Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Husk Restaurant In Charleston-Great Southern Gourmet Experience And Beautiful Location

What is better than spending a day with a special someone? Beginning that great day with a fantastic meal at a downtown Charleston restaurant. The restaurant was the Husk on Queen Street. My expectations were high going in. I had read nothing but rave reviews from various sources. I got further confirmation the night before while sitting on the rooftop bar of the Boathouse Restaurant at Breech Inlet on the Isle of Palms. While in conversation with a couple celebrating their anniversary, they lamented their disappointment over not being able to reserve a table at the Husk, at which time, we informed them we had secured a table for the next day, which made me feel pretty good. Husk did more than live up to those expectations, they made me a true believer.

It was a Sunday afternoon, August 26th, reservations were set for 2:00pm. My first choice would have been 6:00pm, but according to Husk's online reservations there were no tables open until 10:30pm. So, we would be selecting from their Brunch menu. I parked my car at the garage in the Vendue Range and after walking some distance, it dawned on me the Husk was located on the other side of Meeting Street next to Poogan's Porch. I should have parked closer, but as it turned out, the unsuspected mistake would work in our favor anyway, and that is another story.

The Husk is a beautifully restored 1893 Queen Ann home and before becoming Husk, it was a school. The front of the old house was overshadowed on its left side by a huge, stately Magnolia tree. A beautifully landscaped, brick walkway took you to the porch and the large entrance door. The foyer had high ceilings with a large room to the right and steps leading to the second floor, and as it would turn out, where we would be seated. A large chalk board hanging on the wall was a main feature in the entrance way used to list the local sources of its ingredients currently provisioning the kitchen. After apologizing for arriving somewhat past our reservation time, we were seated immediately in a front room on the second floor by a window and presented with the menus shortly there after.

Drinks are traditionally your first consideration. My dinner partner, Keri Whitaker, much more knowledgeable about drinks, suggested trying a mimosa--a mixture of champagne and orange juice. A fitting proposal seeing I like anything containing orange juice. A serving of three pieces of bread was brought out along with our mimosas. An interesting observation was made by my partner. "Why did they bring out three pieces of bread when there are two of us? Wouldn't it make more sense for it to be four pieces or two pieces?" Of course, the question was rhetorical, but nevertheless an appropriate query. We clinked our glasses together signaling the start to our Husk experience.

Our table was close to the upper front porch and we noticed all the tables outside were available. Since it was a beautiful day, we asked if it was permissible for us to change tables to sit outside. Our server, Melanie, was more than gracious about the switch. As it turned out, it was a pleasant change of scenery. It afforded us the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Charleston afternoon and watch the activity on the street below. The many open tables made me contemplate why a reservation was necessary.

Our First selection was a salad of Kurlos Farms Bibb lettuce, marinated tomatoes, shaved carrots and onions, Brioche croutons, and cucumber buttermilk Vinaigrette. The croutons were superb and the vinaigrette an excellent complimentary emulsion. The meal was off to a good start. Selection number two from the Brunch menu was a cornmeal dusted catfish served over braised cabbage, smoky tomato and field peas. The catfish meat was of a good texture and the smoky tomato juices added a slightly tangy taste. Finally, our dessert was a fried crusted peach pie with a side of ice cream. The perfect conclusion to a satisfying, rewarding brunch.

Finally, one of the highlights of our visit was a drink pulled off of their list of hand crafted cocktails that included punches, modern Husk creations, whiskey based drinks, and Southern bottled beer. The list used a blend of comedic phrases in its presentation adding a lighter touch to balance the formalities. The very first drink on the list caught my attention because its name reminded me of one of my favorite movies, "The School of Rock" starring Jack Black. The name of the drink was "School House on the Rock". It was a blend of Asperol, Cruzan white rum, orange, lime, palm sugar, topped with Beinheim Old #3 ginger ale and unsweetened whipped cream. It was by far the best drink I have ever had the pleasure of wrapping my hands around.

I do not consider myself to be a gourmet connoisseur and it doesn't take much to please me. I couldn't find anything negative about our uplifting experience at Husk, except maybe the hostess could have been slightly more engaging, but maybe I am just fishing to find the slightest flaw in perfection. Our server was very attentive and patiently answered all of our many questions. The presentation of the various dishes was very professional and the food delightfully tasty. The drinks were superb. The total bill was $87. Breaking it down, drinks were $41 and food was $46. The final question: Would I return to the Husk? Absolutely. Where else will I find such an amazing drink, and yes, great southern food? The answer to that question, its all Charleston.

Pictures courtesy Keri Whitaker.
Husk is located at 76 Queen Street. Phone: 843-577-2500

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