Ballantyne’s Elwoods BBQ opened back in 2009, and the reviews were, well, not great. Things took a turn for the barbecue better this October when two brothers-in-law, Dan Anderson and Jeremy Johnson, purchased the joint. While the face of the restaurant hasn’t changed much and the menu offerings aren’t drastically different, the quality of food being served has seen substantial improvement with the arrival of the new owners and Chef Mike Theimer, previously with the Burger Co., heading up the kitchen. What’s in the past is in the past; nowadays, Elwoods is smoking their meats daily, grinding burgers in-house, and making everything they possibly can from scratch.
Think of Elwoods as a BBQ melting pot: they’ve got Carolina pulled pork covered, of course, but they’re also smoking Texas style beef brisket, St Louis ribs, chicken, and (my personal favorite) the Kansas City burnt ends. Considered a barbecue delicacy by many, some folks (especially northerners like me who aren’t akin to these little nuggets of beef) find the burnt ends crispy, tough, and dry. I can admit I previously fell into that camp, but the burnt ends at Elwoods changed my mind on the very first bite, with a juicy, chewy texture that reminded me more of pork belly than the dehydrated meat bits I’d had from other guys in town.
No barbecue plate would be complete without some home-style side dishes, and Elwoods’ list of options is long: baked beans, pasta salad, white slaw, NC red slaw, tater tots, green beans, hand-cut fries (they’ve got malt vinegar on hand), thick hand-cut onion rings (the kind that you can sink your teeth into without the whole onion sliding out), homemade sweet onion hushpuppies, chunky loaded baked potato casserole (AWESOME), creamy mac n cheese (which I recommend throwing a big ole spoonful of pulled pork into), deviled eggs, Brunswick stew, and fresh corn bread.
In addition to BBQ, Elwood’s offers freshly ground cooked-to-order angus chuck burgers served on fresh-baked buns. There are half a dozen or so specialty burgers available, including the Carolina with chili, slaw, mustard, and onion and the Local with pimento cheese and cajun mayonnaise. If you’re feeling especially hungry, check out the $25 Kitchen Sink Burger, which comes with 3 beef patties, pulled pork, beef brisket, American cheese, bacon, onion rings, chili, AND house made queso. Lettuce and tomato are optional, AND you can add a fried egg to this mess of meat (or to any of the burgers, for that matter) for just a buck.
BBQ, check. Burgers, check. How about wings? You betcha. Elwoods wings are rubbed and smoked, covered with a sauce of your choice, then thrown back on the grill to caramelize. Sauces include: barbalo, honey chipotle, hot garlic parmesan, South Carolina gold, honey bee, mild, and hot.
There are also a handful of desserts, including fried candy bars, homemade brownies served a la mode, and made-from-scratch pound cake (rotating flavors including Cheerwine and chocolate chip).
Elwoods is open from 11am to midnight every day, with live acoustic music Friday and Saturday nights. They’ve got 8 drafts on tap and have plans to focus the selection on local craft brews. Stop in and get some of those burnt ends next time you’re in Ballantyne.