The original iteration of Elwood's Shells was a food truck parked next to Elwood's Shack. It lasted about three hours, says Elwood's Shells general manager Devin Wood. A fire at Elwood's Shack put the truck permanently on blocks. But the idea for Elwood's Shells was revived about eight months ago, and Wood, along with Elwood's Shack owners Tim Bednarski and Mandy Edwards, set about looking for a spot for this Creole seafood restaurant in earnest.
They found it in Cooper-Young, in the old Jasmine space. The chairs and the booth along the south wall were reupholstered in bright fabrics, and a jolly roger flag hung out front. They couldn't figure out what to do with the giant wok.
"This neighborhood is perfect. It's who we are," Wood says.
- Photographs by Justin Fox Burks
- Elwood’s Shells
In keeping with the Cooper-Young vibe, Elwood's Shells hopes to introduce a vegan (!) menu and they want to use recyclable packaging and straws. And while they don't have a liquor or beer license yet, they happily point their customers to nearby City Market for beer and wine or to Hammer & Ale.
Bednarski is from the coast, and the restaurant's dishes come from family recipes. The pivot from brisket to seafood is in keeping with the Elwood's brand, Wood says. "The main thing was we wanted to provide a thing that Memphis doesn't have — on a different level."
The different level approach is evident throughout the menu, which is overseen by chef Alan Hayden. There's the Elwood's Fondue — a bestseller — with shrimp, lobster, crab, mushrooms, and spinach. Elwood's shrimp and grits is another customer favorite. Wood is fond of the Red Fish Lamar (named after Lamar Sorrento, whose work hangs on the walls), which is topped with crab and lobster and a meuniere sauce and served with an herb mushroom orzo. The po'boys are modeled after Mother's, the famed restaurant in New Orleans.
Elwood's Shells also serves breakfast — fluffy cat head biscuits, fried egg sandwiches, migas, and breakfast burritos, among the offerings.
Coming up, in the next couple months, Elwood's Shells hopes to add a patio out back, add liquor and wine, and introduce a weekend brunch. Seems like plenty is on Elwood's plate. But looking further ahead, the Elwood's brand has its sights on Downtown. But first things first. "We're interested in Downtown," says Wood. "It will be a little while. There are still things we want to do here."
Elwood's Shells, 916 S. Cooper, (552-4967), elwoodsshells.com
Donell Todd is a Shark Tank fan, but when he saw the episode featuring Cousins Maine Lobster, he was skeptical. "I didn't think it would work," he recalls. But when he happened upon a truck in Atlanta, he had to try it and left impressed. So much so, that he reached out to the cousins of Cousins, Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac, about starting a truck in Memphis.
Todd and his wife Felesha launched the Memphis version of the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck last Saturday.
According to Lomac, they were in business a couple of months when they were urged by the producers of Shark Tank to appear on the show. They did and convinced Barbara Corcoran to back them.
The company has since expanded wildly — now with 30 trucks and eight brick-and-mortar restaurants. Lomac says it was the exposure from the show that helped them realize this sort of success.
The menu for the Memphis truck features two types of lobster roll (Maine and Connecticut), a lobster grilled cheese, lobster tots, clam chowder, and lobster tacos and shrimp tacos.
"The lobster is amazing, just like wow," Todd says. "I can't even explain it."
The truck will be at Wiseacre Thursday, March 7th, from 5 to 8:30 p.m.; Friday, March 8th at Health Sciences Park, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Memphis Made Sunday, March 10th from 1 to 6 p.m.