So, we got ourselves down to Willard’s Jamaican Jerk Bar-B-Que at lunchtime. There we could order the hot jerk sauce, get a big smoky link of sausage, and some of Willard’s peerless jerk chicken. Then, we could take it outside and cozy up to the big, smoke-belching cooker, parked at the curb outside in the sun.
We did all of the above, my friend and I, except for sitting outside. The one table (covered in pink vinyl), with one chair and a small bench next to the ordering counter at Willard’s was free. The air conditioner in the window overhead was making busy, rattling sounds but not putting out much cool air, thank goodness.
We ordered some brisket along with the smoke-blackened sausage and jerk chicken, plus beans and coleslaw and two plastic bottles of water. Willard, the proprietor of the meat market/café, was working by himself, which is mostly how we’ve seen him. Willard takes the time he needs to get things just right. The lunch specials are listed on a board inside the door. Another board lists the price per pound of the meats, and price per pint of the side dishes.
Only the hottest of hot sauces would do. Willard’s barbecue beans were good, but a dash of jerk sauce made them even better. We liked the celery and other seasonings in the potato salad. The creamy coleslaw was perfect alternated with spicy bites of blackened, crumbly sausage and chicken.
Willard was in good humor during our visit, often ending his comments with a deep, happy chuckle. A big tray, covered with rows of darkly burnished chicken halves, was out of the smoker, ready to go to a catering job. Catering is the third arm of Willard’s business.
We asked him what kind of wood he used and he said pecan. And nothing but pecan — no mesquite. We knew that he knew exactly what he was talking about.
Willard has been around awhile, at his just-around-the corner cafe off North St. Mary’s Street on Mistletoe Avenue. It’s an older part of the city, where houses show their age, crouching under an overgrown canopy of trees.
The barbecue was just right. The brisket was lean and smoky. My friend ripped into his quarter chicken. It was hot, almost falling off the bone tender. We poured what was left of our jerk sauce over the meat and let the fiery, spicy-sweet and warm flavors take us away, away to a place where it really gets hot. A bead of sweat appeared on my friend’s forehead.
Willard came outside with us when we left, since there was a break in business. He stood by the cooker. My friend and I went to stand out on the asphalt street in the sun to take a few photos of the congenial cook and the colorful front of his restaurant. We shook his hand as we left.
We had to agree: good, hot jerk barbecue was just about perfect for a noontime meal in August, in San Antonio.
Willard’s Jamaican Jerk Bar-B-Que
726 E. Mistletoe Ave.
(210) 736-JERK (5375)
Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.