Elwood's Shack

Everything But Ribs

As a fan of barbecue, I'm always looking for new places to satisfy my fix. Fortunately, the restaurants of Summer Avenue offer much in that regard, ranging from dry rub ribs from Central BBQ to barbecue nachos from Big Mike's Smoke Shack (a food truck that usually sells at the Summer Avenue Farmers Market). Speaking of "shacks," I want to focus on Elwood's Shack, the tiny restaurant next to Lowe's on the corner (sort of) of Summer and Perkins. Formerly the Pizza Shack, Elwood's offers a huge menu ranging from quesadillas to quiche, although its best stuff comes from a barrel smoker behind the "shack." The restaurant serves barbecue in various forms like ribs and sandwiches and in unconventional ways such as pizza. The Shack smokes both pork and beef, with the latter being some of the best I've ever had (it also barbecues chicken, to a lesser extent). For anyone that isn't either a vegetarian or vegan (or averse to barbecue) can likely find something favorable from the BBQ menu of Elwood's Shack.

Texas Beef Brisket Taco
Brisket Taco
Because there are so many things to choose from, trying to cover everything for a review is a daunting challenge so I'll start with some popular favorites. Elwood's brisket and pork tacos are behemoths (possibly half a pound) that come with the restaurant's standard "field greens" (mostly lettuce), cheeses, Pico de Gallo, chopped onions, avocado and creamy horseradish. Pulled Pork TacoThe meats in both tacos are rich in smoke flavor that didn't need barbecue sauce or dry rub to accentuate it. Collectively, the toppings made for a tangy alternative to coleslaw and helped make the tacos really good. Fortunately, the toppings and barbecue didn't weaken the sturdy flour tortillas that made eating them nearly mess-free (they're flexible too, as demonstrated by the pork taco pictured on the right). Overall, both tacos made a very good impression on me and I look forward to eating them often.

SIDE NOTE: In addition to barbecue, Elwood's Shack offers several other kinds of tacos. Among those, the overwhelming favorite is the Steel Trout Taco that comes with all of the things that I mentioned in the barbecue tacos and is probably one of the best fish tacos in Memphis. In fact, it was the first thing that fellow blogger Seth of Best Memphis Burger pointed out when I told him that I work across the street from Elwood's. For him to recommend the Steel Trout Taco over Elwood's burgers (which are pretty good) made it a must-have for me. The taco lives up to expectations and then some and it might be one of the best things on Elwood's menu. If you go to Elwood's and you're not into barbecue, I highly recommend the Steel Trout Taco.

NOTE: If you're craving more of Elwood's seafood dishes, go to Elwood's Shells in Midtown's Cooper-Young neighborhood.

Another menu item that I hope to eat often is Elwood's Texas Beef Brisket Sandwich. Comprised of nothing more than pickles, chopped onions and a lot of beef brisket doused in greasy barbecue sauce. I'm not sure if the grease comes from the mildly sweet BBQ sauce or the brisket, but there was enough of it to warrant a lot of paper towels. Not that I'm complaining (after all, I love greasy food) but I wonder if this is good for my health. Regardless of the consequences, the brisket sandwich is too good to give up and if it kills me, I'll die with a big, greasy smile on my face. Seriously, this is a very good sandwich that I recommend to health nuts, gluttons and anyone else who appreciates excellent barbecue.

With Elwood's Shack being a former pizza joint, it wouldn't have felt right to ignore Elwood's BBQ Pizza. Setting on top of a thick and fluffy crust, the pizza has lots of pulled pork and Mozzarella cheese drizzled with sweet barbecue sauce. Compared to the more famous Coletta's that probably made Memphis' first barbecue pizza, Elwood's pie is better because the pork is smoked, hot and fresh. Now, before you chastise me for my "brilliant" analysis, I will say that Coletta's pizza had none of those qualities and pretty much shied me away from barbecue pizzas for a long time. I've come around since then, and now I occasionally enjoy a barbecue pizza whenever I can get it. That said, Elwood's Shack stands shoulder to shoulder with Aldo's Pizza Pies as having one of the best barbecue pizzas in town. However, Aldo's has a slight edge in the number of hot chicks on staff (such as sexy bartender Cora) so I'll lean slightly towards it if everything else is equal. That doesn't diminish my feelings for Elwood's, for its barbecue pizza hits the spot whenever I need a nice diversion from work.

