen bouquet or something like it, meat drippings and ALL the fat that was cut off the meats were tossed in too. She said at the end of the night they would put a little water in the ketchup bottles, shake them up and pour that in as well. She said when she would open the lid there was a thick layer of grease on the top so she said she was pretty sure all the meat drippings / fat were put in. That was pressure cooked for two days and then strained.

                    She think that prior to Clorox the base was vegetable based.

                    Hope this helps. I remember going to wait for my mom to get off work and have the french dip with the best steak frys EVER. Man they really took a good thing and jacked it all up. So sad. Every blue moon I talk a friend or two into giving in another shot. The last time was by far the most dissapointing. The skinny frys taste like some no name frozen kind and the once thick sourdough roll is now a dutch crunch. The brown so called sauce doesn't taste like anything and the once mouthwatering pie cases were completely empty. The only thing that resembled anything familiar was one much older waitress with a ratted beehive and the pastel polyester uniform they all used to wear. Just talking about it I can recall my mom coming home with that strong smell of ribs on her. Boy I miss those days.

              2. re: jerry i h
                rachellemu Sep 7, 2009 11:49 AM


                In regards to your recipe I'm going to ask my mom about the vinegar part. Also forgot to mention that she was pretty good friends with the cooks. It wasn't that the recipe was a secret, just that the OG's probably had no reason to talk about it and just knew what to do like the back of their hand. By cooking for two days she said everything that was tossed in cooked down to a liquid. I would be interesting to find out what that brown gravy base from Cisco actually tasted like before adding anything. She said it was "basic brown sauce". OH and she said they thinned it down a little with water to create the sauce that was poured over the open face sandwiches.

                1. re: rachellemu
                  jerry i h Sep 8, 2009 06:23 PM

                  Thanks, all for the info.
                  1) I have not used Cisco "brown gravy" base, but have used their beef base. Better Than Boullion is a reasonable substitute for the professional stuff. I have been using it for years, very satisfactorily.
                  2) Most of the ingredients mentioned are congruent with the recipe I came up with. However, I am becoming suspicious of all the anecdotal accounts of what their sauce supposedly had. Perhaps, clever advertising rather than actual recipe?
                  3) The "base" is already a complex mixture, and already has stuff like liquid smoke, soy, worchestershire, MSG, etc. so the sauce probably did not require more of these things.
                  4) "base" already has lots of vegetables cooked for a long time; that is why it is reasonable stuff to use, although they might have simmered additional vegetables and filtered them out.
                  5) if the recipe really did use the amount of vegetables as suggested, it would have been chunky and need to be filtered out or pureed; I am pretty sure (due to texture) that it was not vegetables that were cooked down or pureed, though.
                  6) I am still interested to know the thoughts of someone who remembers the taste, and compare that to the recipe I came up with. To my memory, as is, it is pretty close. Adding meat drippings might get it closer to the original, though. This would have been cheap and easy, compared to using a lot of expensive vegetables cooked down (drippings are free).

                  1. re: jerry i h
                    Richard C.Spross Sep 19, 2009 05:45 PM

                    Here's to Jerry i h and rachellemu

                    First, Rachel your mother's memory corresponds to the anecdote a cashier
                    who once worked at the Hayward location related to me who had worked there
                    all her life. Unfortunately we were interrupted by customers as she was
                    describing the ingredients and so the list was incomplete.

                    Jerry I'll have to try your recipe to give you a fair shot at it your memory.
                    But the idea that the original sauce took two days to make seems to be a
                    reoccurring memory. When I say original, I'm looking back to the pre
                    Clorox time. This is a time that few people remember, being that the chain
                    has continued to bring in new customers with their current menu which now
                    dates back nearly 20 years. When those of us complain about the loss of
                    the original it is based on an older memory. I'm not sure where or when
                    you first experienced Emil Villa's barbecue.

                    Anyway, my friend brought over a pork rack with the brown sauce and
                    extra brown sauce the other day since i was not going to eat it all at one

                    I'm afraid that my taste buds have perhaps finally caved into what is being
                    offered, in so far as it is about 80% close. But there is no lingering flavor,
                    and I can't put my finger on what is missing. So I doctored it up with the

                    I had purchased some powdered beef gravy and added some pickle juice,
                    some rice wine vinegar, various kinds of oriental hot sauce and the stuff
                    they sent with the meal. All in all it made it more spicy. I should mention
                    that the sauce became gloopy when it was refrigerated which suggests there were fat drippings in it, maybe.....
                    I'm down to the last two ribs tonight and I found reheating them with the
                    sauce over the ribs in the microwave for 2 minutes 30 seconds is just
                    about right and avoids recooking them too much. Last night I had made up
                    the concoction mentioned previously and I poured it hot over the reheated
                    ribs and it wasn't happening. The night previously i had reheated the ribs
                    with the sauce they sent poured over the ribs in the microwave and it tasted
                    much better.

                    So in their literature there is mention of the spraying the ribs while cooking
                    over the hickory grill and that must have something to do with the flavor.

                    Anyway I thought I'd mention that it tastes better poured over and reheated
                    than reheated and poured over later.

                    Richard C. Spross

                    Let me add that in doctoring up the present brown sauce it really was just
                    a hit and miss kind of approach. I forgot to mention that I added brown
                    sugar, a splash of hickory smoke, and a splash of another barbecue
                    sauce that I had purchased recently and had some tomatoe base in it.
                    The oriental sauce was a Szechuan hot sauce that I reboiled since it was
                    old. Don't do be careless.. Probably okay, but the point would be to
                    use fresh ingredients.

                    The issue at hand is, how to recreate the flavor, texture, color and taste
                    of the original for home use. What we are trying to do is come up with
                    something that originally was made in massive quantities.

                    What I'm trying to get is that dark purplelish look, and that lingering flavor
                    that remains for days on one's lips. YUMMM.

                    1. re: Richard C.Spross
                      Brad Goeppert Feb 21, 2010 09:15 AM

                      Hi Richard and hello to all that have expressed interest in recreating this amazing recipe. I've been sitting back in the wings watching to see how this has evolved. Where are you as far as this recipe goes? Can you write down the ingredients and the measurements that would produce approx. 16 oz? As a recourse to the EV Brown sauce, does anyone have or can anyone get the recipe for the sauce at Barney's Hickory Pit in Concord? Having had their sauce a number of times, it's about as good as Emil Villa's as I recall. At any rate, lets keep this chain alive... We're all in this for the long haul, right?!!!!!

                      1. re: Brad Goeppert
                        dmalfet May 27, 2010 10:02 AM

                        I am a transplanted Concord girl, living in NY state(0ver 20 yrs). I would KILL to get the Barneys recipe or anything close to it. I loved it and have never found anything like it. I am considering writing to the owner and swearing (in blood) that I will never share the recipe or whatever promise he wants. I dream of this stuff . I'm asking ,right along with Brad, does anyone have a recipe to be recreated in a normal kitchen that even comes close?
                        I'd be so very grateful...

                        1. re: dmalfet
                          Richard C.Spross Aug 2, 2010 04:44 PM

                          Dear dmaffet,
                          See my reply to Brad.
                          Good luck also.
                          Richard C. Spross

                        2. re: Brad Goeppert
                          Richard C.Spross Aug 2, 2010 04:43 PM

                          Brad, I've been on a quest to try to figure it out, and I suppose if I do, I'll have
                          to open my own barbeque restaurant. But here's a start. Check out Bruce Aidell's book "The Complete Meat Cookbook". There is a recipe in there which
                          can get you started. Or his co author Denis Kelly's book 'Pacific Grilling'.
                          They are virtually identical, so which ever one you can find in your local library,
                          or cheaply on line. I tried Aidell's version and it wasn't quite the right mix,
                          but the ribs still tasted fantastic. So I'm using it as a sort of reference point.

                          Best wishes.
                          Richard C. Spross.

                          1. re: Richard C.Spross
                            westifer Apr 18, 2011 08:17 AM

                            I made a first attempt at this great sauce. Sadly, it seems to exist only in the minds of those lucky enough to have had it 30 or more years ago. YMMV, but I thought it was a couple steps in the right direction. I would love to hear what others think.

                            EASY VERSION:

                            Two cups water
                            Gravy Base - Costco Powdered Brown Gravy Mix (8 tbsp)
                            Beef Boullion powder/Granules (2 tsp)
                            1/4 cup red wine
                            1/8 to 1/4 cup dill pickle juice (depends on strength)
                            Pepper to taste (I use about 1/4 tsp)
                            3/4 Tsp Liquid Smoke
                            1/2 Tsp Kitchen Bouquet
                            AND - a shot of Bullseye Barbecue sauce to taste!

                            Boil water and whisk in gavy powder. Add all other ingredients and whisk while heating. Simmer for 30 to 60 minutes.

                            It is close, but not quite there. Ideas anyone???

