Iron Chef Finds 17th Street Ribs Among the Best

A production crew for the Food Network's "The Best I've Ever Ate" shot footage at 17th Street Bar & Grill in Marion last Friday.

Iron Chef Michael Symon first tasted 17th's ribs last fall during a taping for an episode of "Food Feuds." Since then he's stopped by the restaurant while traveling.

The Southern Illinoisan found owner Mike Mills a bit humbled by the publicity.

"It's a huge honor to be on any of these shows," Mills said. "We're kind of in the fly-over states, so anytime we can get exposure for Southern Illinois, it makes us very humble and proud. People really do come from all over the world."

Besides "Food Feuds" and "The Best I've Ever Ate," the restaurant has been featured on The Cooking Channel's show "Food Crafters."

Updates on the Millennium Development

While we're still waiting for details on the major anchors for the new Millennium Development, Marion officials continue to work on getting the city ready for the destination development.

City Administrator Gail West recently told Johnston City community leaders that none of the retail tenants are businesses that have any store currently within 70 miles of the city. While that is a requirement for the major anchors and suggested for the secondary, it's the first word that it would the case for "all" the stores.

The "Magic City of Egypt" has lost some of its luster over the decades and half of its population since the 1920s. City leaders are hoping recent approval of Home Rule and a TIF (tax increment financing) district will help turn the community around. They see the growth on the north side of Marion eventually spurring activity at the next interstate exit on their west side.

Last week the Marion City Council discussed agreements with IDOT over plans to for the new "single-point" interchange redo for Exit 54 on Interstate 57 at Illinois Route 13, as well as the expansion of the Morgan Ave overpass into a full interchange as well.

The city will kick in around $7 million for the 57/13 interchange and $1 million on the Morgan Avenue work. It would have to be reimbursed to the state over 15 years with the developer expected to share part the costs.

In a separate story, Mayor Robert Butler told the Southern that the city would be committing 2.5 percent of the city sales tax to the project for infrastructure improvements that would presumably include the road projects. Not mentioned, but again assumed, is that the sales tax would be the portion that is generated from within the STAR bonds district.

Harrah's Casino at Metropolis Reopens

Harrah's Casino and Hotel at Metropolis is set to reopen this morning at 9 a.m. following a temporary closing last Wednesday due to high waters on the Ohio River.

According to their website, "all food outlets will be open, with the exception of The Rivercrest, which will open Wednesday, and The Range Steakhouse, which is typically closed on Tuesdays."

The 36,000-square-foot casino and its related hotel are part of the Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Elsewhere in Metropolis, the portion of the new George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail in Fort Massac State Park is now open for bicyclists.

King City Adds New Attractions

Mount Vernon, the King City, has added a couple of historical attractions for tourists in Southern Illinois.

At the Mount Vernon Outland Airport, Charles Lindburg's personal airplane, a Monocoupe D-145, will be on display for most of the year while its normal space at Lambert St. Louis International Airport undergoes renovation.

Meanwhile on the other side of town at the Times Square Mall, the new Mt. Vernon Professional Firefighters Local 738 Firefighter Museum opened its doors Friday.

The center piece is a fully-stored 1939 Diamond T fire engine. The museum also offers historic photographs and displays of fire equipment from years gone by.

The museum is open during regular mall hours. If you're looking for a guided tour, contact the Mt. Vernon Professional Firefighters Local 738 at

Speakeasy Liquors Heading for Marion's Restaurant Row

The new $600,000 building going up at the corner of Halfway Road/Champions Drive and 17th Street/Morgan Avenue between the Country Inn & Suites and 17th St. Bar and Grill will soon be home to Speakeasy Liquors come sometime in May.

They're shooting to be the city's "premier liquor store" with a "large beer cave, a cigar humidor, and a premium wine cellar." Their goal is to set a "new standard in quality and product selection while maintaining cost competitive products."

Diederich Properties took out the building permit. Jeff Diederich is the principal owner. His other businesses include Diederich Insurance and the 20s Hideout Steakhouse at the other end of Halfway Road.

They already have a Facebook page. Yesterday, they provided the latest update.

With approximately 60 days remaining until our grand opening, Speakeasy Liquors would like your input. We are currently working on developing our wine cellar and cigar humidor inventory selections. Naturally, we will have the basic items however; if you have any suggestions regarding premium wine or cigars we would love to hear them.

The new location will be at the crossroads of I-57 traffic coming down Morgan Avenue and as well as baseball fans and golfers coming down Champion Drive (formerly that part of Halfway Road up on The Hill) from Rent One Park and when the current roadwork is finished later this spring) Kokopelli Golf Course.

Rising Rivers, Gas Prices, Raise Concerns

Just got back from a book run through southeastern Illinois this afternoon. Here a few updates, thoughts, etc.

The Ohio River Scenic Byway visitors center in Equality will reopen next month.

First, the rivers are rising, but it's too early to tell if they're going to get damaging. I noticed the Saline was out of its banks below the Route 1 bridge. However, the ferry at Cave-in-Rock is expected to close Friday due to high water that will block access from the Kentucky side.

Hopefully we won't see a long period of high water. At this time of year a bigger percentage of the customers in the Cave-in-Rock restaurants come from Crittenden Co., Kentucky. Without a ferry, there's no close way to get to Illinois for a meal.

Yesterday, the water rose over Front Street in Rosiclare (which is annual occurrence in the winter) for the first time this season. The city closed the street today. Access is blocked to the E'town River Restaurant that floats along the river bank. Still, no cause to worry yet, the eatery wasn't planning to open until April anyway.

I also found out today that the Hardin County Independent decided to stop selling local interest books as of the first of the year. They had been carrying my books for the last few years. The late owner Noel Hurford was big on local history.

Not to worry, the gift shop at the historic Rose Hotel down the street has my books as well as others. (Check out the inn's website for a great video of the site). The River Rose Inn across the street also carries my books.

With all the trouble in the Arab world with residents finally getting upset with their undemocratic governments, oil prices are going up and so are gas prices. Wholesale prices for gas in Southern Illinois are now up to $3.01, I found at one service station on my way back. According to the owner, drivers can add another six bits (that's 75 cents in current currency) to see what the retail price will soon be.

I saw a lot of FOR SALE signs along Routes 1, 146, 145 and 34. This is a good time to buy. Just a reminder, I am a Realtor. While none of these are my listings, if you're looking for some property for a get-away retreat, hunting, or an investment, give me an e-mail at I'm affiliated with Paul Wilson Realty in Marion, Illinois.
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