Editor's Note: The opening of the column has been revised to reflect that Marshall Stevens and Ian Davis started the restaurants. A previous version stated that the business was started by the three Stevens brothers.
Since it opened, RAW Ingredients has developed a loyal following among locals and Tybee tourists alike, and now three months ago, brother restaurant RIPE Ingredients began serving smoothies and sandwiches right next door.
Marshall Stevens and lifelong friend and business partner Ian Davis started the ventures a few years after both Windsor Forest graduates cut their Tybee teeth working at the island’s surf shops. Their idea to offer sushi filled a conspicuous food void, and the lines out the door for the last three summers have proven that a restaurant like RAW was needed someplace along Butler Avenue.
Get Savannah arts & culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and food newsletters A year after the Stevens brothers and Davis started rolling rice, Marshall, 26, started thinking about how they could bring smoothies to the island, and when the Subway franchise on Tybrisa moved out, the foursome transitioned right into the empty property: another vacant space, another void filled - only this time, they did not have to face a full build-out from a storage unit, which was how RAW Ingredients came to be.
Prior to the renovation of 18 Tybrisa Street and the birth of RIPE, the quartet conducted their blended drink "R&D" with trips up to Charleston to check out its smoothie scene and getting creative with their own possible concoctions.
“We spent a lot of time in the kitchen, drinking way too many smoothies,” Myles Stevens, 24, admitted with a laugh. “And a lot we didn’t like. A lot of wasted veggies.”
With twelve ‘Classic’ creations ($6 for 20 ounces) and thirteen more choices called ‘The Hits’ ($8 for 20 ounces), RIPE’s drink menu has something tasty for everyone’s tastes, and you will spend as much time reading each of the clever smoothie names as you will picking one.
“We sat out on the porch for weeks, just spitting things back and forth,” Myles said of their amusing appellations.
Among ‘The Hits’, Green Latifah stars spinach and kale, of course, but is sweetened with mango, pineapple, and banana. Legal Greens lives up to its verdant moniker with green apple, celery, cucumber, kale, kiwi, and spinach. Flex on the Beach adds fat burner and a protein choice to strawberries and bananas, and Slim Shady features those same fruits, energizer, and fat burner, of course.
I am a simple smoothie drinker, so the Orange Crush - banana, mango, pineapple, orange, and orange juice - was perfect for me, though I considered the Busta Limes, if only to say the name out loud, followed by a giggle.
In developing RIPE’s menu, Stevens explained that they knew their second restaurant had to offer more than just fruity concoctions.
“We can’t take away a sandwich shop and not also have sandwiches,” he said, reflecting on the genesis of RIPE in the one-time home of the $5 footlong, “so it was finding the marriage between both.”
As a complement, they came up with a beach-comfortable, serviceable cart of five flat breads, five wraps, four sandwiches, and two quesadillas that feature chicken, hummus, or turkey as well as the usual fresh suspects of avocados, romaine, spinach, tomatoes, and more. Between the smoothies and lunch selections, the menu is a pared-down best-of-the-best lovechild of Panera and Smoothie King - but better.
The sandwiches, all $8 and served on a square ciabatta roll, are not big but are tasty. Put it this way: I would never have eaten at the Subway in this same space, but I will happily tuck into a Turkey Bacon Ranch and a Mango Tango at this non-chain locally owned eatery after a morning’s swim by the pier.
Though youngest brother Mason, 23, has been cheerily heading up efforts in RIPE Ingredients over the last few months, this past Sunday, it was evident that the three brothers and Davis all do everything in both restaurants, from counter service to prep to table delivery to cleaning up a spilled smoothie - one of which Davis happily mopped up and Mason quickly remade for a local lady who had spilled hers.
“Anything you can name,” Myles explained about the working relationship, “it’s an all-inclusive team. That’s how we built it and how we like to do it.”
“We love the process, and we love being hands-on with it,” he added.
All in all, though Marshall Stevens said that they never talked about a specific and intentional style, the vibe in both RIPE and RAW is decidedly surf-skate, conveyed in the psychedelic extraterrestrial chalk art on the walls, the concrete floor, and great music. RAW’s seating is framing lumber tables and stools, and the walls in RIPE are covered in turf up to the waist. The former looks exactly like what a beach sushi place should look like, and the latter fits the bill for a surf side smoothie and sandwich shop, even if both are still too neat, clean, and almost hipster classy to be among the otherwise scruffy Tybrisa restaurants and shops.
The laid-back, calm, cool, and welcoming atmosphere belies the clear focus behind the brothers’ collective commitment to their customers and their craft. If RAW were in Starland, every student would eat here every other day, sitting down with a quick-and-cheap roll or walking out with a create-your-own sushi burrito, filled with one protein, three vegetables, and a sauce ($13). On the days in between, they would all be walking around between classes with a rainbow of smoothies.
Myles credited Davis with being the first to master the art of sushi making.
Knowing that beachside dining is the most seasonal of seasonal trades, Myles expressed how fortunate they feel that they have been able to make it through the various offseason by pleasing a great local crowd with these new dining destinations. If I vacationed on Tybee for a week, I would most definitely devour a plate of Spanky’s chicken fingers at least twice and eat fish-and-chips at The Deck, but in between, sushi would be the ideal antidote, not to mention a smoothie before a morning beachwalk.
“While we knew that it was a good idea and we trusted the process,” Myles said, genuinely and clearly grateful, “the response and the local support, as you need as a Tybee Island business, have been beyond our own expectations.”
“We wanted to be able to serve high-quality food in a comfortable environment,” he added. “It doesn’t have to be a white-tablecloth experience for you to feel like you’re enjoying a really quality meal.”
At RAW, the prices of the signature rolls are downright beach-cheap on purpose, fit for a family on vacation that needs to duck into A/C for a $6 Crazy Roll. The Flamingo ($15) is rolled in pinkish soy paper, thus ‘flamingo’, and is filled with tempura shrimp, slightly spicy diced crab sticks, eel, and avocado, all of it topped with what Myles calls the “trifecta”: spicy mayo, eel sauce, and sweet chili sauce. The simple but straightforward tempura sweet potato roll is a $6 steal, and the spring roll ($14) is fresh and green, a nice complement to the heftier and more traditional offerings.
On the whole, sushi in Savannah is more satisfactory than it is super, and RAW’s rolls are better the most, perhaps proven by the fans who hit U.S. 80 purposefully to eat here. Folks far-flung from Tybee have become devoted to the Stevens brothers’ sushi. Myles said that a couple from Richmond Hill comes out twice a week and another party from Rincon makes the drive at least two times each month.
Marshall, Myles, and Mason Stevens and Davis all moved out to Tybee a little over a year ago, so they understand the miles those loyal customers have traveled to enjoy the food at RAW and now at RIPE.
“We used to commute,” Myles said, recalling those first two years trekking between Georgetown and Tybee. “Long days and long nights of driving back and forth.”
The four of them now live down the street, just a few blocks from RAW and RIPE, so they walk - or board - to work, the beach, and back home: living the dream and obviously loving it.
“I keep my longboard in the back,” said Myles, still smiling, “and I’ll just hop on and skate down to the beach to catch the sunset.” (Audible sigh.)
I would like to suggest another smoothie name: Jealous Customer.