After moving from New Orleans to Cleveland in 1923, Eugene Williams worked in a barrel factory until opening up his own fish market and grocery store. In 1934, another famous barbecue restaurateur in Cleveland surreptitiously referred to as “the Black King” dissolved his business during the Great Depression. Williams was offered to take over one of these restaurants at 48th Street and Central Avenue for $100. This turned out to be the beginning of Eugene Williams’ climb to restaurant success. Williams made a name for himself and became famous for his New Orleans style sauces and barbecue, ultimately earning himself the moniker “Hot Sauce” Williams. Williams Bar-B-Q established a number of locations, including in Pittsburgh and Detroit.
After finding success in the restaurant business and earning the title of the “barbeque king,” Williams purchased a 63-acre farm in Solon off Cochran Road. A sales ad in 1944 described the property as having “an 8-room farmhouse, large bank barn, silo, engine room, milk house, wagon shed, pig pen and two separate garages.” The Solon farm provided the cattle, pigs, herbs, and spices for Hot Sauce Williams’s famous barbecue. Despite the farm’s intended commercial use, it remained available for public use from its inception, and he encouraged its use for leisure. Eugene Williams was known throughout Cleveland for his penchant for new Cadillacs and expensive clothing and his luxurious lifestyle, earning him the additional title of the “country gentleman” or “gentleman farmer.” Following a series of heart attacks, strokes, and other health issues during the final years of his life, Williams’ illnesses contributed to him making careless business decisions and his finances suffered as a result. Both financial and health problems up plagued Williams until his death. The “barbeque king” of Cleveland passed away in 1958.
- “Display Ad 16 — No Title.” Call & Post. December 29, 1951.
- “Display Ad 29 — No Title.” Call & Post. February 5, 1944.
- “Eugene Williams, “King of Ribs and Shoulders.'” Call & Post. September 14, 1939.
- “‘Hot Sauce’ Williams.” Call & Post. April 11, 1942.
- King, S. “Is He Smart, is He Lucky, or Both?” Call & Post. September 29, 1945.
- Williams, Bob. “Bar-B-Q King, Broke, Ailing.” Call & Post. August 23, 1958.
- Williams, Bob. “‘Hot Sauce’ Williams Dies: Bar-B-Q King Suffers Fatal Heart Attack.” Call & Post. October 25, 1958.
- Siegrist, Fred and Stephanie, warranty deed to Eugene Williams, Solon Village, Cuyahoga County, August 1, 1944, Recorder’s Office book 5694, p. 447 (AFN194408010062).
- Souther, Mark. “Williams, Eugene.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. case.edu/ech/articles/w/williams-eugene.