SIDE NOTE: On the day I ordered my pizza, I phoned it in fifteen minutes before I took my meager thirty-minute lunch break. With so little time to eat, I wanted to make the most of it by ordering ahead of time so that I could use my break for eating, not waiting. Unfortunately, Elwood's Shack is extremely popular during lunch so I ended up waiting several minutes in line before paying for my pizza. Luckily, I managed to get a rare table so I didn't waste time on that but I still had only fifteen minutes to scoff down my pizza and return to work. Despite doing my best Joey Chestnut impression, I couldn't finish my lunch in my allotted time and was five minutes late in getting back to work (which is across the street from Elwood's). I guess what I'm trying to emphasize here is that if you go to Elwood's Shack for lunch, set aside a lot of time for it. It's worth it.

Elwood's BBQ Burrito with pulled pork
If you want a taste of Elwood's barbecue but don't have either the time or the convenience of going to the "Shack" for either lunch or dinner, I would like to suggest getting Elwood's BBQ Burrito for breakfast. Filled with your choice of pork or beef along with scrambled eggs, jalapeƱos, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cheddar cheese and a lot of barbecue sauce, the burrito is a dripping hot mess of goodness. I want to emphasize the "dripping" part of that because you will need a lot of napkins and a bib to eat this without messing up your clothes. The last time I ate it, I left Elwood's with a huge grease spot on my shirt that was a bit embarrassing. It was worth it, for the taste of smoked pulled pork, jalapeƱos, eggs and cheese in my mouth had me smiling when I went to work. Needless to say, you probably shouldn't eat the burrito while driving without wearing a plastic bag over your clothes. Whenever I get my next barbecue burrito, I might eat it with a fork and knife instead of eating it by hand. However it goes down, Elwood's BBQ Burrito is damn good!
As you can see, I really like Elwood's Shack for barbecue. Although the restaurant offers food beyond the barbecue realm, nothing that I had so far compares to its BBQ. Of course, I only had a sampling of it so I won't rush to judgment before trying more of it. My friends told me that Elwood's fish taco is really good so I might get that sometime in the near future but not before getting a half rack of ribs (slight update: both goals have been accomplished). For now, I will just regard Elwood's Shack as a top destination for barbecue because it is so, so GOOD! ☺

Half 'wet' and half 'dry rub' ribs UPDATE (May 12, 2015): Elwood's Shack will open a second restaurant in Downtown Memphis by Spring of next year. Owner Tim Bednarski said the new location will either be in The Pinch district (taking advantage of the opening of Bass Pro Shops at The Pyramid) or in the vicinity of Peabody Place. No matter where Bednarski decides to move, Downtowners will get the pleasure of tasting some of the best barbecue in Memphis. As a guy who loves Elwood's barbecue ribs, I'm looking forward to it. To learn more about the move, check out Local 24's report about it.

An update to the "UPDATE": Elwood's didn't open a second barbecue location Downtown. However, it has opened (February 4, 2019) a seafood restaurant named "Elwood's Shells" in Midtown Memphis' Cooper-Young neighborhood that been a hit with seafood lovers. Will definitely review soon.

Chili Cheese Burger at Elwood’s Shack UPDATE (April 25, 2018): The Chili Cheese Burger at Elwood’s Shack is great! It consists of a half a pound of certified Angus beef and topped with cheese and some of the best chili I’ve had in Memphis (I’m still sniffing the chili aroma on my fingers). By the way, the toasted bun really holds up, making it easy (but still messy) to eat. While I won’t put it in the upper echelon of burgers, it was definitely worth having.

Golden Texas Burger at Elwood’s ShackUPDATE (April 18, 2019): As an addendum to my last update, I will put the Golden Texas Burger in the upper echelon of outstanding burgers in Memphis. Consisting of a half a pound of certified Angus beef, barbecue beef brisket, bacon and cheese, it is a delicious monster that leaves me full every time. Think of the "GT" burger as a Tops BBQ burger on steroids. Definitely the best burger on Elwood's Shack menu.

Elwood's Croissant with sausage

UPDATE (November 22, 2023): I have got to include Elwood's Croissant in this review. It's by far one of my favorite things to order from the restaurant. I usually get it with both bacon and sausage, which along with a fried egg, avocado, Provolone cheese and mayo, is an awesome combination to eat. The sausage is the key because it is the meaty basis to this great sandwich. Getting the croissant without it is okay, but adding the tasty flavor of sausage makes a huge difference. It's far more satisfying (and expensive) than anything you can get at a fast food joint, but it's worth it!

Website: ElwoodsShack.com

Elwood's Shack on Urbanspoon

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