Smoky, Hot, and Sticky Sweet: South Carolina Barbecue Arrives on Clark Street

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The former Blockbuster Video space along Clark and Wrightwood wasn’t made to house two 100-foot Lang barbecue smokers. Brandon and Katherine Rushing had to significantly alter the ventilation to accommodate their new restaurant, Briny Swine Smokehouse and Oyster Bar.

The same space was home to HopCat, the Michigan beer bar. During the fall, it was also a frequent popup space for Spirit Halloween. Briny Swine’s crews kept the bar in the same space, and the Rushings hope their South Carolina barbecue and find a Chicago niche with folks who like bourbon, beer, and barbecue. They’ll even stay open until 2 a.m. giving the stretch of Clark Street, which has recently seen the closures of Frank’s and Field House, a charge. Even as the Wiener Circle taunts the new restaurant from across the street.

This is the Rushings’ third restaurant. They run a Briny Swine in Edisto Beach, South Carolina; and Ella & Ollies, which opened in 2016. Those restaurants will continue as the Rushings move to Chicago with their daughter. Barbecue joints have a certain aesthetic with metal trays and red and white checkered tablecloths. Brandon Rushing says they’ve incorporated some of those standards, but tailored them to Chicago’s big-city tendencies. Rushing also says to look for live music on most nights.

“It’s not your trays and your plastic ramekins kind of thing,” he says. “You know, it’s a little bit more elevated than that — I think that kind of brings out more of the seafood side and the oyster side of things as well.”

Briny Swine features South Carolina-style barbecue, which focuses on pork, or whole hog cooking. Brandon Rushing smokes his meat with oak and they’ll have mustard and vinegar sauces on hand. Look for pulled pork and St. Louis spare ribs. Rushing is also proud of his brisket, so beef fans are in luck.

Chicago borrows much from Memphis’ barbecue traditions with its sweet and smoky barbecue sauce. South Carolina focuses on dry rub, but Swiny Brine will offer five sauces: Alabama White (mayo, vinegar, water, mustard, horseradish, black pepper), Carolina Gold (mustard-based, vinegar, sugar, ketchup), pepper vinegar (pepper, vinegar, pepper flakes, sugar), red (ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar), and a spicy red variant with chipotle.

Being part of Lowcountry cuisine, there’s also a variety of seafood options including blackened grouper sandwiches and shrimp rolls. Rushing says it was a task to properly source oysters. The oysters (from Chesapeake, Virginia are salty. He serves them with jalapeño and country ham and fried. For the colder months, he wants to bring a southern tradition to Chicago, the oyster roast.

Chicago may be a sausage town, just ask it, but Briny Swine is offering it something unique: onion sausage. The late Phil Bardin, a prominent Lowcountry chef, is one of Rushing’s mentors. And he inspired the sausage which is made with pork (instead of the traditional venison) and tons of onions.

There’s a special food menu at the bar, including a pulled pork sandwich and blue crab hush puppies, that will be available until 2 a.m. Brown liquor fans will have plenty of whisky flights (and some Scotch) to swig. The drink menu also features a boiled peanut martini made with Wheatley Craft Kentucky Vodka and peanut brine. Rushing says the drink was his wife’s idea: “It’s kind of like, a salty briny martini — it actually turned out really fantastic.”

Walk through the space below as the restaurant officially opens on Saturday, June 1. Walk through the space below.

Briny Swine Smokehouse and Oyster Bar, 2577 N. Clark Street, open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday; reservations via OpenTable.

Briny Swine Smokehouse and Oyster Bar

2577 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614 (773) 698-6012 Visit Website

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