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Biz Buzz: Local barbecue restaurant gaining worldwide attention

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Customers order lunch at Lil’ Mike’s Family Restaurant in Rigby | Natalie Hepworth,

Do you want to know what’s happening on the eastern Idaho business scene? We’ve got you covered. Here is a rundown of this week’s business news across the valley.



Local restaurant redefines barbecue for customers in eastern Idaho

Natalia Hepworth |

RIGBY — Since Lil’ Mike’s first opened its doors in Rigby three years ago, many of you have tasted the menu and raved about it on social media, but what you may not know is the restaurant was recently featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”

Host Guy Fieri visited the restaurant last year for a taping of the show. The episode finally aired in November. If you missed it, the episode will re-air on April 19.

Since the episode aired, the restaurant has received worldwide attention.

Some of the menu items featured in the show were brisket, ribs, and corn salad, but the menu also includes pork, turkey, sausage, salad, baked potatoes, sandwiches, and nachos. Side items include mac ‘n’ cheese, baked beans, and coleslaw.

Julie Shults, the co-owner of the restaurant, describes it as a picnic-style venue featuring recipes she and her family grew up making in Bakersfield, California.

“When my husband would come home (from working in the oil fields), we would barbecue. We couldn’t go on vacation because the kids were in school. Our neighbors and friends would come over. We called it our front yard fiesta,” Shults tells “People would always tell us, ‘You guys need to do something with this.’ We’d be like ‘No, we just do this for fun.'”

But when the Shults would come to Rigby in the summer to visit family, they sampled the local cuisine.

“We knew there was not a lot of good food. We’re foodie people,” says Shults.

In search of a better lifestyle, they moved to Rigby, had a small trailer built and served food at different events in the area.

Many remember the restaurant’s beginnings in a small trailer in front of the gun shop near the old post office in Rigby. That’s how they operated for several months before moving into the building they’re currently occupying, at 116 S. Clark St. in Rigby. They started moving in September 2015 and opened four months later in January.

During the first year, Shults says it was a challenge to keep the doors open. Their barbecue concept was a foreign idea to most people, and she says many people were taken off guard by the menu.

“McDonald’s has ruined everyone’s brain on how food is ordered, delivered and made, and that’s just not how we do it,” Shults says.

People have become accustomed to ordering a combo meal numbered with a one, two, or three, she says, or ordering a small, medium, or large. Another challenge they’ve run in to is pricing.

“Barbecue is not cheap, and when people come in, they get thrown back by our prices,” Shults says. “People don’t understand the process.”

The price of a menu item is determined by weight, and the chef begins carefully trimming, cooking, and seasoning the meat the night before, says Shults. It’s not just taken out of a refrigerator and put in the oven.

But even with challenges, customers continue to stop at Lil’ Mike’s for lunch.

Shults and her husband opened a second location in West Yellowstone last June. Throughout the year, people from all over the world visit the restaurant.

Though it was a fight to stay open in Rigby during the first year, Shults says it’s the relationships with people that have not only kept the doors open but also keeps people coming back time and time again.

“We’ve tried to give it a go,” says Shults. “It’s great to have family members who have the same goals (to run the Rigby location).”

Shults and her husband run the West Yellowstone restaurant. They would eventually like to open a third one in Bozeman, Montana, or Boise.

One poll ranks Lil’ Mike’s the 5th best BBQ restaurant in the entire state. TripAdvisor ranks it the No. 1 restaurant in Rigby.

Lil’ Mike’s in Rigby is open Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with an 8 p.m. closing time Friday and Saturday.

To learn more, visit the website or Facebook page.

Lil’ Mike’s restaurant at 116 S. Clark St. in Rigby | Natalia Hepworth,


Support the Pocatello Animal Shelter with a benefit run/walk

POCATELLO – Registration is now open for the 22nd Annual “Run with the Big Dogs.” The event from The Friends of the Pocatello Animal Shelter features a 2K walk, 2K run, and a 5K run. Adult registration (13 or older) costs $25 per participant, while children’s registration (12 and under) is $15 per participant. You can register for the race here or in person at the Pocatello Animal Shelter, 3100 Avenue of the Chiefs. Registration includes a T-shirt, bandana for the dog, and a doggy bag. Participants will also be entered for a chance to win one of many draw prizes. Proceeds support the adoption of animals at the shelter.

Museum of Idaho offering guided African safari

IDAHO FALLS – The Museum of Idaho is organizing a trip in August for up to 20 people to spend seven days in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. The guided trip includes a full schedule of wildlife drives, walking safaris, hiking, biking, canoeing, and touring scientific and humanitarian projects. A flat rate of $3,100 to $3,800 per person – dependent on lodging choices – covers these activities, in addition to all meals and accommodations in Gorongosa, one night of accommodations and meals in Johannesburg, South Africa, and travel between Johannesburg and Gorongosa. If you’d like to learn more, see the itinerary, or register for the trip, click here.

Power company offering scholarships to high school seniors

ASHTON – Fall River Rural Electric Cooperative is once again offering scholarships to local area high school graduating seniors whose parents or guardians are members of Fall River Electric. A “member” is anyone who receives electric service from Fall River, whether at a permanent residence, vacation property or commercial business. Over the history of this program, Fall River Electric has awarded more than a half a million dollars in scholarships to deserving graduating seniors. Scholarships are valued at $2,400 and are paid in increments of $600 annually. Interested seniors or their parents or guardians may obtain a scholarship application by clicking here.



Why you should think before sharing your DNA with researchers

The following is a news release from the Better Business Bureau.

More than 26 million people have shared their DNA with one of the four leading ancestry and health databases, but the extrapolated data on many Americans is raising some serious privacy concerns.

“As these databases grow, they have made it possible to trace the relationships between nearly all Americans, including those who never purchased a test,” according to a review from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Family Tree DNA recently changed its policy and allowed the FBI to upload DNA samples from crime scenes, according to the MIT publication, which has helped solve some crimes.

The Federal Trade Commission offers these tips when considering an at-home DNA kit:

Comparison shop about privacy. Several companies offer similar services, but price and performance are only two of the comparisons you should draw before making a purchase. The other key comparison is privacy. Scrutinize each company’s website for details about what they do with your personal data. Hold off on buying a kit until you have a clear picture of the company’s practices.

Choose your account options carefully. Most testing companies offer an array of options about how public – or how protected – users want to keep their personal information. A company’s out-of-the-box defaults often aren’t the most private options, so it’s unwise simply to accept a site’s automatic settings. A more prudent approach to consider is to select more protective options initially and revisit your choices once you’ve become familiar with how the site operates.

The BBB advises consumers to recognize the risks before deciding to use a DNA test kit. It’s important to understand the terms and privacy agreement of the tests, to ensure you are protecting your personal information. For more information about protecting your data go to


Family Dollar will close nearly 400 stores

Fiber-optic pilot program now underway in Idaho Falls

Smith’s will no longer accept Visa credit cards

WATCH: Local woman wins trip of a lifetime after entering grocery store contest

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