Restaurants & Taverns

Williams’ World’s Greatest Bar-B-Q

Williams Bar-B-Q was opened by Eugene “Hot Sauce” Williams in 1934. The establishment, originally a modest stand at Central Avenue and East 40th Street, had previously been Henry Burkett’s Black King’s Barbecue. Eugene Williams, a native of New Orleans, brought his southern roots from Louisiana to Cleveland, incorporating natural southern style, into his famous hot sauce and barbecuing. He owned a small barbecue stand before opening his more well-known William’s Bar-B-Q, noting it to be “Williams’ World’s Greatest Bar-B-Q.” This particular storefront was located 4800 Central Avenue. 

As his business gained popularity, Williams expanded but also faced some adversity. First he expanded second location at 4621 Scovill Avenue in 1937, but soon he sold it to Fairchild’s Barbecue. Next, he attempted a second location at 7325 Central Avenue in 1939, but it too last only several months. In 1940, Williams made his third attempt at a second location at 9613 Cedar Avenue, which he billed as being “In the Heart of Cleveland’s ‘Green Pastures,'” a nickname given to the Black nightlife hub that had emerged in the late 1930s around Cedar and East 97th. This second location appears to have been similarly short-lived.

Williams Barbecue’s two locations as of 1940 | Call & Post, Aug. 17, 1940

Meanwhile, when the Carver Park public housing project led to the condemnation of his 4800 Central location, Williams moved it to East 55th and Cedar, but in 1940 he quickly moved back to a building at 4805 Central, across from the housing project, which had been home to the P. C. Owens Billiard Parlor.

During World War II Williams purchased a 63-acre farm in Solon, known as Williams Farm, where he raised hogs and grew his own spices for his sauce, rather than having them imported all the way from New Orleans. The establishment also often participated in bowling tournaments, forming a bowling league, and competing with other establishments in the area.

In 1954, Williams Barbecue made a renewed effort to expand, adding a new second location that replaced Cassie’s Restaurant at 2284 East 55th Street. He offered pigs’ feet at thirty cents an order as well as being known for barbecued ribs, shoulder, and pork loins. For many African American families, money did not come easily as they were not offered high paying jobs like white families. Many frequented fast food chains as a way for a cheap meal they could offer their kids. By offering meals as low as thirty cents, Williams was ensuring much better quality than fast food for his customers who might not have been able to afford fresh groceries.  

After a few medical issues involving a series of strokes that left Williams seriously disabled, he would sell his locations in Pittsburgh and Detroit, choosing to focus all of his attention locally. By 1956, a combination of accumulating medical bills and perhaps poor financial decisions involving his business forced Williams to close his restaurant. In 1957 he attempted to make a comeback, selling his famed hot sauce through Rucker’s Barbecue in Kinsman. Eugene Williams died the following year after suffering another stroke, but the name “Hot Sauce Williams” survived through an unrelated Cleveland barbecue restaurant chain.

Green Book Details

Williams’ World’s Greatest Bar-B-Q appears as “Williams” in the Green Book from 1946 to 1956 under the category Restaurants.


  • Display Ad 7 — No Title. Call & Post. July 20, 1940.
  • Display Ad 7 — No Title. Call & Post. April 23, 1955.
  • Display Ad 12 — No Title. Call & Post. August 31, 1939.
  • Display Ad 12 — No Title. Call & Post. March 14, 1940.
  • Display Ad 14 — No Title. Call & Post. February 4, 1937.
  • Display Ad 29 — No Title. Call & Post. December 14, 1946.
  • Fuster, John. “About the Stars.” Call & Post. Oct. 26, 1957.
  • “Goat Team, Pride of ‘Hot Sauce’ Williams.” Call & Post. Aug. 13, 1955.
  • “‘Hot Sauce’ Williams.” Call & Post. April 11, 1942.
  • “‘Hot Sauce’ Williams.” Ebony, vol. 5, issue 5 (March 1950), 37–40.
  • “‘Hot Sauce’ Williams Gives Public ‘De-lic-us’ Pig’s Feet and Special Chicken Dinners.” Call & Post. December 12, 1942.
  • Souther, Mark. “Williams, Eugene.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
  • Weems, Robert E., and Jason Chambers. Building the Black Metropolis: African American Entrepreneurship in Chicago. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017.
  • Williams, Bob. “Bar-B-Q King, Broke, Ailing.” Call & Post. August 23, 1958.
  • Williams, Bob. “‘Hot Sauce’ Williams Recovers.” Call & Post. September 4, 1954.
  • “Williams, Cleveland Barbecue King, Announces Removal of Store No. 2.” Call & Post. October 4, 1941.
4800 Central Ave. (Listed in Green Book at Central & E. 49th St.)

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