Category / Cook-Off


Shining a Light on Southern Illinois

Shining a Light on Southern Illinois

Shining a light on Southern Illinois is one of our core business values and pillars. At 17th Street Barbecue, we relish any opportunity we might get to shine a light on this special region and to invite people from all over to our little corner of the world. There is some pretty incredible history, geography, innovation, and creativity to be found all around Southern Illinois. We tend to focus our efforts mostly on lifting up our barbecue culture, heritage, and local small business community members however we can. But when we stop and consider all at once the bounty that surrounds us, it makes us feel pretty darn lucky to be doing what we do right here in the #MiddleOfEverything.

This year has been a busy one when it comes to our promotion of Southern Illinois, and there’s much more to come. Please allow us to share with you a few quick takes…

Still shot from commercial. shine a light on southern illinoisIf you haven’t yet experienced this fun commercial recently released by Illinois Tourism, we highly recommend you take 30 seconds to check it out. It stars Illinois native Jane Lynch, and features several top destinations that are not to missed in the southern region of the state. 17th Street Barbecue is included in the fun, along with Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch, Walkers Bluff, Cache Bayou Outfitters, the Shawnee National Forest, and the spectacular Garden of the Gods. There’s so much to see and do right in our backyard ~ let’s get out there!

Small Town Big Business Logo shine a light on southern illinoisEarlier this month, Amy was a featured guest on the podcast Small Town, Big Business, produced in Marion, IL.  The discussion begins with the story of three generations of the Mills family. Each had a hand in building 17th Street Barbecue into the national brand it is today, starting with a dream and a sauce recipe. Additional topics include what it takes to be an entrepreneur in a small town, and what kind of choices a small business owner might need to make along the way. It also touches on  how it is both the successes and the failures over time that serve as important building blocks for positive business growth.

Logo17th Street Barbecue is looking forward to exhibiting again this year at the Southern Illinois Made Expo, an exciting event developed through a partnership between State Senator Dale Fowler and the Southern Illinois Chambers of Commerce. It’s a showcase of innovative and unique products made and beautiful destinations available in Southern Illinois. This year’s Expo will take place on July 22-23 from 10am to 4pm at The Pavilion in Marion. Stop by and see us!

Faye facade with Restoration Hero sign shine a light on southern illinoisThe Murphysboro Historic Preservation Commission presented its first Restoration Hero Award for 2023 to Amy Mills for her restoration work at 1616 Walnut Street. In choosing to restore instead of raze this building Amy saved not only a part of Murphysboro’s architectural history but also its unique streetscape. The spot is now home to Murphysboro’s newest café, Faye, serving specialty coffees, scratch-made breakfast and lunch, local beers and cocktails, along with a gourmet grocery and gifts section.

Animation of Amy with award plus historic shots of MurphysboroThis past March, Amy was honored to be named a Landmarks Illinois 2023 Influencer. The organization produced a profoundly lovely 3-minute video featuring Amy to share at their Preservation Forward award ceremony in Chicago. Full of rich archival footage and storytelling, the piece focused not only on the work the Mills family has put into their Murphysboro businesses, but on the story of Murphysboro itself. Historic images and anecdotes about the town’s factories and mining companies paint a clear-eyed portrait of the town’s history, and summon a promising look forward to its future. This was an excellent opportunity to shine a light on Southern Illinois in front of a crowd of invested restoration fans, right in our state’s largest city.  You can read more about Amy’s experiences at the event here.

"To preserve these beautiful old buildings on ourmain street is to preserve the soul of our community.But preservation is not only about buildings andstructures, [it] is also about food and food culture." –Amy Mills Logo shine a light on southern illinois

Now in its 36th year, the Praise the Lard Murphysboro Cook-Off is a highly anticipated local event. It is a huge draw for barbecue enthusiasts from across the nation. The Cook-Off takes place the third week of September, every year since it was started by Mike Mills and friends in 1986. The contest draws visitors from 14 states and several countries. Over 90 teams compete for national notoriety, SCA, KCBS and MBN titles, and cash prizes. Attendees savor delicious food, barbecue culture, hospitality and all that Southern Illinois has to offer. For the duration of the Cook-Off, the regional population swells by several times its normal size. This shift helps lift up the local economy and create Southern Illinois memories for visitors to savor — and planting the seed for future return trips.


Praise the Lard Cook-Off Winners

One of the most anticipated competitions on the barbecue circuit, Praise The Lard – Murphysboro Cook-Off, took place September 22nd–24th. Owner Amy Mills and the 17th Street Pit Crew welcomed back close to 100 teams from 17 states to compete for Grand Champion bragging rights, entry into the Kansas City Royal, the Jack Daniel’s draw, and a share of $27,500 in prize money. Named by Food & Wine magazine as one America’s top barbecue cities, Murphysboro and 17th Street Barbecue are a must-stop barbecue destination.

