John Dabrowski doesn’t shy away from trying something new. “We do things a little differently than everyone here in Pawleys Island,” says the cofounder and general manager of Local, a gastropub in the heart of the quiet, four-mile-long barrier island on South Carolina’s Grand Strand. Tucked in the historic, cobblestone-paved Hammock Shops Village, the restaurant’s weathered ballast bricks and exposed wooden beams hark back to the 1800s, but its inventive menus and live music lineup are anything but old-fashioned.
After opening their doors in August 2020 (“the worst time ever to launch a restaurant,” admits Dabrowski), Local quickly garnered a reputation for its eclectic daytime live music offerings on the weekends. Regular jazz, blues, and soul brunches, plus the occasional hip-hop or drag brunch, share the calendar with Irish-themed happy hours and performances from music professors at nearby Coastal Carolina University. “My favorite part of the Hammock Coast is probably the talented musicians we have playing at some of our favorite bars and restaurants. We love being able to give them an intimate setting—a listening room is how we like to describe it—as a venue to explore their original music,” Dabrowski says.
Local offers brunch six days a week; chef Keith Estabrook’s menu is made up of both Southern comfort food and playful, modern dishes. As its name suggests, the restaurant prides itself on its close ties to locally sourced ingredients, from seasonal produce to fresh-caught selections from Seven Seas Seafood in nearby Murrells Inlet. One of their signature dishes is the Dank Nugs—fried chicken nuggets or livers brined in pickle juice and local New South Brewing’s Drink A Peach ale and served with an array of sauces.
Dabrowski’s wife, Peta, is the mastermind behind the bar, having spent months perfecting drink recipes during the early months of the pandemic. “We utilized ingredients found in our personal kitchen to create the cocktail list,” he says. “Blueberries, elderberry syrup (to boost our immunity at the time, of course), Earl Grey tea, and carrot juice were all part of our original cocktail menu. From desperation comes innovation, I guess.”
One of the most unusual concoctions they offer is the Bunny Mary (or Bunny Maria when tequila’s involved), their spin on a classic Bloody Mary, which swaps in a carrot juice base. “It’s quite different than a Bloody Mary as it features more of a sweetness to it,” Dabrowski says. “Think honey-roasted carrots with a little ginger, a hint of lemon, and a touch of heat.”
The bright-hued drink has quite a loyal fan base, he says, and most order it with vodka—though some prefer tequila. “We use Tito’s or 1233 Distillery Three Pepper vodka in our Marys, and we use Tanteo Jalapeño tequila in our Marias. It adds a little extra kick to the cocktails.”
Dabrowski’s recommendation for the perfect accompaniment? “Our version of chicken and waffles—the dank nugs, served atop a New South Drink a Peach wheat ale waffle, dolloped with Crystal honey butter, and drizzled with 100-percent maple syrup. Make it spicy and add some peri-peri hot sauce!”
If you’d like to whip up a batch of Bunnies for your next brunch, here’s how to make it at home: