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February 17, 2010 > Restaurant Review: Emil Villa's Barbecue

Restaurant Review: Emil Villa's Barbecue

By J.D. Wolfe

Do you remember Emil Villa's Hickory Pit on the corner of Walnut and Fremont Boulevard in Fremont? It was a great place to eat or attend a meeting in the back private meeting room. Big barbecue ovens created fantastic meats accompanied by Cole Slaw with great tangy dressing. It has been gone for a long time but my mission to find a substitute was a success. I give you Emil Villa's of Hayward on Mission Boulevard.

This Emil Villa's has been around since 1952. Inside, it has the classic coffee shop diner look rarely seen these days. It is awesome to enter and step back 50 years... memories.

Hayward's Emil Villa's is one of the few remaining; separately owned by Paul and Jeanie Chang who came to America in 1986. The very first restaurant they patronized here was Emil Villa's in Fremont! They must have been very impressed because they began to manage Emil Villa's in Hayward and years later became the owners. They have owned and managed this restaurant for the last ten years.

Jeanie, or her daughter, Sophia, who works part time while home from college, is there to greet and seat you. Paul is the chef and very busy cooking classic Emil Villa food. He has kept the original barbecue pit in good shape; using it every day. Ribs and other meats cooked on it prove the wisdom of retaining this unique and time-tested method of barbeque.

I enjoyed a generous sampling of ribs - St. Louis and Baby Backs to name two. The sauce is a perfect complement; Paul clearly knows exactly what he is doing. The Cole Slaw was made exactly the way I recall, especially with that spicy dressing. Simply delicious!

If a plate of ribs is too much for you, Emile Villa's also has great sandwiches like a club sandwich featuring very tasty hickory bacon. For those who want something different, a large array of breakfast dishes are available... eggs, bacon, etc. And there is always dessert which I will leave for you to check out.

While dining I had a chance to speak with Sophia. She shared with me how hard her parents work to make sure the same high quality food is served today as it has been throughout the history of Emile Villa's. A regular crowd of customers visits throughout the day. Some of the breakfast group is waiting at the door when they open early in the morning. These are people on their way to work and do not want to miss their Emil Villa breakfast.

Emile Villa's continues to survive even through a difficult economy because the food quality is first class, portions are very generous and prices are very fair. The Changs have scrutinized expenses and worked a little harder but refuse to sacrifice quality. Paul and Jeanie keep the place looking very sharp and recently gave it a good, old fashioned paint job. Booths are constantly monitored for wear and upholstered as needed. Right now they are upgrading the floor, showing the dedication necessary to maintain their excellent reputation.

So the next time your spouse or friends start 'ribbing' you, surprise them. Get up and out of the pit of the ordinary and drive to Emil Villa's in Hayward. Their barbecue pit's great smoky aroma is calling. I am going to answer that call and look forward to going back soon.

Reviewed: February 5, 2010

Emil Villa's Barbecue
24047 Mission Blvd., Hayward
(510) 537-0734

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