By Megan O'Neill 

On a side road in Rutledge Hill, just southeast of historic downtown Nashville, situates a late 19th century home with a stately exterior and Southern charm a little contrary to the honkeytonks just blocks away.

Photo: Husk Nashville
This is Husk Nashville—the latest outpost of lowcountry chef Sean Brock’s acclaimed South Carolina hot spot of the same name—and this is my Sunday brunch, a renaissance of antebellum cuisine and rustic ingredients. 

The home’s original floors, windows and walls play partner to the more minimalistic aesthetic of the modern-art chandeliers and color schemes, and with plenty of sunlight coming in, the bright walls and farm-centric interior just made sense.  The space retains its charm, but the ingredients bring you back home. The emphasis at Husk is on local, Southern ingredients (you’ll hear this again), and the life-size chalkboard, which lists every artisanal product and where it was sourced, reaffirms this. The menu, which changes twice a day, consists of carefully curated and meticulously sourced products, preserving sometimes otherwise forgotten Southern heirlooms.

Now, for Chef Brock—that’s James Beard Award winning Chef Brock—if it isn't from the South, it’s not going on your plate. The end. An advocate for the ingredients indigenous to pre-Civil War era South, Chef Brock began experimenting with resurrecting crops that were at risk of extinction, and he continues to grow these heirlooms—think James Island Red Corn (Jimmy Red) for his grits, Benne Seed, Rice Peas, etc. He’s passionate about the region’s rich history, studying and collecting 19th century Southern cookbooks, and he’s comprehensively researched the provenances and the flavors of this cuisine, which might be a reason he’s one of Charleston’s most decorated culinarians. Here in Nashville, he’s joined by Chef de Cuisine and fellow Johnson & Wales graduate, Tim Moody.

At Husk Nashville, their kitchen is taking advantage of the seasonal and local bounty, and what can’t be used that day is preserved, pickled, smoked and saved. Which leads us to the first middle-of-the-table plate ordered that Sunday, Husk Pickles and pickled okra seasoning a plate of delicately sliced Bob Woods’ 24-month country ham, with mustard and sweet, soft rolls. The White Lily Biscuits were next. These aren't out of a pressurized foil sleeve as you can imagine.  Pastry Chef Lisa Donovan’s tall, flaky biscuits are served with a black pepper and Husk sausage gravy, and the plate was empty in less than 8 minutes.

The rest of brunch, a serious endeavor as far as what to choose, brought to the table the Pork Belly Monte Cristo with Tennessee Cheddar, a fried farm egg and Confit Potato Hash. Next, the Pork Chop Biscuit Sandwich was served with slightly grilled onions, cheddar, a fried egg, and loaded with a spicy N’duja gravy. And of course, the Husk Shrimp and Grits. This is it. This was what I talked about for four non-stop days. This is making grits the Sean Brock way. The grits, made with spring water, not tap, were soft and tender and loaded with ground country ham, shrimp, shrimp broth, mushrooms, chervil, chives, lemon juice and an egg. This—also I’d presume one of the many reasons he’s garnered a trophy case full of accolades.

It’s a showcase here every day. A showcase of the South—their vegetables, their meats, fish, their farmers, their restraint, their excess. It’s delicious, and though an “emphasis on ingredients” is not something new, it’s celebrated differently here with an energy and style I’ll be back to see. 

Husk Nashville 
37 Rutledge St. Nashville, TN, 37210
LUNCH:    11 am to 2 pm Monday – Friday
BRUNCH: 10 am to 2 pm Saturday and Sunday
DINNER:   5 to 10 pm Sunday – Thursday;
                   5 to11 pm Friday and Saturday