Located conveniently between the St. Augustine outlet malls and the World Golf Village attractions, Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q brings a much needed restaurant to a growing section of St. Augustine. Situated in the Murabella Shopping Center, Willie Jewell’s is only a five minute drive west from 95, making it a solid, casual option if you are exploring this growing area of St. John’s County.
Willie Jewell’s is the Adeeb family’s latest restaurant venture. The Adeeb family has been in the restaurant business in the Jacksonville area since the 1940’s. The restaurant was named after an employee of the family who became the heart and soul of the family restaurant. The Adeebs currently own Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q, but have modeled Willie Jewell’s to be a quick service version of the beloved Bar-B-Q chain. The first Willie Jewell location opened in Charleston, North Carolina. The St. Augustine location is only the second in Florida. Diners can expect to find the familiar pit smoked meats, made from scratch sides, and house made sauces that made Bono’s so successful. Customers order at the counter and seat themselves, keeping the atmosphere very laid back and stress free.
When the restaurant first opened in October, we ordered a pound of pulled pork to bring home for an easy dinner. We were impressed with the quality and flavor. Willie Jewell’s is in the same shopping center as Publix, so you can handily pull together a meal. I only recently stopped to have an impromptu dinner in the restaurant with my two children. Life is fast paced and hectic at times, and dining with children can be stressful, so I was very pleased to find the restaurant so laid-back. The menu is more limited than its bigger brother, but I found it varied enough to suit most people. We put in our order and paid, then proceeded to choose our drinks. My kids were excited to discover that Willie Jewell’s has a Grape Juice Lemonade. It was an interesting twist on a favorite and did not taste artificial or too sweet. Willie Jewell’s also serves beer, but do not expect to find craft beers or much variety.
Our food was served very quickly. My picky 5-year-old had ordered country corn fritters from the snack section of the menu, not a well-rounded meal, but it had been a hectic day. These came out first and were served with a homemade ranch dressing. The fritters were hot, crispy, and flavorful. The corn was sweet, which was expected, but I did not expect that the fritters also had cheese in them, adding a creamy texture. However, the corn fritters were not so cheesy as to overwhelm the sweet corn flavor. In fact, my cheese-hating 8-year-old, declared that they were very yummy. Little did he know.
The remainder of our food was not far behind the appetizer. My son ordered from the children’s menu and was presented with two, unremarkable chicken fingers and a cup of baked beans. The beans were good, and unlike many Bar-B-Q restaurants, did not taste like they were dumped out of a can. He was a little hesitant to eat them because of the pieces of cooked onion that were evident. He came around eventually. The baked beans were sweet, but not overpowering, and swimming in a thin sauce. I am apt to try another side when we return. The beans were not tasty enough to hold my attention.
I ordered the Slawpy Pig sandwich – pulled pork that is topped with coleslaw. I was impressed by the large portion and beautiful bun. I am ashamed to say that I have been to Bar-B-Q restaurants that served their sandwiches on dry hamburger buns. Willie Jewell’s buns are grilled and delicious. The pork was generous, tender, and not the least bit greasy. It was not dressed with Bar-B-Q sauce, so I could really appreciate the smoky flavor and pride that Willie Jewell’s takes in preparing their meats. The coleslaw was fresh and crisp with a simple, light dressing that was more tangy than sweet. I tried all four of the house sauces (Hickory Heaven, Low Country Gold, Sweet and Sassy, and Hot Momma) and discovered that I liked the Hot Momma the most. The balance of the smoky pork, tangy slaw, and spicy sauce made for an excellent sandwich.
For my side, I ordered my favorite comfort food – Mac and Cheese. Like all the sides, the Mac and Cheese was made from scratch. It was very creamy and the noodles were not overcooked and mushy. It was very good and I will add it to my pick-me-up repertoire.
In all, Willie Jewell’s is a solid choice if you are looking for a quick, casual meal. The menu ranges from large salads to giant Bar-B-Q platters, including all the usual Bar-B-Q offerings. There is also a To Go window outside, if you are really rushed. If you are looking for a unique Bar-B-Q experience Willie Jewell’s will not fit the bill – there is nothing truly remarkable about the restaurant. However, if you are looking for something quick, familiar, and tasty keep Willie Jewell’s in mind.
Writer Cassie Oborne grew up in the beautiful Gulf Coast city of Naples, Florida. She graduated from Flagler College, where she studied English and Secondary Education. After graduation, she and her husband made St. Augustine their permanent home. She has spent the last 16 years exploring and eating her way around the ancient city.