When customers from all over the map are coming into town just to dine at your restaurant, you’re probably doing things right. That’s the case with chef Brandon Velie of Juniper restaurant located in the small town of Ridge Spring, South Carolina. A former South Carolina Chef Ambassador, it’s safe to say that Velie knows his way around the kitchen. Yet another big reason for Juniper’s growing popularity around the Southeast is not as quite well-known. It’s the self-sustaining and supportive community of Ridge Spring, a small town with a big heart.
Before Velie opened Juniper in 2005 with his wife Jeanne, they had decided they wanted to be in an agricultural community. They wanted to know where their food was coming from and to work with local farms who believed in the same sustainable practices they did. Since Juniper’s opening, Brandon has developed strong relationships with several local farmers, always seeking out the best ingredients for his unique culinary creations. Whether it’s free-range chickens and greenhouse vegetables from Happy Earth Farm or grass-fed Angus cattle from Yon Family Farms, you’re sure to enjoy the best the region has to offer.
Now let’s talk about some of the mouthwatering dishes that keep locals and non-locals coming back for more. Chef Brandon and his wife Jeanne take long walks to collaborate and hash out what will be on the menu each week. They describe their ever-evolving menu to be primarily Midlands cuisine. “It’s really an ongoing process of figuring out what exactly Midlands cuisine is,” said Chef Velie. That’s the beauty of Juniper’s menu: it reflects whatever is in season throughout the year. For example, asparagus season is a brief time of year when Brandon can collect stalks from the local asparagus farmers at Monetta Asparagus Farm and incorporate them into several of his dishes. We recommend the fried asparagus!
Even with a constantly evolving menu, some of Juniper’s dishes are so irresistible that they’ve become mainstays by popular request. The corn chowder (a highly sought-after recipe), shrimp and grits and pan-seared strip steak are just a few of the menu items that stay put all year long due to their high demand from local customers. Chef Brandon’s Five-Course Tasting Menu is perhaps the most enticing item on the menu, as it can be completely different depending on what day you’re visiting or even what table you’re sitting at!
Perhaps the most charming thing about Juniper is the warm, family-friendly atmosphere and sense of community that gathers there on a daily basis. Chef Brandon, his family and their close-knit staff welcome you with a true sense of what Southern hospitality is and should be.