Dead End BBQ in Maryville: New restaurant chooses busy downtown intersection at Broadway Ave., Lamar Alexander Parkway
By Lesli Bales-Sherrod | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Barbecue is a destination place” — and George Ewart, owner of Dead End BBQ, wants to make Maryville one of those destinations when he opens his second restaurant in October.
“There is a clique in barbecue where people travel around and eat at barbecue restaurants,” Ewart explained of a demographic study of his customers he had done two years into owning his first restaurant.
“On Saturday and Sunday, we were full of people who weren’t from here. That gave us an idea: if we’re going to expand, where should we go? We cut our teeth cooking barbecue in Blount County, so it made sense.”
Ewart started cooking barbecue with friends in 2000 as a way of building community with the neighbors on their dead-end street in Knoxville. Between 50 and 60 people turned out for that first pig roast Memorial Day weekend 13 years ago; this year there were more than 500 there.
Ewart and his friends then entered the Smokin’ in the Smokies barbecue contest in Townsend, where they took home first place in three categories in 2002. That led to more competitions for what was known as the Dead End Society and, in 2007, they were named the state champions and chosen to represent Tennessee in the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue in 2008.
“We said if we ever got into a world competition, we’d start thinking about opening a restaurant,” Ewart recalled.
Off the beaten path
Ewart and co-owner Robert Nutt, who have been friends for years, opened their first Dead End BBQ on Sutherland Avenue in Knoxville in October 2009. They liked how the location was close to their neighborhood, close to West High School, and close to the Tennessee National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, whose soldiers they had fed when they returned from Iraq.
“We wanted to be off the beaten path,” Ewart said.
That same desire led Ewart to the Maryville location at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Lamar Alexander Parkway, across from Maryville High School and beside New Providence Presbyterian Church.
“Our Realtors kept taking us out to the main drag, saying we wanted to be on Alcoa Highway or by the Walmart, but I kept coming back to the high school,” Ewart remembered. “Plus, they’re the Rebels (like West High School), so we don’t have to change our Rebel burger!”
Ewart said he has heard some negative comments about the Maryville location, but the new restaurant will have the “same feel” as the Knoxville location.
“We try to look at (the restaurant) like a Dead End (Society) event every day,” he said. “We want it to have an appeal like coming to a party on our street.”
The Maryville restaurant, which had its groundbreaking in late June, will be slightly bigger — 6,000 square feet compared to 4,200 at the Knoxville restaurant — with 61 parking spaces, a larger patio and a bigger bar area. It will be a wedge-type building because the property is wedge-shaped, Ewart added.
Fans of Dead End BBQ, though, can expect the same barbecue Ewart perfected over the years through trial and error and learning from “a lot of good guys out on the circuit.”
“It’s a blend of everything,” Ewart explained. “We are like a melting pot, with Memphis to the west and the Carolinas to the east. We are trying to introduce it as East Tennessee barbecue.”
Cooking at the restaurant is like cooking at competitions, Ewart noted, where you never know who your judge is going to be.
“You have to have a little heat in it, a little sweet in it and a little mild in it,” he said. “It’s hard to make someone from Texas happy and someone from Memphis happy.”
As with the barbecue recipes that have made Dead End BBQ successful, the restaurant also will continue its tradition of supporting the local community — not just Maryville High School, Ewart stressed — but other local schools, including Maryville College.
“The people of Maryville have been great: the city, the planning people, the church, the engineer. Just top quality,” he said. “We want to be good stewards out there.”
And, of course, Ewart wants Dead End BBQ to be the “premiere barbecue restaurant” in Blount County.
“This is a great region to have barbecue,” he said. “There are some great barbecue restaurants in Maryville, and I hope to stand up with those guys.”