There’s a smoking new barbecue joint in Lebanon: Peoples BBQ, which sits in the building that was home to Elaine’s Country Kitchen for years.

Presiding over the smoker, where he barbies pork, beef and chicken five days a week, is Tim Elliott, who also turns up the heat when he occasionally fills the pulpit at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Watertown. 

“This is my passion, what I wanted to do,” said Tim about his mission of smoking meats for the public. “When I married Cresseda, I said, ‘As soon as I can find a place I’m going to open.’ ”

Cresseda, his wife of nearly four years, said “Amen!” to the notion, and now, after retiring Dec. 31 from a 20-year career with Aldi, she’s got his back in the restaurant.

“Tim always had a love to cook. That’s his pride and passion. We drove all over the place looking for a building, as far as Murfreesboro, but he kept watching this building,” said his mate, who was born Cresseda Ward in Lebanon and was a mainstay on the Lebanon High girls’ basketball team in the early 1980s.

Tim was born in Russellville, Ky., and grew up in nearby Adairville. He previously operated BBQ restaurants in Guthrie, Ky., and Springfield, Tenn., while he learned a lot about grilling and smoking over nine to 10 years at Jack’s Bar-B-Que in Nashville.

But his first culinary teacher was his mom.

“She let me in the kitchen a lot, and I watched her doing little things and then bigger things. Making barbeque was one of my favorites. I learned a lot from Jack’s, but I learned how to do it for myself,” said Tim, who heats his meats with hickory and oak.

His personal taste runs first to BBQ pork, but he says the beef briskets are the top-selling meat item on his menu. As for the best tip he would share with someone who wants to make their own smoked barbeque, he said, “Take your time and watch what you’re doing. When you get it to taste like you like, remember what you’ve done.

Tim practically cooks the meats and veggies at Peoples BBQ and also makes his own mild tomato sauce and hot vinegar sauce. Cresseda’s cousin, Sandy Stewart, makes the homemade pies from scratch.

What Tim enjoys most about operating his own restaurant is “seeing the people come in and eat and enjoy it. That’s my main thing, having a good place where they can come and get some good barbeque,” noting that his clientele is pretty much split 50-50 between dining in and take-out.

BBQ and life partner

His better half, Cresseda, was the sixth-born of 13 children, eight boys and five girls, to Louis and Pattie Ward. She and Tim met in a shopping mall 25 years ago.

“He came up and started talking to me, I went on my way and he went on his way, but he always called and kept in contact with me,” said Cresseda. “He would check on my father from time to time and always say, ‘How you doing little girl? Have you got married yet?’ In 2017, he came back around and asked me to marry him.”

The 1983 Lebanon High graduate ran track and played softball and basketball for her alma mater. The latter was her favorite sport as she started at point guard her junior and senior years for Coach Campbell Brandon.

“We finished second in the state my junior year,” said Cresseda, who averaged 12 points a game and was named Most Athletic by her senior class.

Like Tim, she learned to cook from her mother.

“My mom was an excellent cook. She could take three or four Irish potatoes and by the time she got through slicing them as thin as she did, make it like a bag of potatoes. She could stretch ’em,” said Cresseda. 

Before retiring from Aldi after a run of 20 years and three months, she was a popular cashier at the Lebanon location where she worked 13 years. She said the thing she will miss most will be those she served.

“I love people. I always worked in retail. I worked for Food Lion for 10 years as customer service manager. My main objective was to please my customers. Mama said, ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated.’ ”

She plans to help her mate out a couple of days a week at the restaurant.

“I run the register for him and will help manage and check his stock: just whatever he needs me to do. I want to spend more time with my grandson and do stuff at the church. I guess I’ll do whatever I want to do really.

“I like to draw still life, and I’m a sports fanatic. I listen to college girls’ basketball,” said the former athlete, whose daughter, Crystal House, also played basketball at Lebanon High and who also was voted Most Athletic in her class in 2007.

Nowadays Cresseda’s favorite games to watch in person take place at Winfree Bryant Middle School, where that 12-year-old grandson, Terrell Searcy Jr., carries on the family’s sport tradition.

“When I go to my grandson’s ball games, I can’t hold my peace,” said the former Blue Devil star who admits she can get hot but not nearly as hot as the sizzling meats coming from the Peoples BBQ smoker.

PEOPLES BBQ

Location: 1103 N. Cumberland St., Lebanon

Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sundays, 1-7 p.m.; closed Monday and Saturday

Contact: (615) 784-4175.

On the menu: Daily combos — pork or chicken sandwich with small side and drink, $7; BBQ pork by the pound, $9.50; BBQ plate with two sides and cornbread, $8.50; slab of BBQ ribs, $18; brisket plate, $11; brisket by the pound, $11.25. Catfish served on Fridays. Sides include baked beans, green beans, white beans, mac and cheese, cole slaw, potato salad, apples and cornbread. Cash only. 

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