Mike Mills, known as “The Legend” in bbq circles is a personal hero of mine. I had the opportunity to MEAT him at the NY bbq festival last year. He said it was an honor to meet me – god I love traditional southern humility lost on so many sharks up here – no Mr Mills, it’s an honor to meet you. I should have asked for him to autograph my bible (his book) but I was too shy. Which never happens. And I say that to illustrate how in awe I am of this man. Here’s a picture of me with mike, and alternatively you can buy the book on amazon – Peace, Love, & Barbecue: Recipes, Secrets, Tall Tales, and Outright Lies from the Legends of Barbecue
I tell you about Mike Mills because when we visited Las Vegas I had the chance to eat at one of the Mills Family restaurants called Memphis BBQ. While I understand it wasn’t going to be Mike on the pit and we’re fairly far removed from Murphysboro, I think this is an OK substitute and adjusted expectations accordingly. I’m proud to report back that it was a wonderful experience!
The first thing we noticed when walking in was a very obvious smoke smell. I perked up instantly. It is so wonderful to encounter this after having eaten at so many bad places up here. We managed to catch the lunch special and of course went right for the burnt ends and ribs. One thing you’ll also notice on the table is mike’s rub – which we made from his book to a varying degree of success – and turned out to be something I’m personally dreaming about as I write this. It’s THAT DAMN GOOD. Puts mine to shame which takes a lot for me to write.
The service was ultra friendly – which is great – and we were offered some buns and this cinnamon butter to start (FOR FREE!). God I love traditional bbq joints. They represent the good and brighter side of life. The butter served with it is mana from the gods. No, Really. Eat it when you go and revel in what will most assuredly be one of the greatest things you’ve ever eaten in your entire life.
So to the meats. The Burnt ends turned out to be something not to our preference – sadly. Gates in KC takes that crown with 4 Rivers coming in second. So we prefer ours to be finely chopped as opposed to cubed. This doesn’t mean it was bad, just not quite to our tastes so please understand it was still very enjoyable. The cut brisket was ah-MAY-zing. Look at the smoke ring. LOOK AT THE SMOKE RING. Next up were the ribs. Take a look at the pictures and see how I utterly destroyed those ribs. Ha ha. Perfectly cooked, nice smoke ring, great RUB. There’s that RUB again. Good lord Mr. Mills, you are the champ and the legend for very obvious reasons. And lastly I’m please to say that it stood the no sauce test which very few places hardly ever do. It’s always sauce, sauce, sauce to mask sometimes dubious meats. So We ate the meat on it’s own and it tasted great.
Not everything was perfection however. I feel the sides were ok by comparison and especially held up against the quality of meats felt somewhat lacking. I would have loved to see it contain more brisket and be without Pinto beans, but please understand this is just how I like it and not a reflection of quality. Maybe I’m just a snob with sides whose expectations will never be met. In any case the slaw was yummy, but a total afterthought after the meat,rub, buns and butter gauntlet. It was good but not memorable.For the wife she held the same opinion. Again though, not a bad thing!!!
My verdict on this place. 4 1/2 stars. You could also say a must stop place if you happen to visit Las Vegas. I’ll put it another way – I pray to live close (or work in) a BBQ joint like this one day. I tip my hat to you Mr Mills that your recipe for bbq and it’s quality stretches so far in a business model. It clearly hasn’t in Famous Daves. I can only imagine how amazing the Original location is. Sounds like a perfect destination for a road trip! We need to go soon.
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