        2. Melanie Wong Dec 26, 2007 06:49 PM

          As it's not clear from this split off post or the moderator's title, to clarify, this is a brown sauce for BARBECUE popularized by Emil Villa's and also served at Hickory Pit restaurants, such as Barney's.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong
            Brad Goeppert Dec 30, 2007 10:13 AM

            Thank you for your clarification Melanie. Hopefully if we capture more people's attention with this post, we quite possibly can pull together as a team and come up with a clone recipe. My impression is that it is similar to what would be considered a Salisbury Steak Sauce with a hint of mushroom, onion, ketchup and liquid smoke. The EV Brown starts with a beef base, not a tomato base. I thought I'd begin by offering this as a possible starting point. I have yet to try it though. If there is someone out there that likes to experiment in the kitchen and is up for the challenge, lets play with this and see what happens.

            Add 2 cps water to saucepan
            2 tsp Beef Base (such as "Better Than Bouillon")
            4-6 tblsp Cornstarch
            2-4 tblsp Corn Oil
            1 tblsp Worchestershire Sauce
            1/4 cp Ketchup (maybe less)
            2 Tsp Liquid Smoke
            Kitchen Bouquet Browning Sauce
            Salt & Pepper

            Heat up all of the above and stir until it thickens to the proper consistency. In the meantime saute the following in a little corn oil until the onions are golden.

            1 small white onion - diced
            6 Button mushrooms - sliced & diced
            1 lg clove garlic - minced

            Puree the above in a blender and then toss it in the saucepan and VOILA!

            1. re: Brad Goeppert
              Melanie Wong Jan 2, 2008 10:21 PM

              Emil Villa's website is disabled now, but I was able to glean this from google's cache:

              "Brown(Gravy) Sauce:
              Our brown sauce is known as our original sauce and is best described as a gravy sauce.
              This original sauce takes about two days to make so that we are able to get that rich flavor that our customers enjoy so much. Made out of different ingredients including green peppers, parsley, carrots and much more, this sauce can only be found here at Emil Villas. We make it here at this restaurant so that we can have it fresh to you when you come in."

              Emil Villa's California BBQ
              24047 Mission Blvd, Hayward, CA 94544

              Emil Villa's California BBQ
              3064 Pacific Ave, Livermore, CA 94550

              Emil Villa's California Barbecue
              1800 E 14th St, San Leandro, CA 94577

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                Richard C.Spross Feb 7, 2008 02:30 PM

                Well Melanie,
                As far as I'm concerned the original recipe is either known by a few retired
                cooks or lost, or owned by Clorox and never sold. Sadly only about three
                times over the past six years have I tasted it made in the original manner,
                actually only once and the other two times it was close. This happened
                at the Hayward location. This is against all my other visiits which ran to
                about 10 times. So I expect to be disappointed. I eventually got out
                to the Livermore location and it was not significantly better.
                The problem is, I think, that perhaps the ribs are not slow cooked over
                a Hickory wood fire any more. I'm not sure, but that has to be factored
                in. Also we must remember that Emil Villa was making this for the
                commerciial market i.e. in large quantities beginning in the twenties
                and continunint until he sold the busines in the mid to late 70's..

                Virtually all the people who knew how he did it if they still are employwd
                by the current owners have been making a different recipe now for nearly
                30 years. It takes someone much older to remember that far back.
                I was born in 47 and introduced to it around 1954? maybe? Sometime
                in the 50's. Took my children to EVB's through the earlly 90's fighing mad the whole time as I watched the slow demise and reinvention of a
                great product. As for Barney's we went there as well and it is wonderful
                brown sauce, but not quite the same thing. This is not to take away from Barney's product. It is really good, and satisfying but not quite the
                same. Kind of like Pepsi is to the Coca Cola brand. It came along later
                and remains in second spot. But now I would definitely go to Barney's
                over the present reincarnation of EVB's anytime.
                Tried Bo's in Lafayette. Sorry, folks didn't do it for me.

                Haven't tried the new spot in Pleasant Hill mentioned. It could be good.
                Anyway enough rambling along.

                If anything ever changes for the better and I happen to know about it,
                regarding EVB;s product I'll post it.

                All best,
                Richard C. Spross

                1. re: Richard C.Spross
                  Brad Goeppert Feb 11, 2008 07:41 AM

                  It appears that this newly renewed interest in EVB quite possibly may spawn a recipe from someone somewhere. Any chance of somebody out there having a bar-b-que sauce that is not tomato based and more like a gravy? Like I mentioned in a earlier post, I liken this to a Salisbury Staek sauce. Hopefully if the word gets out to enough people, we may yet fulfill our desire to have a recipe for this unconventional "Q" sauce. Lets not lose sight of the fact that Emil Villa and Barney don't have a patent on this type of sauce and there probably are other restaurants that have a similar concoction.

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