After 11 years of creating and serving beer right here in Tuscaloosa, the good folks at Druid City Brewing Company are branching out and adding a smattering of southern staples to the menu of the all-new Ell's Kitchen, which is open now at the brewery's new, bigger location in Parkview Plaza.

DCBC co-founder Bo Hicks said the new concept is named after his late friend and partner in launching the brewery, Elliott Roberts, who died earlier this year at 48 years old.

He said back when they opened in 2012, the idea was always to eventually serve food alongside their made-in-Tuscaloosa beers.

"Even when me and Elliott first started, we had designs to do that, to try to work up to having a kitchen here," Hicks told the Thread. "So when we signed the lease to our new beautiful facility that we're in now, the plan was to start then, so when we opened here we would have the kitchen up and running but fate conspired against us because then COVID struck, and what can you do about that?"

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(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

So the earnest plans to get into a bigger space and launch the Kitchen were put on the back burner as Hicks and Roberts and the rest of the DCBC gang worked to raise money and put in the sweat equity to move from their original home across the parking lot into their new home, which is significantly larger.

"And sadly, in all that time, Ell passed away," Hicks said. "But one thing Elliott really loved was food, just talking about food and preparing food and we thought it would be a good way to honor him and name the kitchen Ell's Kitchen since he's always going to be dear to us."

So what's on offer? Hicks has a storied reputation for smoking chicken, pork, hot dogs and more at the brewery, and he has served the lion's share of it free of charge as added value for customers during music shows, football games and all the other events that draw people to the area and business.

With the same spirit in mind, the menu at Ell's Kitchen features a pork-covered barbeque nacho plate, a kick-ass Cuban sandwich, a handful of different hot dogs, some personal pizzas and more.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

"The idea is, even with the constraints of our kitchen size and equipment, to make fun, interesting food that's not just your standard pub fare," Hicks said.

Hicks has also taken steps to accommodate patrons with dietary restrictions or preferences.

"We provide a meatless Beyond hot dog for anyone who doesn't get down on the flesh of critters. We're still looking for a good gluten-free bread but we do have a gluten-free pizza crust," Hicks said. "We're trying to be as inclusive as we can be because that just goes hand-in-hand with being part of the community."

And there's more to come, too - Hicks said Ell's Kitchen will experiment with new offerings as time goes on, including chili and gumbo when it isn't so miserably hot outside.

The Kitchen held its grand opening last week, and Hicks said the outpouring of community support floored him.

"I literally teared up, it was so beautiful -- you get what you give and we've tried to give to this community as much as we can," Hicks said. "Seeing that kind of support come back to us man, it got me in my emo place."

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

The importance of the Kitchen and Tuscaloosa's willingness to embrace it to Hicks seems impossible to overstate, and the western wall of the taproom serves as a kind of memorial space for Roberts and others who were near to the DCBC family but have died.

"It's just amazing. I'm normally quite the loquacious fellow and I'm at a loss for words to really say what it means to me," Hicks said. I get to remember my friend every day now and I'm one of those people who thinks nobody's ever really truly gone as long as somebody has some memories of them and I think this whole place is a testament to that."

Ell's Kitchen is open now inside Druid City Brewing Company at 700 14th Street in Parkview Plaza.

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