Regional road trips are all the rage right now. Many folks feel most comfortable hopping in the car with their loved ones and exploring sights that are off the beaten path. Some of those sights may even be in your own backyard! For plenty of regional travel ideas, check-in every Wednesday for a Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup on themed topics showcasing several destinations across the southern portion of the state. Since it is National BBQ Month, let’s focus on some of the best barbecue joints in the region!
Bandana's BAR-B-Q in Carbondale provides mouthwatering Southern Style BAR-B-Q with quick service, in a friendly, family atmosphere. With wood pit smokers operating 24 hours a day, you can always "smell that smoke" when you come into the restaurant. Bandana’s meats are hand-rubbed in their special dry rub before they go into the smoker. This requires 11 to 14 hours in the smoker to produce the signature Bandana's BAR-B-Q taste. The BAR-B-Q then goes straight from the smoker and is hand-cut to order. Bandana’s Potato Salad and Cole Slaw are also handmade, fresh each day and the Bar-B-Q Baked Beans are slow cooked with a special sauce and chunks of smoked meat. If you enjoy Southern Style smoked barbeque pork, beef, chicken, ribs, turkey, sausage and classic sides, Bandana’s is definitely a must stop spot.
In late July, Downtown Effingham transforms into a Midwest barbeque destination! Each year, the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce – along with its sponsors, Koerner Distributor, Inc., John Boos & Co. and The Kansas City Barbeque Society – puts on the Effingham-Jam BBQ Cookoff, the foodie event of the year. The event kicks off on the evening of Friday, July 23rd with the Hometown Throwdown, an amateur barbeque competition that sets the stage for a weekend of fun for the whole family! Enjoy live music, entertainment for all ages and mouth-watering barbeque from local enthusiasts out on the courthouse lawn. Teams can compete to win multiple categories, including the People’s Choice Award, a “Taste for Ticket” award and “Grand Champions” of the competition, which includes a $250 cash prize. It’s time to turn up the heat, come Saturday, July 24th, for the official KCBS State Championship competition. Kicking off with the local farmer’s market, Saturday is the perfect day to bring the whole family downtown for music, food and fun. Winners of the KCBS BBQ Competition will be announced later in the day, as well. If you’re a barbeque enthusiast, an amateur pitmaster or just looking to try something new, the Effingham-Jam BBQ Cookoff is the perfect opportunity to experience the wide variety of flavors in our region, as well as to appreciate the talented individuals who help make this event happen, each year. We can’t wait to see your barbeque-covered faces downtown, this summer!
This is another one of those occurrences where there really are SO many great barbecue joints in our 22 county territory, that it is impossible to mention them all. Starting west and working our way across southern Illinois, we’ll begin with arguably one of the most popular BBQ spots in southwestern Illinois. Beast Craft BBQ Company has locations in both Belleville and Columbia, and they are known for having quite possibly the BEST pork steak you will ever eat in your entire life. No joke. Oh, and don’t miss out on their candied bacon if it’s on the menu! There’s a hidden gem in downtown Waterloo known as Shorty’s Smokehouse, that specializes in low and slow, old style BBQ. Aside from the traditional dishes you’d find at barbecue joints, Shorty’s also concocts things like Brisket Philly Sandwiches and Brisket Gyros! Red Bud is also home to a beloved barbecue joint called The Burnt End. You guessed it, they’re pretty well known for their double smoked burnt ends, but they also offer up a sandwich called the ‘Big Ray’ which includes brisket, pulled pork, and smoked chicken. The Salty Boar in Du Quoin is the newest restaurant on this list, just having opened its doors a few weeks ago. But in that time they have earned quite the reputation for great ribs, as well as their own take on a comfort food favorite - smoked meatloaf. Another hidden gem on this list can be found in Iuka, which is in Marion County. Smoked to the Bone draws folks from miles around for some AMAZING barbecue - everything from sandwiches and meat by the pound, to BBQ nachos and BBQ spuds. Oh and if you’re really hungry, their sampler platter comes with five meats! If wings are more your speed Deep South in McLeansboro smokes their chicken wings, and then they flash fry them. They also serve up BBQ sandwiches, nachos, and BBQ covered potatoes - this place is definitely worth the trip to Hamilton County. For those who love a little heat with their barbecue, BackPorch Smokehouse in Robinson is where it’s at. They offer several sauces to go with their large offering of meats, including their Carolina Reaper and Ghost Chili Hot Sauce. Make sure to order an extra water if you go for either of those!
