Since the evening Chef Sean Brock’s distinctive Southern cuisine at his fine dining tasting menu restaurant McCrady’s romanced our taste buds earlier this year, we’ve been anxiously awaiting another gastronomic experience at another feather in this James Beard award-winning chef’s culinary cap…HUSK. Since its opening in 2010, HUSK has maintained high marks amongst the culinary critics and has been featured in publications from Bon Appetite to Southern Living Magazine to Charleston Magazine, with Chef Brock also being featured on numerous food-themed television shows and websites for praise of his gastronomic genius and adoration of local ingredients. The completely renovated dual-building establishment that houses HUSK restaurant and its namesake lounge provides an atmosphere that beckons the hungry palates of those who call Charleston home, and satisfies the curiosity of visiting tourists who have come to take part in what it means to celebrate the South’s culinary environment. HUSK is a unique gathering place where patrons may involve themselves in a casual relaxed ambience that welcomes those inside who yearn for something unmistakably memorable.
Within a fully renovated building dating back to the 1800s, HUSK was born. The inviting Southern verandas on both levels, romantic courtyard that greets all who arrive with blooming florals and elegant wrought iron garden benches situated atop worn pavers, and intriguing interior inclusive of a wood-fired oven, rustic exposed brick, spacious dining quarters and reclaimed flooring bring the past to life again within a modern appointment of a heightened existence for this locale. Positioned along Queen Street’s ages-old cobblestones, the establishment greets guests, welcoming them inside with open arms and an abundance of Southern hospitality.
Upon entry, Southern distinction lies within HUSK’s main foyer. Eye-catching up-lit vases are positioned inside squared-off cubby holes along a partition wall on the main level, while a massive chalkboard dictates the currently used local ingredients the kitchen is taking advantage of on any given day. A sky high cove conveniently promotes a visual of fresh-cut wood offering a faint earthy scent of that which brings the wood-fire oven in the kitchen to life every evening. Elegant fireplaces decorated with modern paintings, seasonal decorations and simple, yet colorful and complimentary tones design beautifully arranged dining spaces that create comfort in which every patron might feel at home as though they are dining at a good friend’s home…just as Chef Brock envisioned for this eatery.
Moments after being seated, diners are greeted by a server and provided water and benne seed oven-fresh bread. Menus follow shortly thereafter and the fun begins. The selections are not complicated, but well explained and printed on a single page menu, which is carefully folded and presented to each guest. Beverage orders are taken and sipping a favorite vintage or something a bit stronger from the bar ensues and soon after a second round of drinks is served, the meal begins as eyes widen and smiles reveal themselves with what is presented.
Black Garlic Agnolotti
One of our favorite pasta varieties is most any version of agnolotti. Chef Sean Brock perfected this favorite of ours by heightening this starchy sinful provision with a Mepkin Abbey mushroom broth, fresh-from-the-earth turnip greens, along with sweet onions and roasted Shiitake mushrooms. As if this wasn’t enough to carry on an entire conversation, a perfectly poached egg was placed atop this incredible culinary creation for an addition of rich creamy flavor creating a dish worthy of more than a nod of acceptance, crafted by a chef worthy of acclamation.
Caper’s Blades Oysters
Ah, the oyster. Simple, basic, dignified. Satisfying in most any preparation method. However, crafted with Caper’s Blades oysters harvested locally from McClellanville, South Carolina by hand, then decorated and enhanced with red pepper-tangerine juice, Kentucky soy and HUSK’s own pepper vinegar and watermelon radish, this was truly a signature HUSK dish that will be enjoyed by all who experience it while dining here. A gift from local waters titled after their razor blade shape, made beautiful and toothsome, we appreciated the stunning hues its accoutrements provided our visual perception, while the flavor was amplified by the layered, yet simplistic artistry of its creator.
Blue Ridge Bison Short Ribs
When bison short ribs are served, we shall order. One of my all-time favorite dishes, preparation is key with this hearty contribution. Chef Sean’s Blue Ridge Bison Short Rib entree was fork tender and sated my hankering for beefy flavor-laden perfection. The stuffed dumplings that accompanied this fine provision were joined by South Carolina Bok Choy with fresh sun chokes and mustard onions. Altogether, this compilation of all things heavenly proved a dish worthy of an award for flavor, visual appeal and texture accomplishment.
