Admittedly this review may be a tad bit on the long side. There is just so much to say about Husk, that try as I might to make it manageable, it may not be. There, you’ve been warned.
We were excited to be having dinner at Husk with friends. One of our favorite restaurants in the city is McCrady’s where Sean Brock is also the chef. I was thrilled to see as reported by the Post and Courier that opening night was like a well-oiled machine, as there are usually a few speed bumps with a new restaurant opening.
Our reservations were for a Monday night. You would think that a Monday would not be that busy, but it certainly was. Nestled between the restaurants 82 Queen and Poogan’s Porch lies Husk. It is a beautiful conversion of a 19th century home with a “freestanding” bar in an adjacent building — also breathtaking.
After many ooh’s and ah’s (by us), we were met by a group of hostesses and quickly seated in a quiet room upstairs. The room had about eight to nine tables. The décor was also simple, yet extremely well done. There was no background music playing when we arrived, but that came on a little later and added to the atmosphere.
Our waitress, Kaitlyn, would prove to be the highlight of the night. She was personable, attentive, suggestive, and extremely well trained. She mentioned that she had one week of “sit-down” training and then another week of “friends and family” and local chefs for dinner as practice. When we asked how business was she stated that they have been sold out every night. No surprise there, this had to be the hottest game in town.
When reviewing the drink menu we were surprised to see wines categorized by minerals, i.e. “granite,” etc. It was very confusing. Their beverage list also was a listing of classic Southern cocktails — interesting, but not that inviting.
Kaitlyn was very helpful with the wine selections and when I went to order a Stoli cosmopolitan (I know, passé), the Husk standard of “If it’s doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming in the door” came into play. Kaitlyn explained that since they could not get a “Southern produced” cranberry juice they do not serve it. She quickly enticed me with a classic Southern cocktail, a “clover club.” Unfortunately, her description was much better than the taste. It was also served in an old-fashioned Champagne glass. A different spin, but I found myself thinking that the drink was very small, like a Dixie Riddle Cup.
I would also mention that they were out of sparkling water and the soda water served with lime was rather flat. But hey, they’re busy, these are just small details.
Hot, fresh baked rolls topped with honey, a little salt, and local benne seeds arrived right after the beverages did. They arrived in a small burlap bag that we thought had to have something to do with grains, seeds, and rice, but it didn’t. Kaitlyn explained that they are old coin bags from a local bank. I still don't understand how they fit with the rest of the theme, but they were definitely a conversation piece.
Also served with some “flair” as the top was removed, was some orange butter. I thought the gentleman who delivered it said “honey butter,” but it was actually pork butter. Yes, you heard me correctly. Made from pork lard, homemade mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce combo, certainly an acquired taste. Personally it reminded me of bacon grease and did not care for it. We all thought this was not a value add.
Our appetizers, HUSKpuppies and fried pork rinds took 25 minutes to arrive. I thought “Uh-oh, no one else around us is eating either,” usually a sign of a kitchen in trouble. Both of the dishes were hot and flavorful, the puppies served with an interesting spicy dip. But I thought that they might have been a tad overcooked (the HUSKpuppies, that is).
Tick tock, tick tock, time went on. Forty minutes, yes, 40, after the delivery of our appetizers, our dinners arrived. During the time we were waiting Kaitlyn made some idle chit-chat and then did the “missing (wo)man formation” and we didn’t see her. We didn’t blame her though, it appeared that Husk’s kitchen had stumbled, and we were right.
I also want to add that as we were waiting, the table next to us was delivered what appears to be HUSKpuppies, only theirs are this wonderful light golden brown, and very appealing. I asked Kaitlyn what they were and she confirmed that our suspicions were right — we were served very overcooked, but tasty puppies. I had puppy-envy.
When our meal was delivered it was a big disappointment on many fronts. First, none of the items were hot. I mean zero, zilch, Zippo. I’m ok waiting a long time for a meal, but after the waiting, I want it to be great. The duo of Virginia Lamb, stew of Anson Mills farro, tomato, and courgettes with green tomato jam appeared to be the most flavorful. The wood-fired Keegan-Filion chicken, potato gratin and bok choy, sage-lemon jus was served in a unique skillet, but as it was delivered it was tipped in some way that everything was pushed to one side and the details of the presentation were completely lost.
The Hagood Mills cornmeal-dusted triggerfish, potato purée, red mustard glaze and L.A. citrus glaze was nicely cooked but the glaze was a very odd, shocking green overpowering sauce that took away from the meal.
The foie gras and sausage-stuffed quail with cornbread purée and Sea Island red peas, apple jus was not good. The quail was overcooked and the peas undercooked. I thought about sending it back, but knew it would be an eternity before we got it back. The side of South Carolina lady peas, butter bean and tomato succotash that we ordered for the table was undercooked and ice cold.
Kaitlyn checked back and we said things were OK. She apologized for the kitchen’s delay. We later would overhear her at the table next to us upon introducing herself that, “Things had gone so smoothly every night, except tonight.” A gentleman (a manager?) stopped by our table and asked if our dinners were “to our liking.” None of us responded and he turned and walked away. Talk about a missed opportunity.
If the kitchen is going down in flames at a new opening, I get that. I’ve personally been involved in well over 100 restaurant openings and things often don’t go as planned. But I would have expected a much better meal service. If our meals aren’t great, heck, we’ve waited about an hour as it is, start them over and get it right. Let us leave with, “It took some time to get dinner, but boy, was it terrific.”
We passed on dessert and asked for our check. Kaitlyn explained that our drinks were being comped because of our long wait. Comping two glasses of wine, a cocktail and a glass of soda just didn’t do much to make up for the long wait.
On the drive home we of course, talked about our experience. We said we would give Husk another try, but maybe after the first of the year when they’ve gotten their sea legs. Our review certainly won’t hurt them as people always want to give the hottest spots a try. Upon leaving at 8:30ish, there was a 90-minute wait on a Monday night! Poogan’s Porch and 82 Queen remained almost empty with parts of the restaurants darkened.
Time to pull up camp, there’s a new sheriff in town!
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