Taste of the Community, Edisto Beach
How small-town restaurants focus on local community and local sourcing when it matters most.
Located just south of Charleston, SC, Edisto Beach is a small-town beach community that relies heavily on tourism. During the midst of the initial outbreak of COVID, Edisto Beach was shut down completely to anyone who was not a resident. In a place where tourism begins in the spring, to say it made an impact on the local businesses would be an understatement. Relying on the support of the local community, Edisto Beach restaurants managed to survive the shutdown.
If you were fortunate enough to grow up on Edisto like local restaurant Ella & Ollie’s co-owner Katherine Rushing, then you understand that the sense of community the Island shares is a truly special thing. Four years ago, she and her husband, Brandon Rushing (Executive Chef and co-owner), were living and working within the restaurant industry in Charleston, SC. Ready for a change, they started discussing stepping away from their jobs and opening their own restaurants. There was no question as to where they wanted to be. Their first restaurant, Ella & Ollie’s, opened on Edisto Beach in 2016. Edisto is place full of amazing people and there was never any doubt that while establishing their businesses there, they also wanted to give back as much as they had been given.
Jane Edwards is the local public school on the Island where 100% of the students are on free or reduced lunches. For some of those children their only well-balanced meals come from the school. When the pandemic shut down the schools and indoor dining, they realized they had a great opportunity in front of them. Katherine and Brandon found themselves with a lot of free time and a lot of unused food, so they reached out to the school. They decided to start making breakfast and lunches for the Jane Edwards kids. The program gained traction quickly and within two weeks they were feeding 90 kids. It was extremely satisfying to be able to help in some small way while also being able to show the children the importance of well-balanced meals and healthy eating patterns.
Ella & Ollie’s, the Rushing’s flagship restaurant, is a southern seafood-inspired restaurant focused on delivering fresh local ingredients. Their second restaurant on Edisto Beach, E&O Taco, opened in 2018. Open for lunch, E&O Taco offers a Lowcountry take on traditional taqueria fare with Latin-inspired cocktails. Their third restaurant, and newest concept, is The Briny Swine. Opened this past spring, the Briny Swine offers up a combination of fresh seafood and smoked meats in a newly renovated spot with a great view overlooking Big Bay Creek and the marshes of Edisto. Oysters at the Briny Swine come from LowCountry Oyster Company. They’re harvested within two miles of the restaurant and delivered by boat to the restaurant within five hours of harvest.
In addition to wanting to give back to the community, Katherine and Brandon also feel it’s necessary to showcase local purveyors. It’s extremely important to them that they support other local businesses as best they can. They made the decision from the beginning to only use local shrimp from the Edisto Beach’s fish market, Edisto Seafood, as well as the fruits and veggies from local farmers on the Island. They are proud to say that several of the dishes at their restaurants come from within ten miles. Nothing beats shrimp from local shrimping boat Sarah Jane, grits from the Geechie Boy Mill, or anything that comes out of the ground over at Rooting Down Farms on John’s Island. To give back to the place that’s given them so much didn’t seem like a nice idea, it just seemed like a necessity.
All of the local restaurants on Edisto Beach are now focused on getting back to “normal.” But what is normal? Maybe no one knows. For now it means offering a safe environment that still affords your customers a place they can relax in while on vacation enjoying fresh, local ingredients throughout the experience. Visit Edisto Beach and you will experience something much more than great food. You will experience community.