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Brandon Rushing of Briny Swine in South Carolina shares plans for his Chicago restaurant

The barbecue-and-seafood concept is opening a location in Lincoln Park

Briny Swine Smokehouse and Oyster Bar is a down-home restaurant on Edisto Island, 45 miles south of Charleston, S.C. Chef Brandon Rushing and his wife Katherine own and operate the original outpost of Briny Swine as well as a second concept, Ella & Ollie’s, with menus of local seafood and Southern staples. This spring they will bring a new outpost of Briny Swine to Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, with an expansive space of more than 9,000 square feet featuring custom artwork from an Edisto artist, a large bar, and a stage for live music, all at a family-friendly price point in a casual rustic atmosphere. Rushing recently discussed his plans for the new place.

You grew up and studied in the Pacific Northwest and then moved to Charleston. Why was Chicago the choice for this step in your journey?

I have always loved Chicago and its food scene, but it was just in the past two years that my family and I had the opportunity to spend considerable time in the city. We have good friends here, and the more we visited, the more intrigued we became. One of the things we noticed was that among a lot of great barbecue restaurants, we didn’t see any places that focused specifically on Carolina-style, which is our approach. It started out as a, “Could we…?” intrigue to a full-on “We definitely should!” We set forth in finding a location and landed at the perfect spot in Lincoln Park.

On the “Briny” end, Coastal Seafood might seem an incongruous choice for a city without a coast. What excites you most about exploring those products for the local dining scene? Where and how are you sourcing them?

Yes, the “Briny” of Briny Swine is half of who we are. We are sourcing almost all of our seafood from back home in South Carolina. On Edisto Island, we are right on the water and have direct access to fishermen whose families have been at it for generations. Lowcountry Oyster Company is going to be a big provider for us. They will ship to us as often as we need and we’ll pick up every delivery directly from the airport. Our shrimpers will have their product boxed, frozen, and shipped overnight to us as well. We also have strong connections with farmers throughout South Carolina, who will provide us with seasonal produce, and of course we’ll also work locally with Midwestern growers and shop weekly at Green City Market in our own Lincoln Park neighborhood. We’re excited to participate in that community. Our grits will come from Marsh Hen Mill, who provides some of the best heirloom products out there.

On the “Swine” side, Carolina barbecue is a unique style, not often seen here in the Midwest. What would you want diners to know about your style of barbecue?

The most important thing to take away about Carolina-style barbecue is that it is pork-based. In South Carolina, it’s all about the pig pickins’, so we use the entire hog. [South] Carolina barbecue also uses a mustard-based sauce, called Carolina Gold. This ties directly to mustard seed, a specialty crop in our part of the country. Our barbecue is hard-wood smoked using Carolina white oak only. We’ve partnered with Lang [BBQ Smokers] to obtain two, 108-foot smokers that are rarely found in restaurants, and these babies are the real deal. Holy City Hogs, our hog farmers in South Carolina, have linked us up with some friends in Iowa for a Midwestern source.

You are also bringing a focus on live music, as well as interactive experiences like karaoke and open mics, as well as having sports programming. How do you see that aspect integrating into the experience for the diner?

When you think about the barbecue concept, it’s meant to be a gathering, an event! In Edisto, we smoke a whole hog, get everyone together, drink some beer and talk and laugh for hours. The elements of live entertainment embrace that spirit, and signal that Briny Swine is a place where people can really come together for a fun, casual time. Listening to music, catching the big game, supporting a local charitable organization, or even throwing your own party to celebrate a special occasion. We are the place that’s relevant year-round.

What excites you most about joining the Chicago dining scene?

Besides loving the dining scene and setting ourselves up alongside some of the best chefs in the country, the culinary community in Chicago is really warm. Everyone who works in this business is passionate about what they do and is willing to lend a hand, advice and support. I feel like Chicago hospitality people are always cheering each other on. That’s exactly the kind of place we want to be.

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