National exposure

By Gus Bode

Food Network recently announced the best ribs are not in Memphis or Texas, but just next door in Murphysboro.

17th Street Bar ‘ Grill owner Mike Mills said he has a lot to be proud of. He made his restaurant in Murphysboro the World Grand Champion of barbecue in 1990, 1992 and 1994 and has just recently won the title of best ribs in the nation by Food Network. Mills continues to work hard to spread his barbecue chain and opened restaurants in New York, O’Fallon, Sparta, Marion and three in Las Vegas.

“I want people to feel like they’re at home,” Mills said. “We want people to come in and have a good meal. I want people to enjoy themselves.”

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Although the restaurant has gained national attention, locals still feel connected. Mike Porter and his wife Janet, both residents of Murphysboro, have been coming to the restaurant for years.

“This place has a little bit of a different atmosphere because it’s an old tavern and an old building,” Janet said.

The restaurant not only attracts locals, but people from many different places who have heard about the ribs and barbecue. Mills said people from all over call in ordering their famous barbecue sauce and dry rub, which is called Magic Dust.

Marin Eovaldi has been a waitress for the restaurant for more than two years and has been with the company for more than four. “We have a visitor’s autograph book and we have signatures from people all over the world,” Eovaldi said. “I’ve waited on people from China, Russia, Franceďż˝It’s not that they just come here for the ribs, but they know of us, so if they’re in the area, they stop by.”

Mills bought the restaurant in 1985, when it was just a small bar with a grill where they served burgers and barbecue sandwiches. In 1994 barbecue became the restaurant’s main focus.

As of now, Mills is working on a new restaurant he is opening in Sparta, but said it’s “not work when you like what you do.”

Daily Egyptian writer Monica Mason can be reached at 536-3311 or at [email protected]

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