New arrivals to Elkin in recent years who have questioned the big red building on North Bridge Street can now join the locals who relive memories as Skull Camp Brewery invites guests to help prepare for the restaurant’s grand opening.
“We’ll have a grand opening probably late January, beginning of February-ish,” said co-owner Ken Gulaian, “for right now we’re in the process of hiring and working on training our staff and getting our menu set and final.”
With that in mind, the restaurant is open now from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, where patrons can sample a menu heavy on smoked meats at the previous Basin Creek Restaurant location, which holds significant memories for many locals.
Created by head chef Corey Moore, who was an employee of Basin Creek as well, the menu includes beef, chicken and pork as well as shrimp and a variety of items with vegetarians in mind.
“My favorite thing on the menu is definitely the pulled pork or the mac and cheese or the collard greens,” said bartender Kristan Gooderham, noting there’s something on the menu for everyone.
“It’s all very good,” said Gooderham. “Just about everything is made from scratch and handmade to order.”
“They make a lot of things on the menu, but I love the pimento cheese,” said Shannon Tatum. “They shred their own cheeses here. They put their own peppers in it. That’s what makes it above the rest.”
“It’s just really good food,” said Gooderham, “plus their meats are smoked and their wings, their brisket, their pulled pork, their chicken [are all] smoked.”
“One of the things I love on here is the brisket sandwich,” said Gulaian, who was choosing the hummus instead, revealing the healthier choices on the menu. “Corey kind of made it for me, because it’s kind of got peppers on it and other stuff that I like.
“He makes great food overall, but the wings are really good because we smoke them, we don’t fry them,” said Gulaian. “We’ve got the peel-and-eat shrimp that are like huge, and Corey’s cocktail sauce is awesome.”
Flavor wasn’t the only consideration for the menu.
“The other thing is we tried to do a few of the things that were from Basin Creek originally. We do a Basin Burger, which is the original from before,” said Gulaian, “which is a burger with coleslaw and chili and onions, all that stuff piled on it.”
Incorporating Basin Creek favorites into the menu was easy with Moore as head chef.
“Corey, who is now the chef here, worked in the kitchen when he was really, really young. It was his first job,” said Gulaian, “so there’s definitely a connection with the old Basin Creek just from staff perspective with Corey being here.”
That’s not the only connection between the old Basin Creek restaurant and the new Skull Camp Brewery Restaurant.
“We really tried to keep the ambience and the look and feel in here very similar,” said Gulaian.
“This bar is new, but there used to be kind of a counter with stuff for sale here so if you walked in and you’ve been here before you would know we’ve done something to it but it would look familiar, too,” he said.
“We really tried to keep it comfortable and similar to what it was while at the same time we are a brewery,” explained Gulaian, “and when we started Skull Camp, the brewery, we wanted to be all about the outdoors. When we started the [Round Peak] winery in front of Skull Camp Mountain, we had the outdoors in front of us.”
That environment carried over to the eatery that feels more like a lodge than a restaurant with elements that actually bring the outdoors inside.
“A tree died at our winery so when we cut it down I took it to the sawmill and had him slice it up,” said Gulaian. After drying the wood at the winery, it was then made into several bar tops including some at Round Peak Vineyard as well as Skull Camp.
The outdoors also came in with the metal roof from the Basin Creek Restaurant, which has been used in several places inside Skull Camp Restaurant, as well as other familiar items put to new purpose.
“We took the old roof and we put that on the ceiling upstairs, in the middle room, in the hallway and the bathrooms, so we reused as much of it as we can,” said Gulaian.
“We’re going to reuse all of it eventually. I’m going to reuse some of it up at the winery actually, but it will all be reused.”
Bourbon barrels accentuate the bar.
“We’ll use it to age our beers in. We only use them once so when we finish with them we retire them,” said Gulaian.
Another favorite feature is the fireplace.
“Everybody used to eat there,” said Gulaian. “I used to eat there around the fireplace, and to me that’s just Skull Camp, so it fit perfectly in line with the brewery and our image.”
That was a selling point for the location.
“We looked at downtown and nothing really fit what we wanted to be,” said Gulaian, who noticed the location was for sale when looking at another potential place with Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership.
“We called up the Realtor and she came up and met us here an hour later. When I walked in, this was exactly the ambience that we wanted for Skull Camp,” said Gulaian. “It fits exactly what we wanted so it’s really perfect for us.”
That was why a grateful Gulaian invited those who helped get the restraint open to a private appreciation event.
“We wanted to invite everybody here to just thank you for all the work that many of you did to get us to this point. It was kind of a long and winding road, but we’re finally here,” said Gulaian to those assembled.
“We just wanted to say thanks to everybody for all the work that each of you did to get us to this point.
“The whole point of having everybody there on Tuesday was to thank them because we wouldn’t be here without a lot of help,” said Gulaian, “from the commissioners, from the town of Elkin, from Leslie Schlender, the Elkin economic development manager in particular, from Todd who helped us find building.
“Just fighting through all the challenges we had, we had a lot of support from everybody who was there.”
Previous patrons can relive memories of Basin Creek in the new Skull Camp Restaurant located at 2000 N. Bridge St. in Elkin.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.