On February 6th, 1989, Danny Hamilton and James Chauncey purchased what is now, The Frosty Mug Bar & Grill. Since then, “The Frosty”, as it is affectionately called by locals, has expanded their building four times. Exclusively a bar for several years, a small food menu of burgers and sandwiches off the grill was added in 2003.
Several of their regular customers have been frequenting The Frosty Mug since it opened 30 years ago. “We actually will see them coming in now with their kid’s kids”, Hamilton remarks. Hamilton’s and General Manager, Tracey Sargent’s daughters both currently work at the restaurant. Sargent comments, “We call it the ‘Frosty Family’. Anybody that works here is long term. We have a very low turnover rate.” For example, Tracy has worked at the Frosty 24 years and kitchen manager, Matt Sweeten has been employed for 16. With 11 servers and 10 cooks, you can catch every employee working together to serve, clean, cook, and bust tables. “You’re liable to see one of the senior cooks busting tables”, Hamilton comments.
Before The Frosty Mug began selling barbecue, Sweeten began smoking meats at home. Hamilton and Sweeten collaborated on the direction of their restaurant’s menu. After Triple E Bar-B-Q shut down in Mt. Vernon, they knew barbeque was what the community needed. Sweeten smokes meat staples, pork, chicken, and beef. One of The Frosty’s best-selling menu items is their Hawg Wings, described as a pork shank, these wings are unique to the restaurant. Brisket meat dinners, and brisket sandwiches are some of the other most requested items at The Frosty according to Sweeten. Sweeten is known for cooking items not on the regular menu such as quesadillas or a club sandwich. If you’re wanting something different from what you see, just ask! The Dano Special, marinated chicken breast smothered in sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms and topped with Monterey jack cheddar cheese appeared on The Frosty’s second menu, when owner Dan Hamilton began a low-carb diet. The Dano Special has since then been also turned into a Dano Wrap, as well. Hamilton says due to high demand and several requests, the restaurant will be coming up with healthier menu items such as seasonal salads. The Frosty Mug runs three specials daily that can always be found posted to their Facebook page. One of their most unique specials, the Hillbilly Burger consists of a pork burger on Texas toast with pulled pork, barbeque sauce, cheese sauce, and a fried egg. Sweeten’s marinades and rubs are all top secret and can only be found at the restaurant.
Need a caterer for a wedding, business meeting, or any other event? The Frosty will travel as far as needed for catering business. They have the capability to smoke 950 pounds of meat at one time, which would feed close to 3,000! “We will cater for 5 people or we will cater for 3,000 people, there’s no amount”, Sweeten remarks.
Besides food and beverage, The Frosty Mug also offers an outdoor beer garden where live music takes place on Sundays in the summer. In winter, the music moves indoors to Friday nights.
When asked why it is so important to eat local, Hamilton remarks, “It’s a circle. The better the local businesses do, the more support the people that need it get. We have several groups that we give money to or put baskets together for silent auctions, and it is directly related to the profitability of the business. The more we make, the more we give.” The Frosty Mug wants to thank the Mt. Vernon and surrounding community for all their tremendous support.
The Frosty Mug is a well-known favorite among travelers and visitors who have heard about the restaurant through websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. 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. Anytime they have a traveler from out of town, Sargent is known to personally buy them Sweeten’s homemade pork rinds. 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. Hamilton often encounters members of the community in public avidly complimenting the restaurant. Hamilton comments, “The majority of the days, you don’t mind going to work.” Workdays can frequently consist of 13 to 14-hour shifts with Sweeten managing the kitchen seven days a week. Sargent notes, “Days that we work in-house all day and then have a caterer, those are the long days.” Despite the hard work, Sargent hopes to be at The Frosty Mug 30 more years.
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!