Charleston Brown Water Society founding member, tour guide, and local social media menace Greg "Bear" Barrow estimates he has downed over 400 bacon-laced burgers from the Husk kitchen since they opened their doors in 2010. While there are no official records, enough bartenders, managers, and Instagram photos corroborated the story for Eater to believe Barrow without a doubt. He met us recently (for burgers) to describe how he accomplished this feat.
Can you remember your first Husk burger?
Yes, actually I can. It's a lot like having sex for the first time — it's an experience that really means something.
It's a lot like having sex for the first time ...I was at Husk for the opening night, and I think the bar opened up two weeks after that. The first time I came in the bar, it was empty. Jackson [Holland] was the head bartender, and they had a great whiskey selection. I told him, "Hey man, I live a block away, and I'm just in for something to eat." He told me they had a good burger, and I told him I was game. That plate did a disservice to every other hamburger I had eaten — it changed everything. It was juicy. It was rich. It was fatty. It was dripping into my beard. It was everything you could want in a cheeseburger. It was delicious and sloppy. I thought, "I could have another one of these."
And for 10 dollars? My meal at McDonald's would cost me $8.50, and I have no idea what the hell I'm eating there. Here, I know where the beef came from, where the bacon came from, where the mustard came from, where the cheese came from, and there's a locally-sourced bun. It trumped anything else I had ever had.
How did you determine you've had over 400 Husk burgers?
I lived only a block away when they opened. And I'm a single man, so cooking for myself would easily cost me 15 to 20 dollars in groceries, so only living a block away with a 10-dollar burger available was an easy choice. I was also friendly with most of the staff. The bourbon drew me here too. I was going to go to a bar to have a couple of drinks anyway, so why not go to a place with a great bourbon selection and a delicious burger. I was looking to eat out five nights a week, and I was probably eating the burger here three nights a week — at minimum the first year and a half they were in business. It was simple, delicious, easy, and I knew what the cost was going to be.
The cheeseburger was therapy to my belly ...I moved five blocks away after that, so the walk wasn't as quite as easy, and the bar got much more popular. People started hearing about the cheeseburger. I knew how to read the crowds though. I knew I could come in after the first seating at the big house and find a spot at the bar. At first, I would sit at the door and play host, telling people, "Tables upstairs, booths over here ..." That morphed into the system they have now of yelling at people when they walk in the door, because that's what I used to do. I moved to the far end of the bar, because that became [Roderick] Weaver's station. We had the same palate for whiskey, food, and a lot of the same ideas. We would talk about history and other subjects. I started to come in because I got to eat a great burger and trade off wonderful conversation with the bartender. Bartenders are like therapists. The cheeseburger was the therapy to my belly, and Weaver was the therapy to my mind.
... there's more old people eating hamburgers than old doctors ...In those early days, everyone here had this vibe — they knew they were on to something. Whenever the waitstaff came over to get drinks, they all had this bubbly energy because they realized they had something amazing here, and this was before any of the awards. They were building something completely unique to itself and hadn't been seen in this region.
What would you do if you were told couldn't eat burgers anymore?
There's this old saying, an old Merle Haggard song I Gotta Get Drunk that says, "There's a lot of doctors that tell me. That I'd better start slowing it down. But there's more old drunks than there are old doctors. So I guess we'd better have another round." So, there's more old people eating hamburgers than old doctors, and I adhere to Merle's advice.
Barrow plays racquetball three times a week and lives an European lifestyle of walking and biking everywhere — so don't worry too much about his arteries. If you'd like to challenge his claim to the most burgers eaten at Husk, let us know.