I've wanted to try Husk in Charleston since it opened in early November. But until recently, I've had to settle for reading raves from all over the country. (USA Today has called Husk one of the 10 best places in the country for local food and wine; the New York Times has gushed over the restaurant and the bar; and Southern Living said it is one of the best new restaurants in the South.)
In case you've missed those raves, Husk is the latest venture from Chef Sean Brock, the 2010 James Beard Best Chef of the Southeast. And this year, Husk was a semi-finalist for the Beard Award's Best New Restaurant.
You have to ask yourself if Husk can really be this good. I'm here to tell you it absolutely is.
The group of five friends I ate with enjoyed everything about it, from cocktails in the adjoining bar to the last scrumptious bite of a shared dessert.
One nice thing about dining at Husk is that you're told where everything you're eating was grown and raised. A large board at the front of the restaurant has a long listing of the ingredients used in that night's meal and where they came from. And for sure, they all came from somewhere in the South; only Southern ingredients are used at Husk.
I started with an appetizer of baby back ribs. The ribs were from Caw Caw Creek farm in St. Matthews, where pigs wander happily and eat in pastures rather than being crowded in buildings.
My friends and I also shared some unusual appetizers that don't sound that appetizing but were delicious: fried chicken skins, topped with a hot sauce made at Husk. And then there was a pig's ear, served in a lettuce leaf. If you don't think it sounds good, try it. I'm betting you'll change your mind.
For an entrée, I ordered sheepshead, a fish from Charleston waters that was cooked over wood-fire oven with the skin on. Our very knowledgeable server, Laura, told us that most restaurants remove the skin, but the Husk staff has discovered that the skin is tasty. I agree. My fish was served with a potato puree, similar to mashed potatoes except a little thinner, topped with a succotash of butter beans and lady peas in broth. I only wish I hadn't already had so much to eat by the time my main dish arrived. It was excellent.
The sides at Husk are made to be served at the table, so we tried Benton's bacon cornbread, served warm in the black cast-iron skillet. It's turned during cooking so that it's crispy on both sides.
Brock wasn't in the house that night, but Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes showed me around, including a separate walk-in cooler out back full of pork, and an upstairs pantry with canned tomatoes and ketchup that he and the staff preserved.
The restaurant is in an 1893 home that has been beautifully renovated with hardwood floors, large windows and an open kitchen. The bar next door was just a brick shell before renovation but now is a cozy space, with a long bar downstairs and a comfortable lounge upstairs. The menu there, not surprisingly knowing Brock's love of bourbon, is heavy on bourbon, but it also offers an extensive wine list and a number of Southern beers, including several fromPalmetto Brewing Company of Charleston.