When it comes to BBQ, you do not want to miss Yesterday’s and Bill’s BBQ when you are in Metropolis. From BBQ Chicken, to Pulled Pork, to Ribs and more, both restaurants serve a variety of bar-b-que. Bill’s BBQ is a long time favorite for visitors and locals alike. Located on Hwy 45 directly across from Fort Massac State Park, Bill’s has become an annual, monthly, weekly and even daily stop for some. Being one of the few eating establishments in Metropolis that opens before the sun comes up, it is not unusual to see a line of cars in the drive through and people getting their favorite breakfast sandwiches in the BBQ stand as early as 5:00AM.
With breakfast choices like the “ The Heart Attack, The Stroke and The Triple Bypass,” you might not want to go there looking for healthy food. What you will find is the best Metropolis has to offer for breakfast, lunch and dinner served by the friendliest staff around. Bill’s is open Tuesday through Friday from 5:00AM - 4:00PM & Saturday 5:00AM - 2:00PM. What started as a BBQ joint has expanded to a full service restaurant in Metropolis. Yesterday’s has not forgotten it’s BBQ roots though. Yesterday’s has many different BBQ options on their menu, which also includes appetizers, salads, burgers, fresh catfish and plate dinners. One BBQ option you do not want to miss is the BBQ Nachos! Piled high with tortilla chips, melted cheese, and baked beans, this selection makes a great appetizer or full meal! One thing you definitely do not want to forget at Yesterday’s is the homemade desserts! No meal is complete without one. Yesterday’s is located at 310 W. 10th Street in Metropolis. They are open Monday - Saturday 6:30AM - 6:00PM. For more information about these locally owned eateries and all the restaurant options in Metropolis please visit: www.metropolistourism.com/dining
Around since 1989, The Frosty Mug Bar & Grill, or “The Frosty” as locals call it, was voted the best horseshoe south of Springfield and is listed in the Top 9 locations in the state. One of The Frosty’s best-selling menu items is Matt’s Hawg Wings, described as a savory, slow-smoked pork shank served with your choice of sauce. Brisket dinners and brisket sandwiches are some of the other most requested items according to Chef Matt Sweeten. The Dano Special, a marinated chicken breast smothered in sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms and topped with Monterey jack cheddar cheese appeared on The Frosty’s menu when owner Dan Hamilton began a low-carb diet. The beloved Dano Special has since then been also turned into a Dano Wrap, as well. In addition to the diverse everyday menu, The Frosty Mug runs three specials daily that can be found posted here. The Frosty Mug is a well-known favorite among travelers and visitors who have heard about the restaurant through online reviews. Manager, Tracey Sargent, notes, “We have couples that drive from Kentucky just to come eat here.” It’s not uncommon to drive through their parking lot and see license plates from several states across the country. Sweeten has even dry iced and shipped food as far as South Carolina to dedicated customers.To Sweeten, the most rewarding part of his job is the people he’s met over the years. For example, a group of three guys have been visiting The Frosty the same week every year for 10 years on their way to go camping. The next time you’re passing through, stop and see for yourself what makes The Frosty Mug the #1 voted Best Barbeque in Mt. Vernon, IL!
Murphysboro is Illinois’ BBQ capital, and BBQ aficionados have long known the trip to Murphysboro, is more than worth it. The small town hosts a barbecue cook-off every year and is perhaps the only town in the country with two Barbecue Hall of Famers. In addition to the BBQ history, experience a booming craft beer movement that is vibrant and exciting. Pat's BBQ and Catering at 111 Tower Rock Lane in Murphysboro is a family owned and operated restaurant and catering service that prides itself on home-made meals and friendly service where the pulled pork, the beef brisket and the pork steak are the biggest sellers. At 17th Street BBQ in Murphysboro you'll find a wide variety of smoked meats on the menu, from brisket and sausage to turkey and chicken. Each morsel of meat exudes a rich pork flavor with a hint of applewood smoke (the preferred wood of 17th Street).
Barbeque – because you can’t live a full life on an empty stomach! When it comes to finding delicious barbecue in Williamson County, you don’t have to look very far! With around 10 locally owned shops serving up their take on this southern staple, we’re certain you won’t go hungry (or hangry). Riley’s Smokehouse and Rob’s Pit Barbeque each have extensive menus with sandwiches, entrée dinners, sides, and more. Chuck’s BBQ in Herrin, IL has been a local go-to for decades. Their classic southern menu will make your mouth water. John John’s BBQ in Colp is a long-standing family run take-out spot. Offering delicious family recipes and a “Soul Food Sunday”, your first visit definitely won’t be your last! Big Blue’s Que in Creal Springs is the epitome of a southern barbeque joint. Masters of all thing’s pork and homemade sides, it’s easy to understand what all the fuss is about as soon as you take the first bite. KB’s Bar-B-Que in Marion is another family owned and operated restaurant offering terrific barbecue. If you’re too full to try the pie, we suggest you take some to go! No matter which barbecue spot you try, you’re bound to leave with a full bully and a big smile.