Local and delicious
Brandon Velie opened Juniper in Ridge Spring in 2005. The restaurant features local ingredients in its dishes.
Photo by Milton Morris
Sometimes recipes—and life—don’t turn out like you plan.
That’s the case for Chef Brandon Velie, who always dreamed of being a police officer. Ever since he was a kid, he was fascinated by state troopers and their uniforms. But, after several years in the Marine Corps and a stint with the Department of Corrections at a maximum-security prison, Velie knew that life wasn’t for him. So he decided to fall back on what he knew best—cooking.
After working in a variety of restaurants in high school and completing an apprenticeship cooking program while he was in the Marine Corps, Velie heeded his wife’s suggestion that he leave law enforcement and try his hand at cooking for a living. Fast-forward several years—through sous chef positions in Raleigh, opening a new restaurant in Washington, D.C., and ultimately finding his way to Aiken as an executive chef—Velie and his wife, Jeanne, finally settled on Ridge Spring, 40 miles southwest of Columbia, where they opened Juniper in July of 2005.
“We were captured by a tangible charm that Ridge Spring has as we crossed the train tracks into town,” recalls Velie. “We instantly saw the potential and believed that if we could give people a delicious experience, they would come back.”
With a commitment to local farm-to-table fare, Juniper, located along Main Street in a former hardware and auto parts store, focuses on signature South Carolina ingredients to produce simple, creative and elegant food served in an approachable and casual atmosphere.
“We want a place where people can enjoy their time relaxing with friends and family,” Velie says. “No worries, just yummy food, great service and good friends.”
From the ingredients sourced from local producers, like Trail Ridge Farm and Yon Family Farms, to dishes that utilize quintessential South Carolina products like peaches, collards and softshell crabs, Velie is committed to the state.
Of his love of all things local, Velie says, “My favorite South Carolina ingredient would have to be grits—specifically, Adluh grits from Columbia. To me, they are the unofficial state food.”
South Carolina grits also play an important part in Velie’s signature dish: “Barbecued Manchester Farms quail breast medallions with pimento cheese, Adluh grits and flash-fried W.P. Rawl Farms collards. If you can get a dish more South Carolina than that, I haven’t seen it.”
Chef Brandon's Lowcountry seasoning
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients in small bowl.
South Carolina shrimp and grits
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup sausage
½ cup cut okra
½ cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
24 South Carolina shrimp, 21/25 count, peeled and deveined, tail off
3 tablespoons Lowcountry seasoning
Heat butter in skillet; add sausage, okra and tomatoes. Let cook about
4–5 minutes, moving around in pan often, then add garlic. Add shrimp,
and cook about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with Lowcountry seasoning, and
saute about 3–4 more minutes, until shrimp is cooked. Serve over grits.
640 E. Main St., Ridge Spring | (803) 685-7547 | facebook.com/juniper
Hours: Lunch: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Thursday through Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m.; Brunch: Sunday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Closed on Wednesdays. Reservations required.