I just had an INCREDIBLE experience at Mike Mills' 17th St. Bar and Grill in O'Fallon, Illinois. Not only was the food great, but Mike gave me more than 2.5 hours of his time to talk competition BBQ, the restaurant business, and give me a VIP tour of the place, including the pits. I wrote about my experience with Mike on the General Discussion forum here: http://www.barbecuebible.com/board/view ... hp?t=12301
Now, I would like to share my experience with his food on here.
The restaurant is located in the old Super Smoker's location in O'Fallon. Everyone around St. Louis knows that Super Smoker's is awesome, and a tough act to follow. Mike followed a legend, and has done so admirably.
The menu was extensive. It covered all the basics, pulled pork, chicken, ribs and brisket. He also has beef ribs, which was a nice addition that you really don't find here in the Midwest. He also had other grilled meats, such as links, turkey and more. All BBQ could come as plates or sanwiches, and he had smaller or larger portions for dinner or lunch. Additionally, the rest of the menu was even more extensive, including steak, pasta and more so that you can bring people who wanted to order something more than just BBQ.
I had a sampler of brisket, pulled pork and his famous baby back ribs. Baby backs were Mike's original claim to fame, and they did not disappoint. They required a nice tug to remove from the bone, then melted in your mouth. The brisket had a nice smoke ring, was sliced thin, piled high, and tender. To me however, the pork was the best of the three. It was, without a doubt, the best pork I ever had. Lightly smoked and shredded. It was great alone, and even better when dusted with Mikes "Magic Dust" and sauced with his Memphis Championship sauce. The pork was not blonde, which is proof that his method let's the smoke get all the way through the butt.
He had the most extensive list of sides I have ever seen. All the traditionals and then some. When I was there he even had an additional side of cucumber and tomato salad, which I had and loved. I also tried the slaw and his famous beans. Again, they were great as well. The slaw is vinegar based, which I prefer.
MIke explains that he likes aromatic wood, mostly apple but also cherry and other fruit woods. He says that for his recipes, smoke is but an ingredient and not an overwhelming taste. Smoke is something that should be tasted like salt and pepper, not overpowering. So, his bbq is much different from those who cook with only wood using hickory or mesquite. I loved it. The flavor of the meat came through with hints of smoke. Mike explains that, in his opinion, hickory and mesquite are abused. I agree.
The ambiance was nice. Polished cherry wood bar with wood tables and chairs. It is a nice enough place that it "counts" as going out to dinner when you take your wife or other non-BBQ people. The prices are fair and the portions are generous. As a matter of fact, I brought home at least half of my order. Some places give smaller portions when ordering a sampler, but not here. You do not get cheated!
Overall, it was a wonderful experience. Everyone there was so friendly it made the experience even better. The staff is fully aware of Mike's star power, and they make him as available as possible with his customers. Try planning ahead, and maybe you will be able to catch him there! However, he is mostly at his Murphysboro, IL location, which is where he lives. For those in the St. Louis area, the drive to Murphysboro is not that bad.
Even if you don't see him when you visit, it is a MUST try for those who love good BBQ and appreciate good people like Mike and his daughter Amy who is also involved in the operation.
Peace, Love and Barbecue friends!