Uncle Willy’s is a great little barbeque joint off I-95 in Connecticut. It is practically dipped in nostalgia. There are pictures and menus from barbeque shacks and houses around the country. Much like Willy’s, they look like small establishments that churn out good barbeque.
…and Uncle Willy’s is great. MG and I have eaten there many times before. The vibe inside is chill and the food has a home-cooked quality. What the heck does “home-cooked quality” mean? It tastes like food that has been prepared many times, through many different permutations, before settling on something that is simple and tasty. The barbeque flavor (at least of what I’ve had) is not complex, but just tastes right. There are a plethora of barbeque sauces that can be squirted onto your plate to add to the meal, from spicy to sweet, and savory to hot, whatever flavor you desire is available. I’ve never found any of Willy’s dishes to need the additional sauce.
As usual, MG got brisket. It is her go-to barbeque dish, and if you do the brisket right, she’ll likely give you repeat business. Mess up once? Oooooohhhh. It’s over for you. Willy’s brisket is tender and lean. The default sauce is slightly sweet, as she likes, but not sugary or cloying. Pictured is the dinner sized order that comes with a side and cornbread. MG got fried apples. I’m not a fan of fried apples, but she said they were delicious.
I opted for the Burnt Ends (half-pound). These are burnt ends in the truest sense: taken off the end of the brisket, laden with spices, stringy in some spots, super tender in others, and slathered with sauce. I’ve had the ends on multiple occasions, and though they are a little different each time, they are always delicious.
For side dishes/appetizers, we went a little outside the usual barbeque norms. Usually, hush puppies, fries, or green beans would be ordered. We went for fun finger food: jalapeno poppers and onion rings.
The jalapeno poppers were great. The outside had a nice crunch and didn’t taste of pure flour. I’m not sure if the breading was a combination of breadcrumbs, flour, or cornstarch. Whatever it was, it was nice. The cheese was blazing hot, as would be expected, but after burning my lip on the first try, I learned to eat gingerly. There was a nice slice of fresh jalapeno in each popper. Unlike most restaurants, this offering was not served with any sour cream or dipping sauce. It did not suffer from the lack. Consider them highly recommended, bordering on “must-have”.
The onion rings were fresh and tasty. They were not spectacular, but certainly not bad. If you are in the mood for some rings, these will fit the bill nicely. The onion is thick cut and juicy. The breading is applied in generous amount, but you will not feel like you are eating an onion sandwich at any point.
Uncle Willy’s is not long on ambiance. It is a “joint” in the purest sense. Come in casual clothes, take a seat and your meal will be brought to you on a plastic tray or two. There is a roll of paper towels at each table to keep yourself clean after mopping up sauce with your fingers. There is a nice soda selection, including a few ginger beers (which I really like). The counter folk ask how you are and they never ask you to hurry up when deciding what to eat from their large menu. Pull up and enjoy. Be sure to get a frequent eater card, because it is likely that after first try, you will be back.
403 Saw Mill Road
West Haven, CT 06516