Chef Sean Brock was standing on the porch of Husk, looking like a member of his staff, personally opening the door for anyone who wanted to come in.
His distinctive arm tattoo of a cow going down into a meat grinder gave him away. This was a moment. The news was buzzing on the Internet -- Husk had just been named the Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appetit magazine.
The news would have most people grinning from ear to ear, but Brock offered a nervous smile and said, "It's crazy, isn't it?"
A moment later, though, when asked what was the best item to order for lunch, he grinned wide.
"If it were me, I'd have the cheeseburger. It's something that will haunt you."
So the cheeseburger it was. It was a usual lunch service Tuesday at the restaurant on Queen Street. Nothing had changed with the accolade.
Tall stately windows, double fireplaces, leather seats and a view of the smoker in the back parking lot -- not your average view from a fine dining establishment.
The menu changes daily, but some standard fare is the shrimp and grits, catfish in season and, of course, those cheeseburgers.
Jason Williams, one of the waiters, smiled as he, too, recommended the $10 burger. "It's Brock's baby," he said.
Each waiter knows everything in each dish, and Brock is making his reputation by using locally sourced ingredients, calling local anything below the Mason-Dixon line. The cheeseburgers are made of 75 percent sirloin, and the rest is bacon, chuck roast and short rib. Two patties of meat have a slice of cheddar in the middle, and then pickle relish is added, tomato and onions, and of course, a secret sauce that had a hint of barbecue flavoring.
Just make sure you have a napkin.
At a nearby table, Steve Gaches, 24, of Washington had also ordered the cheeseburger.
"What surprised me is that they didn't ask me what temperature I wanted it cooked," Gaches said. "I usually like mine on the pink side, but when it came it was brown all the way through. The mix in the meat made it a different kind of burger, very smooth."
His friend, April Scanlon, 22, was eating shrimp and grits for the first time. She thought that was right for her first visit to Charleston.
"I didn't know what to expect. I made grits once and it was awful, but I thought I should try it since I was here."
She loved the fact that she could see where the local oysters and shrimp had come from since she was facing the giant chalkboard that listed their origins.
They were topping off their meal with Bloody Marys -- the ones with 32 ingredients and garnished with an okra pod.
"We've never had a Bloody Mary before," Scanlon said. "There are so many flavors in this."
Further down the dining room, Patt Hoener was celebrating her 80th birthday with her daughter Casey Gressette. The two had driven in from Edisto Island for the day. Gressette had the catfish, with peppers on top, and the rabbit pate.
"The pate had Jerusalem artichoke pickles on it and texture was just not usual. It was so good," Gressette said.
Her mother had the sweet corn soup and she was smiling, too.
No one was going away hungry from this Southern establishment, and no one was frowning as they paid the modest lunch bill.
Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557.
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