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Outlaw BBQ opens in Russellville

David Evans said broken childhood is what inspired in him a desire to cook and open a restaurant.

“I wanted to create food that was so good that from the time you sat down at the table, there was no arguing,” Evans said. “You sit down and bite into something so good, you’re not going to be mad at somebody across from you. You’re going to start talking about how good the food is. Then you’re smiling, and the atmosphere or the mood has changed.”

Evans, 35, has been cooking for 16 years. He opened Outlaw BBQ, 15580 Highway 43, less than three months ago.

For about 12 years, he cooked as a hobby and never seriously considered opening a restaurant. But when he was invited to make the birthday dinner for his buddy’s father – the buddy who is now his business partner – his eyes were opened to the business opportunities.

Although initially hesitant, “Pops” finally tried the food. He couldn’t get enough of it. “He could hardly breathe, he stuffed himself so full,” Evans remembered, laughing. “He told me, ‘Son, them ribs are going to make you rich.’ And that summer I sold 875 racks out of my back yard.”

So he and buddy-turned-business partner Royce Renfro started working toward the dream of opening a brick and mortar restaurant. Every bite of meat they could make a profit on went into the business, until Outlaw BBQ became a reality.

“We didn’t really know much about how to sell food, and we didn’t know much about running a big business,” Renfro said. “All we knew is he can cook like magic.”

Evans had moved away to Athens for a time but returned to Russellville to care for his ailing grandmother. She passed away last year – but not before Renfro and Evans came in as Grand Champions at the Pilgrim’s Pride BBQ competition at the 2015 Watermelon Festival. For the contest, Evans used his grandfather’s butcher knife. His grandmother got to hold the Grand Champion trophy.

Renfro and Evans pride themselves on taking care of their customers. From their perspective, they are paying it forward.

“When I was at my lowest, God was right there with me,” Evans said. “I don’t have any competition. I do what I do, and I love what I do … We have so much good karma, we’re going to be fine. We put our lives in the hands of the Lord, and he took care of us.”

Evans said they particularly reach out to veterans – POW MIA flags fly year-round at Outlaw BBQ – the needy and the elderly.

“We almost give away as much food as we sell. That’s no lie,” Renfro said. “If they come in for one sandwich, we give them banana pudding or an extra sandwich.”

“We want our customer service to be as good as the food,” Evans added.

Evans’ son Caleb Evans helps with smoking the meat, and wives Jennifer Evans and Bre Renfro are involved as well. Outlaw BBQ is open Monday through Wednesday and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., serving everything from pork, ribs and brisket to loaded potatoes, loaded nachos and more.

“We’re a hole in the wall, but we have big dreams, and they are coming true quick,” Evans said. “It’s almost like we’re small town celebrities. The passion we’re putting into our cooking is showing.”