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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Murphy barbecue is a family affair

  • Murphy Pit BBQ in Carrier Mills is truly a family restaurant.
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  • Murphy Pit BBQ in Carrier Mills is truly a family restaurant.
    John Murphy, his wife Phyllis and their daughter, Missy have provided outstanding meals there since 2003. The heart of the restaurant is the barbecue cooked on location in a barbecue oven hand-made by John and Phyllis’ son.
    “We have it set to keep the cooking temperature between 200 and 250 degrees.” said John Murphy adding, “I can get 20 to 24 Boston butts on there at a time.”
    The barbecue is gas fired and hickory slabs are placed in front of the flame to produce the wonderful smoky flavor patrons enjoy in the meats.
    The Murphy’s began their restaurant experience in 1992 when they purchased the Wildcat Drive-In in Carrier Mills.
    Murphy was working at the Sahara coal mine north of town at the time and upon learning the mine was going to close he and his wife purchased the restaurant.
    “Phyllis saw it was for sale one day and told me we ought to buy it.” John said.
    The Murphy’s had their son craft a barbecue oven for the diner and operated the Wildcat until 2003.
    “I always wanted to run a restaurant,” stated Phyllis Murphy.
    “John and I had never worked in a restaurant before that.”
    The couple’s daughter Missy began working at the Wildcat when her parents purchased it, having previously worked at her aunt’s restaurant, Bev’s Place in Harrisburg.
    “I’ve enjoyed working in restaurants,” Missy said, adding with a smile “The current owners are pretty easy to get along with.”
    In 2003 the Murphy’s purchased the building the restaurant is currently located in and after slight remodeling opened Murphy’s Pit BBQ. John and his wife arrive in the mornings about 6 a.m. to fire the grill and do food preparation for the day.
    “You have to be there every day,” John said. “It’s a full time job.”
    Phyllis and John do all the cooking at the restaurant with Missy and Julie Hendricks waiting on customers. Phyllis makes the pies, with different varieties available each week. The barbecue sauce is a family recipe which John and Phyllis got from Phyllis’s sister. Murphy’s offers daily and weekly specials along with their regular menu items. Special orders of any meat except wild game are available year-round in any quantity, with or without sides. At Christmas, Murphy’s takes orders for hams, Boston butts and turkey breasts smoked for the holiday.
    John Murphy feels strongly about offering specials at a reasonable price, “In a small town like this you have to do something for the people, you have to give something back to the community.” 
    Page 2 of 2 - Julie Hendricks has worked as a waitress at Murphy’s for two years and enjoys her work.
    “I like the small-town atmosphere, good people come in here.” she said.
    All the staff enjoys the daily lunch crowd of students from the adjacent high school, stating that they have watched a lot of kids grow up over the years and value that experience very much.
    “We get a lot of business from Harrisburg and surrounding towns as well as our regulars from Carrier Mills,” John Murphy said.
    “I just want to thank everybody for doing business with us. We appreciate it very much.”
    When asked what he enjoyed most about barbecue John replied with a smile, “I like eating it!”
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