McElhaney's fires up Atmore

Published 7:39 am Monday, April 25, 2005

By By Tim Cottrell
After the closing of Gerlach's last year, many Atmore residents were left wondering if fine-dining options would be available again.
Chris and Beth McElhaney, both natives of Bratt, Fla., stepped up to answer that question.
McElhaney's Restaurant, which opened October 26 of last year and celebrated its grand opening earlier this week, has been serving fine dining with a Southern twist.
Chris McElhaney, the chef and co-owner of McElhaney's, was happy to return home.
"My wife and I went to Charleston, S.C. a few years back," Chris said. "I went to Johnson &Wales Culinary School. She had worked in restaurants before. We're both from Bratt, and all our family lived around here and we knew a lot of people here. The (Chamber of Commerce) made it very inviting to come here. They contacted us in New Orleans and said Tommy (Gerlach) had closed up and asked if we were interested in opening a restaurant."
Chris and his wife, Beth, had several reasons they felt their restaurant was a special place.
"There's just a lot of love put into this place," Beth said. "We're worked seven or eight years to do something like this, and we reached our goal much earlier than we thought we would. Chris and I are a good team, and we work well together. Work stays at work and home is home. It's worked well that way."
"What sets us apart from any other place is that you aren't just coming to get something to eat, you're getting a full dining experience," Chris said. "Our customers are important to us and we treat them well."
Other employees of the restaurant had their own reasons for taking pride in the establishment.
Teresa Gregson, who has been a waitress since the restaurant opened six months ago, said she took great pride in the quality of the restaurant.
"Our clientele is from all over," Gregson said. "It's neat meeting them and seeing how surprised they are that Atmore has a place like this. It's fun to brag to them about how we have this and where they're from doesn't. There's a big job satisfaction."
Justin Ragan, who has worked as a cook since the October opening, said it was nice to have a fine restaurant in this area.
"It's a little different," Ragan said. "There are not too many places like this around. We have a lot of quality foods."
Chris, who while in New Orleans worked at Delmonico's, a restaurant owned by famous chef Emeril Legasse, said he strived to give the people of Atmore the same dining experience at a more reasonable price.
"At Delmonico's, the plates there would be $65 or $70," he said. "In fact, a ribeye there would cost $45 without any side items. We know people in Atmore aren't going to pay that, but we try to give them a similar dining experience."
That dining experience was what brought Ragan into the mix.
"I've always been interested in cooking," Ragan said. "I figured working with Chris would be good experience to do something like this myself."
For eating recommendations, the McElhaney's have a few choice favorites.
"My personal favorite is the ribeye," Chris said. "The shrimp and grits or the stuffed pork chops are also good. The stuffed pork chops made the '100 Things to Eat in Alabama" list this year."
"I like the ribeye, too," Beth said.
Gregson preferred the stuffed pork chops, while Ragan recommended the salmon.
Beth said that she and her husband had enjoyed the experience, and hoped it could last.
"It's been wonderful," Beth said. "We have enjoyed doing this, and we hope to do it for many years."

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