The first time I came across Chef Sean Brock was on the beloved PBS Show, The Mind of a Chef. Here was this bearded, bespectacled fella, giggling along with Chef David Chang as they ate way-too spicy Kentucky Hot Chicken and then pounded whiskey at a distillery. But then he started talking about heritage cooking and utilizing South Carolina ingredients that were long forgotten; some of which nearly disappeared. The pride he showed in describing his love of food was inspiring. It was while watching this passionate side of Brock, that I made sure to make a mental note to put his flagship restaurant, Husk, on my list of must-try restaurants. So when my wife and I were searching for a honeymoon destination in the U.S., I threw out Charleston as a possibility. Spoiler alert: between the views and the food, Charleston did not disappoint.
PARTS & LABOR
2600 N. Howard Street, Baltimore, MD 21218 (http://partsandlaborbutchery.com/)
** and 1/2 (Good/Very Good)
Spike Gjerde is fast becoming synonymous with Baltimore. The chef-owner of Woodberry Kitchen, the locally-sourced restaurant in Clipper Mill, opened his most recent offering, Parts & Labor, in Charles Village back in 2014. Little brother is housed in a former garage, features an open-flame hearth as the heart of the kitchen, and a retail shop which sells house-made sandwiches and fresh cuts of meat during the day. Parts & Labor, which butchers its own meat and serves in the same capacity for Woodberry, knows its way around the various cuts. It is this respect for meat-centric dishes, and the quality of the execution, which makes one legitimately question whether Parts & Labor is catching up to its well-reviewed sibling.
Multiple Locations in DC, MD, and VA (http://www.matchboxrestaurants.com/)
* and 1/2 (Satisfactory/Good)
Matchbox, the original, opened in Chinatown in 2002. That original location remains today; now with six sister restaurants spread throughout the District, Maryland, and Virginia (with a single outpost in Palm Springs, California). The 14th Street outpost, where our most recent dinner took place, maintains strong influences from the original: a long countertop bar, plenty of wood accents and tables, and an open kitchen featuring a wood burning oven. Similar still: the consistency of the food; holding strong more than a decade after the original.