Slow Cooked Duck Leg with Red Eye Gravy
The Slow Cooked Duck Leg with Red Eye Gravy offering arrived with smoked “BBQ” cabbage, charred sweet potatoes and a spicy purée. The crispy skin of the duck was a treat upon first bite, which happily made its way to our mouths quickly producing pleasant expressions across our faces as we glanced at one another in agreement that this performance of culinary bliss was indeed a savory participant in Chef Brock’s line-up of tempting and mouthwatering offerings for the evening. The expertly-cut chunks of sweet potato added a natural sweetness to the dish without overpowering the basic pure flavor of the duck, while the smoked cabbage provided us an addition of flavor that was complimentary to the dish. Though listed as “spicy”, the accompanying purée wasn’t fiery at all and made for a subtle highlight of gentle spice that brought this multifaceted provision to enlightened heights of both flavor and visual appeal.
Wood Fired Geechie Boy Grits
A substantial side dish, the Wood Fired Geechie Boy Grits with Sweetwater Valley Cheddar was a substantial side that impressed without being overly salty. The unexpected creaminess of the grits was commendable, while the standout sharpness of the cheddar flavor peaked with each spoonful. It was pleasing to be able to enjoy this dish without experiencing an over abundance of salt, which this preparation was nearly free of that we could taste. The creaminess and wholesome factors of the grits and real cheddar flavor stood out all on their own and after finishing this delightful addition to our dinner, we couldn’t have imagined it any better.
The Bar At HUSK
Just steps away from the restaurant, The Bar at HUSK exists in all its splendor and glory. The cozy detached two level brick building is a continuation of HUSK charm and conversation-piece surroundings. Friendly and accomplished bartenders mix up superb concoctions and earnestly maintain bragging rights about their perfect ice spheres for the array of signature beverages offered. On the first level, a small porch guides patrons inside where a traditional bar with exposed brick and rich woods invite and comfort, while upstairs, a more lounge-esque space exists with spacious seating away from the main bar, yet boasting full service as well. Renovated from a crippled and ages-old structure, The Bar at HUSK was renovated to accompany the main restaurant and serves as a unique “next stop” after a fabulous meal for an ideal after dinner cocktail.
ESTABLISHMENT / DECOR: Beautiful fabrics and spacious dining space provides patrons ample elbow room and much to converse about. Colorful artwork on walls, decorative fireplaces, expansive dual verandas, exposed brick and a rustic, almost country feel persists here all while maintaining an airy and elegant, yet relaxed casual feel within the eatery that sets one at ease.
- FOOD / DRINK: Cuisine prepared by Chef Brock is artistry in itself, while the flavors and combinations of ingredients join together to create noticeable explosions of flavor that one might not expect, but will admire thoroughly. Refreshing beverages, a separate bar and lounge next door featuring signature classic concoctions, and a wine list impressively arranged by soil type also serve as highlights of any meal at HUSK.
- LOCATION: HUSK is positioned at 76 Queen Street in Charleston, SC 29401.
- HOURS: HUSK is available for lunch Monday through Saturday from 11:30 AM until 2:30 PM. Brunch is served Sundays from 10:00 AM through 2:30 PM. Dinners draw the masses Sundays through Thursdays from 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM, and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30 PM through 11:00 PM. The bar is open from 4:00 PM until closing daily.
- SERVICE / STAFF: Conversational and friendly servers and staff make HUSK a delightful and inviting atmosphere. There’s always something intriguing happening in the restaurant, whether seated in a dining room beside a roaring fire, outside on one of the Southern porches, or up close and personal on the main level near the kitchen where all the action takes place. Informed and professional smiling staff keep the cheery vibe going all day and night, and are ready to assist in any way they can to make the dining experience a memorable one.
- PRICE / VALUE: Reasonable pricing on the selections we enjoyed, and so much to rave about! The pricing was fair in our opinion, and what was offered in terms of variety, flavor, ingredients, and overall worth of the cuisine suited us just fine.
- CORKAGE FEE: A $25 per 750mL bottle exists at HUSK, however, purchase a bottle from the wine list during your meal, and the restaurant will waive the charge.
- PARKING: Metered street parking, as well as a spacious parking garage across the street are available for your convenience. A small parking lot near the establishment is also available for a nominal charge until 11:00 PM on weeknights.
- PRICING: The glasses of NV R. Dumont et Fils Champagne Solera Reserve Brut arrived at an acceptable $15 per glass, while the 2011 Hautes-Cotes de Beaune-Domaine Billard et Fils Pinot Noir we both enjoyed over dinner came in at $11 apiece. The Wood Fired Geechie Boy Grits with Sweetwater Cheddar was priced at just $8, while the Caper’s Blades Oysters were served for $15. The Black Garlic Agnolotti hit the spot at an easy $12, and Slow Cooked Duck Leg appeared for reasonable $30. We also enjoyed the Blue Ridge Bison Short Ribs for $34.
* Menu and prices subject to change without notice.