It was love at first sight for Brandon and Katherine Rushing when they first visited Chicago — but not with each other. After all, the couple had been married for years and even had a daughter together. Rather, the two restaurateurs fell for the city of Chicago after visiting a friend who lived there.
“We met some great people up there and we really just fell in love with the city,” Brandon Rushing says. “There’s great food. The people are really nice. It’s just an amazing town that we want to be a part of and have a reason to keep coming back.”
That’s why it was a no-brainer for the pair to open Briny Swine in the heart of Lincoln Park. The 200-seater is slated for an early 2023 opening, the smokehouse and oyster bar will occupy the building that most recently housed the HopCat beer bar at the T-intersection of Clark and Wrightwood. The unique space (where Italian import Vapiano and Blockbuster Video once occupied) has remained vacant in recent years, with the exception the brief stints as a seasonal Spirit Halloween store. Siren Betty, a design firm popular with restaurants, will try to make diners forget about the space’s haunted past. Look for ping-pong and foosball tables.
The Briny Swine will be the second location for their eponymous restaurant anchored in Edisto Beach, South Carolina. As such, it’ll bring along some of the low country southern flavors beloved in the region including whole hog barbecue, brisket, shrimp, blue crab, and a wide selection of oysters. The Rushings hope that they’ll be able to bring the energy of their South Carolina home to the coast of Lake Michigan.
“There’s so much to low country southern food,” Katherine Rushing says. “There’s heart there. There’s soul there — especially when you talk about whole hog barbecue. It’s a labor of love.”
The Midwestern version of Briny Swine will be nearly ten times the size of the Edisto Beach location, too. The bigger kitchen allows for menu items the Rushings can’t have back home, including a South Carolina barbecue staple, hash and rice. Other highlights include, low country grit puppies with pepper jelly, and smoked brisket with pimento cheese. Family-style dinner platters will also be available.
A raw oyster bar “so people can sit down” and watch their shellfish get freshly shucked for them, says Brandon Rushing, is another Chicago exclusive with up to six selections of oysters, some of which the Rushings source at a sustainable oyster farm in Edisto Beach.
“We got really lucky,” he says. “One of our oyster purveyors who grows and harvests them for us — about 600 yards from our Edisto Beach restaurant — is going to be able to ship up oysters to Chicago every day of the week when we need them. So we’re going to have fresh Edisto oysters.”
Katherine Rushing adds: “You’ll want to eat our oysters every day of your life. “It’s literally my favorite thing in the world. I would eat my weight in them.”
“I like the barbecue roasted oysters myself,” Brandon says. “But the brisket is absolutely fantastic too. Our ribs are amazing. You have a lot of good barbecue in Chicago, for sure, but it’s a little bit different from South Carolina barbecue.”
South Carolinians are as passionate (or particular) about their barbecue as any region. The cooking focuses on pork, and there are a variety of sauces, including a golden mustard-based option. In recent years, pitmaster Rodney Scott has helped popularize the state’s smoked meat options outside of South Carolina. It differs a bit from Chicago style, which uses a sticky tomato-based sauce reminiscent of Memphis, Tennessee’s version.
To pair with the food, Briny Swine will also offer a wide beverage selection of craft beer and cocktails. A deep bourbon program will star — nothing pairs better with pig pickings than a strong bourbon.
The new location will also host weekly live music that Brandon promises will bring “jazz, blues, and funk” to the neighborhood. And, for the Rushings, the community is really what’s at the heart of their new location at the end of the day. They want to bring a bit of the heart and soul of their home on the briny shores of South Carolina to the broad shoulders of the Second City. They want to build another home here — and make one for others too.
“We’re so excited to come up there and share what we love so much about our home,” Katherine Rushing says.
“Chicago’s a city of absolutely amazing restaurants,” her husband adds. “It’s really exciting for us that we get to be a part of this tight knit food and beverage community. Everybody knows each other. We’re just excited to get together and get to be a part of the community.”
Briny Swine, 2577 N. Clark Street, planned for an early 2023 opening.