Uncle Joe's Sauce 1 (copy)

Joe I. Wilkerson and Joe “Uncle Joe” Wilkerson stand in their restaurant, Uncle Joe’s Deli, in Ina, in 2016. Uncle Joe’s All Purpose Sauce XXX Hot won first place in the 30th annual American Royal World Series of Barbecue Sauce Contest in 2017. 


INA — Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer. What comes with summer? Backyard grill and barbecue season. Masters of the backyard barbecue may want to try an award winning Southern Illinois original this season — Uncle Joe’s XXX Sauce.

The sauce, only one of Uncle Joe’s varieties, won first place in the 30th annual American Royal World Series of Barbecue Sauce Contest. Uncle Joe’s entire lineup took fourth place overall.

Awards will be presented in August during the annual World Series of Barbecue

“This was out of 606 entries plus four foreign countries. They said it was one of the biggest ever,” Brenda Wilkerson, also known as Mrs. Uncle Joe, said.

Uncle Joe’s has a history of success in sauce.

In 2016, Uncle Joe’s All Purpose Sauce XXX Hot took the title of Illinois Champion in the National Barbecue Sauce Competition, sponsored by Illinois Barbecue Society. This year, their tangy barbecue variety won a gold medal in the Vinegar Sweet Mild category in Illinois Barbecue Society competition.

Want to try Uncle Joe’s sauce without cooking yourself? That’s no problem. Just visit Uncle Joe’s Deli in Ina (exit 83 on Interstate 57). Besides barbecue, the deli offers other down-home specialties, like fried bologna and catfish.

If you venture into the deli and ask for Joe, you might get a visit from Uncle Joe Wilkerson, or his nephew, “Little” Joe Wilkerson. Brenda Wilkerson probably will be there, too. The business is definitely a family affair.

Uncle Joe’s produced six varieties of sauces. In addition to the XXX Hot, a spicy tomato-based sauce, and Tangy, Joe’s take on vinegar-based Carolina sauce, there is Original, a little sweet and a little spicy; Sweet Smoke, a rich smoky sauce; Sweet Mustard, a unique take on honey mustard without honey; and red sauce, a rich, red pasta-style sauce made with Pheasant Hollow’s Black and Blue table wine.

Uncle Joe’s Sauce uses no MSG or high-fructose corn syrup. They are available in stores throughout Southern Illinois and online at eatunclejoes.com.



Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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