“While this is a bittersweet weekend, as it was my dad’s, Mike Mills, favorite weekend, we’ve turned it into a joyous occasion and an opportunity to celebrate his legacy. I know of no one who had such a tremendous impact on the world of barbecue, not to mention the constant spotlight he shined on Murphysboro and Southern Illinois.” Said Amy Mills. “I’m overwhelmed by the love and support from all the judges and teams. This year’s competition was as determined and uncompromising as ever. I’m especially proud to see the 17th Street Barbecue pit crew work so hard to uphold the standards and carry on the legacy my daddy built over the last four decades.”

The three-day event was as much a competition as it was a tribute to Mike Mills, affectionately known as “The Legend,” and former owner of 17th Street Barbecue, who passed away at the end of 2020.  His larger-than-life presence was felt throughout the entirety of the weekend. The Saturday morning of competition kicked-off with a special Budweiser Lucky Beer Toast honoring Mike Mills from Dan Dicke of Steamboat Barbecue. The Saturday evening awards ceremony began with a moment of silence in honor of The Legend.

This year marked the 14th year of a dual-sanctioned barbecue event with teams cooking both the Memphis Barbecue Network- and Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned contests, and the 9th SCA Steak Cookoff, sanctioned by the Steak Cook-off Association.  Of the 98 competing teams, there were 23 MBN teams and 46 KCBS teams, with 7 teams cooking in both categories, and 36 Steak Cook-off teams.

The trophies at this competition are coveted works of art.  Winning teams received one-of-a-kind hand-blown glass apples, exclusively commissioned for The Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-Off by the Douglass School Art Place in Murphysboro. The two Grand Champions each received a chainsaw-carved pig from Bear Tracks in Brownsville, Illinois.

The Cook-Off is a fun-filled weekend for our wonderful city of Murphysboro. Our guests are thoroughly charmed by and impressed with our vibrant town,” Mills explained. “We couldn’t have achieved this year’s successful return without the generous support of the city and the community at large. I want to thank the generous sponsors and hard-working volunteers who came together to make this weekend possible and create this crown jewel on the barbecue circuit.”

Many Thanks to the 2022 Murphysboro Cook-Off Sponsors

17th Street Barbecue, Faye, Ole Hickory Pits, Certified Angus Beef, Townsend Spice, Pepsi, Silkworm, Venegoni Distributors, Samron, City of Murphysboro, Graue Inc, Big Muddy Brewing, Kingsford, Oliver & Associates, Brews Brothers, Henson’s Septic Service, Mileur Orchard, Republic Services, SIH, Schwebel Printing, Arthur, Vos Heating & A/C, Door Doctor, US Foods, Illinois Pork Producers, PFG Performance Food Group, Wichita Packing Company

2022 Murphysboro Cook-Off Results

MBN Grand Champion:

Band of Outlaws/Ribs


  1. Band of Outlaws
  2. Phat Chance
  3. The BBQ Bus
  4. Goin Hog’n
  5. Blue Collar BBQ

Pulled Pork

  1. Fittin’ Ta Cue
  2. Smoke Til Ya Broke
  3. Pickin’ Our Butts
  4. Steamboat BBQ
  5. Hank’s BBQ

Whole Hog

  1. Band of Outlaws
  2. Steamboat BBQ
  3. Auto Be Grillin
  4. Hank’s BBQ
  5. 3 Taxi Guys

KCBS Grand Champion:  

Smokin’ Ghost

KCBS Reserve Grand Champion:  

Swine Life


  1. Janky Leg
  2. Smoke Me Silly
  3. Rooters & Tooters
  4. The BBQ Bust
  5. Swine Life


  1. Smokin’ Ghost
  2. WeQ4U
  3. The BBQ Bus
  4. Continental BBQ Co.
  5. Janky Leg


  1. Iowa’s Smokey D’s
  2. Continental BBQ Co
  3. Heavy Smoke
  4. Hot Coles BBQ
  5. Risky Brisket


  1. Swine Life
  2. Rooters & Tooters
  3. Smoke & Peppers
  4. Smoke Me Silly
  5. Iowa’s Smokey D’s

SCA Cookoff

  1. Tina Hughes
  2. Brian Sweet
  3. Justin Wink
  4. Steve Hughes
  5. Josh Hawkins
  6. Brian Caruso

All photos ©Kyle Quigley