Donna Chilleen

Donna Chilleen, right, and her daughters, Cheyenne and Aleah Chilleen.


hilleen’s on 17 is known for its barbecue and its stint on “Bar Rescue.” But behind the restaurant is a wedding oasis—with a venue that overlooks the mountains with nary a sign of the I-17.

Recently, the owners Donna Chilleen and her daughters, Cheyenne and Aleah, remodeled the wedding venue to make it even more appealing. Garage doors open from Chilleen’s restaurant to unveil the spacious backyard. Wedding packages are for 50 to 200 guests, and Chilleen’s can provide the food, DJ and minister.

“You just basically get the dress and the ring and find the person to marry,” Donna said.

The renovation project was bittersweet. The Chilleens lost thousands of dollars in wedding revenue, but they were able to give the space a facelift. 

Chilleen’s on 17 still managed to stay afloat. With wood-lined booths and its legendary bathrooms, the low-lit family eatery takes barbecue to the next level. 

The former wedding coordinator for the Satisfied Frog, Donna has owned the restaurant since 2002, when she bought it on a whim with her now ex-husband, Scott. 

“We were just driving by and we saw this place was for sale,” the Anthem resident said. “My husband was no longer working for his dad at the Satisfied Frog. I said, ‘Why don’t we just buy that place?’ The kids were little. It was a rainy day. We bought it that day.

“I had to have it. I saw the potential.”

She bought it in 2002 and reopened it in February 2003. Since then, it has been remodeled and received a food makeover, with “Bar Rescue” at the helm in April 2013. Barbecue is where restaurant excels, and Donna thanks “Bar Rescue” and Jon Taffer for that. 

“Jon Taffer wants you to do well,” Donna said. “We were one of their most successful episodes. We kept everything he did. I have a friend who worked with ‘Bar Rescue.’ He had all the equipment in the attic.”

Before the “Bar Rescue” visit, Chilleen’s didn’t smoke the barbecue. Now it’s its trademark dishes. 

“Everything from the smoker is really good,” Donna said. “The smoker is amazing. It gives us that good flavor. The brisket takes 14 hours. They put that in at night and the chef in the morning gets it. We can’t make it really quick. That’s something we do fresh.”

The all-you-can-eat barbecue beef ribs are $19.50. Other menu items include Black Canyon chicken that is brined and slow smoked ($14.50); Southwestern smoked brisket that is cooked with the fat on it ($17.50); Chilleen’s St. Louis-style pork ribs that are seasoned and slow smoked ($17.50 to $21.50); the chicken and pork rib combo ($18.50) and the “I Want It All” barbecue platter with pork ribs, chicken and sliced brisket ($27.50).

The green chili con carne has seen guests driving for miles to have it. A pork-based green chili, it’s served with a fresh flour tortilla ($7.99). Other green chili-themed starters are Chille-en chips, cooked in-house tortilla chips with the green chili dip ($6.99); green chili cheese fries ($7.99); and fried green chiles, a 40-year-old family recipe of hand-breaded, deep-fried mild ortega chiles ($7.99). 

Entrees include standard fare like New York strip steak ($25.99); choice ribeye ($27.99); top sirloin ($19.99); boneless marinated chicken with “grandma’s secret marinade” ($14.99); broiled cod fillet ($12.99) and blackened cod fillet ($13.99).

Burgers and sandwiches round out the menu—just before dessert. The specialty is a personal-size apple pie with mounds of ice cream and cinnamon-sprinkled whipped cream. 

Donna keeps the restaurant fresh. In the summer of 2018, Chilleen’s closed for five days to remodel the dining room and the bathroom. That completed the circle started by “Bar Rescue.”

“We had three layers of flooring,” she said. “We put down new flooring, the corrugated tin in the booths. If you get barbecue sauce on particle board, you can’t wipe it clean. 

“We redid the bathrooms, too. Every time we go in there, we see how pretty they are. We had really bad bathrooms before, so we gutted them completely. It took all of our energy.”

The wood that lines the booths is from her grandfather’s house at 19th Avenue and Dunlap that was torn down after he died. 

“I think it looks amazing in here,” Donna said.