A dream team of Dallas food & beverage veterans have joined forces to open a new bar in McKinney called The Elwood.
The players include Kelly Wesner and Gabe Whatley, who co-own Cold Beer Company in Deep Ellum and Fillmore Pub in Plano; and Rick Shew, who joined the CBC team after Nickel & Rye closed in 2019. (Shew's day job is selling and consulting for Toast, Inc.)
Shew confirms that they'll open The Elwood in early 2021 at Hub 121, a mixed-use development in the works at the northwest corner of Alma Road and SH 121.
The development is anticipated to be home to a corporate headquarters, hotel, apartment complex, coworking space, music pavilion, brewery, wine bar, and coffee shop.
The trio met in the late '90s while working together at Henderson Avenue staple The Old Monk. Shew subsequently spent 15 years with the Kirby's Steakhouse group, with whom he co-opened Nickel & Rye.
Whatley and Wesner meanwhile opened the Fillmore Pub in 2007, helping to effect a transformation of historic downtown Plano into an entertainment destination.
But friendly lived-in bars don't always draw big crowds. With the pandemic, Shew saw it as an incentive to put their best foot forward. No more of those half-priced hot dog nights on which CBC was relying.
"We decided this is a different world," Shew says. "You can't just be a bar now. You need to have online ordering and that means a consistent presence of food."
They're bringing back classic dishes CBC served when they first opened, dishes people were asking for, but executed with extra TLC.
There are brisket tacos and brisket migas; a cheeseburger stacked with tomato, red onion, bacon, and slices of jalapeño; and the "Fried BLT": a fried bologna sandwich with tomatoes sliced extra thin, iceberg lettuce, mustard, and melty American cheese on perfectly toasted bread.
"As we think about opening a new bar, we're trying to take it to the next level," Shew says.
That means incorporating the steakhouse-level service Shew knows and combining it with the authenticity and identity that Wesner and Whatley, along with their GM and Elwood partner Erik Padilla, have established over the years.
"I think what's cool about Gabe and Kelly is that they are unapologetically who they are," Shew says. "We want to have the polish, but also keep that feeling you get when you sit on the patio at CBC or walk into the Fillmore Pub. It just feels good."