After receiving many awards and accolades for Husk in Charleston, South Carolina, including a James Beard Award, Chef Sean Brock recently opened an outpost of Husk in Nashville’s historic Rutledge Hill, in the heart of downtown Nashville. Husk’s cuisine focuses on locally sourced ingredients and heirloom products, including produce grown in the restaurant’s garden. Much research goes into each dish that Husk serves so that it is true to its Southern heritage, and reconstitutes flavors and ingredients that may have been lost to time.
Husk is located within the former home of Mayor Richard Houston Dudley, which was built in 1879. Husk’s design team restored the former home in order to retain its southern charm, original floors, windows, and walls, yet also incorporated a modern, minimalistic flair that parallels the food produced by the open kitchen. The main dining room is located on the first floor, while a glass-enclosed atrium on the bottom floor also accommodates diners. A cozy bar is located just off the atrium and serves an endless list of creative cocktails and an extensive selection of wines. I started with a fantastic tequila-based cocktail while we waited for our table.
The menu changes on a daily basis, depending upon what local and seasonal ingredients are available. About ten first courses and six entrees, or “Supper” options are offered. We started with the Rappahannock oysters, with green garlic butter, bottarga, and preserved lemon, a tasty and lighter reprise of an oyster rockefeller. While the oysters were small, the flavors were large and the dish overall was very tasty.
My favorite starter was the Carolina hominy and wild ramp griddle cakes, served with Husk pimento cheese spread on the side. The flavors were fantastic, with a little spice, and the griddle cakes had a nice consistency and were not too heavy.
I also enjoyed the Husk shrimp and grits. A southern restaurant better do grits right and Husk ‘s version had the perfect consistency and balance of cream and cornmeal. Shrimp and grits is making it onto a lot of menus lately, including here in Chicago, and Husk’s version is my favorite of the year.
The field of dream’s duck egg, with grilled asparagus, Tennessee caviar, and ricotta cheese, was also good, but would have been even better with a great slice of buttered toast served underneath to soak up the runny egg yolk. The asparagus was fresh and the egg perfectly runny. I was a fan.
After the not-so-healthy Southern starters, I opted for a lighter entree – grilled catfish, served with Anson Mills Hoppin’ John, a Southern dish of rice and peas, benne, which is similar to sesame, and turnip relish. This dish was flavorful, light, and the fresh, local ingredients really shined.
Our table also enjoyed the Bear Creek Farm pork, with hominy and butter bean succotash, and West African mustard onions, as well as the Tanglewood Farms chicken which was grilled over hickory embers, served with potato dumplings, and carrots.
Desserts were mostly good. I really enjoyed my jar of soft serve, refreshing and served with a warm apple pie on top. While the buttermilk chess pie, topped with lemon cream sherbert and buttermilk crema was beautifully presented, it was disappointingly heavy, thick, and flavorless. It was difficult to even scoop a bite out of the mini skillet in which it was served. However, the chocolate fudge cake, served with chocolate chip ice cream and a malt custard, was a winner at our table.
Overall, we really enjoyed our meal at Husk. Service was attentive and informed, with the exception of the end of the meal when we tried to get our server’s attention for about ten minutes so that we could ask for the bill. Husk is a wonderful spot for a date night, a celebratory dinner, or a small group of friends. The attention to detail in the food, drinks, and design shines through, making Husk a welcome addition to the burgeoning Nashville restaurant scene and a wonderful homage to Southern cooking with a modern flair.
37 Rutledge Street, Nashville, TN