Alumni open new downtown Elon restaurant

Around this time last year, Chris Brumbaugh '98 and Lynn Terrell '97 lived comfortably in Denver when they heard through the grapevine that their beloved Sidetrack Grill had closed. Both had worked at the iconic Elon restaurant for periods during their undergraduate days, and the news hit them hard. That's when the wheels behind The Root Trackside, the couple's new downtown Elon restaurant, began to turn.

The Root Trackside, in the space previously occupied by Sidetrack Grill.

The Root, which opened last week, is located at 110 West Lebanon Avenue – the same location where Sidetracks stood until last August.

“We come from the Sidetracks cloth,” Brumbaugh explains. “We enter this with a lot of respect for what came before – we want people to remember Sidetracks.”

Brumbaugh and Terrell’s decision to return to North Carolina wasn’t made instantly when they heard word of Sidetracks’ demise. The couple had recently welcomed their first child, Liam. Each had a good job in the Denver area – Brumbaugh as an event planner and Terrell as an interior designer. The notion of moving back at first was nothing more than a joke, Brumbaugh recalls.

The Root’s owners, Chris Brumbaugh ’98 and Lynn Terrell ’97.

“A friend of ours from Raleigh said, ‘Hey, why don’t you move back and open a restaurant in Sidetracks’ space?'”

The idea stuck in his head for days. The prospect certainly was tempting. With a young son in tow, it would be nice to be closer to their families, they thought. Brumbaugh’s parents – Chalmers, a professor of political science, and Pam, director of experiential education for Career Services – are longtime Elon employees.

The conversations between husband and wife expanded to include Joel Brown, who owns the row of commercial buildings along Lebanon Avenue. After several months, Brumbaugh and Terrell felt comfortable enough to take the plunge. In February, they left their jobs, headed east and signed a lease.

Terrell, who worked as an interior designer in Denver before opening The Root, spearheaded the restaurant’s design.

“Everyone has a dream of working for themselves and controlling their own destinies,” Terrell says. “This was our opportunity.”

Since returning to Elon, the couple have kept busy refurbishing the restaurant and building the menu. Those nostalgic for Sidetracks will be pleased to see the layout of the restaurant hasn’t changed, though Terrell has updated the decor with a color palette of cool greens and warm oranges, clusters of twinkling lights and modern wall art.

There are several throwbacks to the Sidetracks menu on The Root’s new carte, such as the island chicken wrap and the twice-baked potato soup. Brumbaugh has enjoyed adding some new flavors as well, such as a fresh edamame dip appetizer and sides of quinoa and cheese grit cakes. He adds that several items can be added to suit gluten-free or vegan diets.

Brumbaugh and Terrell hope to keep the memory of Sidetracks alive in both The Root’s layout and several menu items.

“We’re having fun creating something,” Brumbaugh says. “We’re both artistic people and this is a way for us to let out our creative side.”

The biggest struggle the couple faced was finding the perfect name for the restaurant.

“We spent many months throwing names out,” Brumbaugh recalls. “We considered the reasons behind what we were doing, the campus, the university, Sidetracks, everything.”

Eventually, Terrell says, they landed on an image that brought together Elon, its stately oaks, new beginnings and, if the fates allow, strong, steady growth: The Root.

“It was obvious that had to be the name,” she says.

The Root Trackside is open for lunch and dinner. Learn more about the restaurant at