Elwood’s Shack has long been a Memphis mainstay and one of the city’s culinary treasures. Now, the team behind some of the best brunches in Memphis is bringing us down to the bayou in the most Memphis way possible. With his newest concept, Elwood’s Shells chef and restaurateur Ted Bednarski is pairing Southern specialties with the best of nostalgic Creole cuisine.
It’s no surprise that Ted’s bold flavors appear in everything on the Elwood’s Shells menu — from starters to signature specialties — especially for Memphians who are used to standing in long lines to get a bite of barbecue, burgers and more from the original Elwood’s Shack. But this time Ted is switching gears from smoked meats to seafood, and he’s doing it from the bustling Cooper-Young neighborhood.
Elwood’s Shells is housed in a cozy neighborhood cottage that was previously occupied by the Thai Jasmine restaurant. The interior is vibrant and playful, and a mix of Memphis- and New Orleans-inspired artwork decks the walls in a gallery format. Works by local artist Lamar Sorrento take center stage.
With a small footprint and walk-in-only service, you might find yourself waiting a while for a coveted four-top. But don’t fret, as the wrap-around porch bar and quaint front steps exude a Southern hospitality that make it worth the wait. You’ll also have time to peruse the menu — time you’ll need to make some incredibly difficult decisions.
The Elwood’s Fondue is a family-style appetizer favorite, boasting a gruyere-based fondue with shrimp, lobster, crab, mushrooms and spinach. Garlic bread and chips are served alongside it for dipping. Shrimp and crawfish hush puppies, a seafood-spun Southern classic, are also recommended. Made to order with a kick of Creole seasoning, the basket is served with housemade remoulade and chili horseradish.
The Seafood Gumbo (one of two gumbos served at Elwood’s) is excellent and hearty, incorporating shrimp, oysters, crab, okra, bell pepper, onion and andouille sausage. You may question whether you’ll get every ingredient in a standard cup size, but, believe us — you will!
Of the signature specialties, the Lemon Croaker came highly recommended by a friendly server, and it absolutely delivered. A pan-seared, well-seasoned croaker filet is topped with jumbo lump crab meat, shrimp, heirloom tomatoes, spinach and a lemon meuniere sauce. Served atop a bed of rice, its bright colors and vibrant flavors are appealing to both the eye and the palate. Meanwhile, a side of roasted asparagus adds extra freshness.
Elwood’s menu also includes po’ boys, crawfish étouffée, jambalaya and other New Orleans classics, as well as a couple of pasta dishes. The Seafood Pasta is made with playful cavatappi spirals baked with fresh Gulf Coast seafood and a decadent sauce.
While many will stop by Elwood’s Shells for a Creole-flavored lunch or dinner, diners may be surprised to learn that the restaurant is also open for breakfast. The Debris Burrito with New Orleans-style roast beef is a morning standout; chicken biscuits bring a laid-back, Southern vibe to the dining room; and a standard egg, potatoes and protein plate, called the Hungry Man’s Breakfast, provides classic comfort.
Visit Elwood’s Shells seven days a week at 916 Cooper Street, Memphis, TN 38104. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit elwoodsshells.com or call (901) 552-4967.
All photos courtesy of Cara Greenstein of Caramelized.
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