MOORESVILLE – Brisket and barbecue, combined with some burger and basic side options, are the highlighted items in a “meat and taters” venture for longtime friends and part-time caterers with deep and close ties to the Lake Norman area.
Area residents Travis Elliott and Brad Torrence, friends since their days at South Iredell High School, opened ToBo’s in Mooresville in late January. The “soft opening” was a little softer than planned due to delays in the state licensing process, with Feb. 4 the first official day with all ABC permits in place.
The restaurant and bar is in space previously occupied by Sidelines in the Marathea Plaza on Charlotte Highway (U.S. 21) just north of the Wilson Avenue/Brawley School Road intersection. Extensive renovations have included new walls, floors and furniture along with a refurbished bar and an open design to create the casual and welcoming small-town feel both owners wanted.
“We wanted it to be family-friendly,” Elliott said. “That was one thing both of us knew right from the start.”
The friends, based on their catering experiences, began thinking about a restaurant several years ago, even completing engineering plans for their ideal design. But the pandemic, and then a mix of scarce property and soaring construction costs, altered their expectations. But they always knew they wanted a “comfortable and safe” setting celebrating what the area was like when they were young.
And if some parts of the menu – with kid-only items, homemade sauces, a “hillbilly egg roll” appetizer and a fried Oreo dessert – don’t make ToBo’s laid-back intentions clear, other aspects will.
The restaurant’s name is a combination tribute to Elliott’s father Tony and Torrence’s father Bo, and many of the house specials – like “Willie B’s BBQ,” “Tony’s Filet Tips” and “Ann’s Covered Chicken” also celebrate some of Elliott’s and Torrence’s personal ties.
“A lot of the food items are named after people who have had an impact on our lives,” Elliott said.
The menu itself – matching Elliott’s “simple meat and taters place” description – features items the two mastered during their catering and food truck days.
Torrence – who admitted Elliott “was more of a restaurant person, I’m a catering person” – is the force behind the barbecue and Elliott said they both take pride in their brisket.
“It’s not something we buy and heat up, I can promise you that,” he said. “We put a lot of us into that every time.”
A few steaks – including a tenderloin filet – and the L. Dent Chop (a 12-ounce pork chop covered with peppers, onions and mushrooms) are featured along with chicken entrees, sandwiches, a basic salad with multiple add-on options, chicken wings and side dishes.
“It’s not a giant menu, but it’s things we know,” Elliott said. “We don’t want to be everything – it’s hard to be damn good at a bunch of things – but we want to have the things we’re good at.”
Restaurant and bar
2785 Charlotte Hwy., Mooresville (US 21)
Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (maybe later on weekends and special events)
everyday except Wednesday