Barbecue That Gives Back

SERVING UP A SLICE OF CHARITY Quito and Teresa McKenna, owners of Lillie’s on Pigs Alley, continuously provide food and money to area charities and non-profit organizations. Photo by Scott Holstein
Barbecue That Gives BackLillie’s on Pigs Alley Combines Sumptuous Cuisine with a Spirit of Giving

By Andrew Butler

When it comes to good barbecue, the folks at Lillie’s on Pigs Alley in Destin know what they’re doing. Teresa and Quito McKenna have owned the restaurant since 2008, but Quito has been cooking up award-winning barbecue for 10 years. In fact, it’s the reason he bought the place — to show the world what good barbecue is supposed to taste like.

At Lillie’s, everything is homemade. When biting into the restaurant’s specialty desserts, such as the strawberry crepes or made-from-scratch banana pudding, you can taste why they are as well-known for their desserts as they are their barbecue.

Quito McKenna holds numerous awards from barbecue competitions and almost always places in the top 10. This includes the famous Memphis in May International Festival, in which 250 competitors vie for the top spot. In 2007, McKenna won the Barbecue Cooking Contest world championship at Memphis in May. The McKennas’ smoky sauce has also won competitions in Illinois and Mississippi. 

The taste for barbecue runs in the family. The McKennas’ son Charlie is a chef in Chicago and joined his father on the Viking Range cooking team in 2007 before going on to develop the sauces used at Lillie’s.

(Quito McKenna ran the Viking Range cooking school in Atlanta for seven years and has appeared in guest spots on several television shows.)

But Lillie’s BBQ isn’t just about making good food.

While they’ve all but conquered the world of barbecue, the McKennas have another obstacle they wish to defeat. Each year, Lillie’s donates money to several cancer organizations in hopes of helping those who struggle with the disease. Quito McKenna created a scholarship in memory of his sister, who died of breast cancer. Each year, a student at Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga., where his sister attended, is provided with financial help via the scholarship.

Lillie’s also donates generously to the Lighthouse Foundation of Atlanta. The foundation brings children with cancer to the Santa Rosa Beach and Seaside area each year, and Lillie’s is ensuring that it will continue to do so.

In addition, Lillie’s provides food each year for the Destin St. Jude Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament, which raises money for children’s care and research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“Those kids are dealt a bad deal,” McKenna said. “It’s not fair that they have to go through that.”

All told, the McKennas donate more than $5,000 a year to nonprofit organizations.