Once the playground for Admiral Lester Beardslee’s gentlemen’s social club in the 1800s, and a century later, where the late writer Pat Conroy sipped libations, the noble and refined Ribaut Social Club rests in the Greek revival inn, Anchorage 1770, brought to life by husband-and-wife duo Frank and Amy Lesesne.
Opened last January, the Ribaut Social Club balances the inviting, comfortable warmth of Southern hospitality with the graceful formality of an English countryside manor. Upon arrival, a hostess invites guests to enjoy pre-dinner drinks in the parlor by the fireplace or upstairs at the inn’s fourth-story top deck overlooking the water.
Guests are then invited to eat dinner in Ribaut’s dining room or on the front porch facing the water, surrounded by lush greenery and fig trees. Kansas native Byron Landis, 27, is the Ribaut Social Club’s executive chef and creates Lowcountry fare with a modern twist.
What is the history of the Ribaut Social Club?
Chef Byron Landis: The running joke is we’re the oldest restaurant in town, we’ve just been closed for a very long time. The Naval officer Admiral Beardsley bought the pre -Revolutionary mansion in the late 1800s and started the original Ribaut Social Club, which began as a gentleman’s literary club around 1891.
The club then morphed into a more raucous gentleman’s club — with women, drinking and roulette tables — through the turn of the century.
The Lesesnes bought the inn three years ago and had always wanted to open a restaurant; however, there wasn’t a big culinary market in Beaufort, so they’d host pop-up dinners. They called it the Ribaut Social Club, in honor of the admiral’s historic gentleman’s club.
Last fall, we started doing small plates and drinks on the front porch and in January we opened the Ribaut Social Club for dinner.
How would you describe your culinary style?
Landis: I pair homey, locally-inspired dishes with upscale plating. Every month, I change the menu at the Ribaut Social Club to be seasonal and different. For instance, I created a Bouillabaisse with a Lowcountry spin, where I use grouper, collard greens, rice, and instead of lobster stock, use a ham stock.
I buy as many local ingredients as possible, such as the sustainably produced Single Lady Oysters, which are literally grown down the street from the inn, the Sea Island Peas, Carolina Gold Rice and local red snapper.
What is your goal as a chef?
Landis: As a chef, my goal is to create a unique dining experience by offering my personal take on classic Lowcountry cuisine. I am the only chef in the kitchen; therefore, every dish is created by me, and my hands touch every plate that is served.
This is why we only accept 30 reservations nightly. By changing the menu monthly, I am able to stay fresh, seasonal and on-trend. This also gives the returning guests a new dining experience each time they return.
However, my passion for cooking is not goal-oriented. I grew up in the food service business in a small town where my parents owned a catering business where I worked. This is when I realized the joy I felt when serving others great food.
To this day, the pride I feel when others enjoy the meals I have prepared is what keeps me motivated.
What are several of the Ribaut Social Club’s signature dishes?
Landis: The seared sea scallops with ramp pesto, spring vegetable slaw, beet carpaccio and a citrus vinaigrette was a hit this summer.
Other favorite dishes include the pan fried chicken breast with mustard greens, Sea Island Peas, Carolina Gold Rice and Bourbon Red-Eye Gravy; the cherry smoked beef short ribs with bourbon glaze, corn cake and creamed kale; as well as the seared wild striped bass with blood orange foam, Carolina Gold Rice, purple asparagus and strawberry jams.
We also make all of our desserts in our house, so people love our chocolate layer cake with coffee buttercream, the strawberry shortcake and the chocolate crème brulee with blueberries.
How would you describe the restaurant space?
Landis: It’s almost like you’re having dinner at somebody’s home. We have four areas where you can enjoy dinner or cocktails.
There are three porches: one on the main floor (which is also where the indoor dining room is located), one on the third floor and our top deck, which is uncovered. All three of our porches have beautiful views of the water.
What’s the crowd like at the Ribaut Social Club?
Landis: Our guests staying at the inn will typically have dinner and drinks at the restaurant and we’re becoming a local favorite.
The inn was named as one of the New York Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2016,” so everything has been filling up pretty quickly. We see people of all ages from all over the world.
Tell us about the Ribaut Social Club’s brunch.
Landis: Our Sunday brunch is buffet style and costs $25 per guest. The menu changes every week and depends on what people ordered throughout the week.
We’ll serve eggs, bacon, shrimp succotash and potatoes, for instance, and we make the biscuits fresh every morning. The brunch begins at 11a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.
Are you participating in Beaufort Restaurant Week?
Landis: Yes, we’re participating in restaurant week through the end of September. We’re featuring a prix fixe menu for $35, which includes a starter, entrée and dessert.
The Ribaut Social Club is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and on Sundays for brunch. Guests are strongly encouraged to make reservations for drinks and dinner. Call 877-951-1770 to make reservations. Dinner seatings begin at 5:30 p.m.
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