It's a Wednesday night and I'm sitting at the bar at Hank's Oyster Bar listening to The Dire Straits' Walk of Life. With my right hand, I'm feeding Noah his bottle and with my left, I'm eating fresh Kumamoto oysters. Life doesn't get much better than this.
We'd yet to be seated at our table, and I couldn't help but notice that the table behind me was having some problems with something cold that'd been delivered to their table. The only reason I noticed though, was because the floor manager, who'd treated us very nicely when we first came in the door, was apologizing for the mishap and was bringing over some complimentary appetizers to make up for the problems. Service isn't sacrificed at Hank's.
Hank's Oyster Bar gets very crowded. If you come after 7 on any night of the week, your in for at least a 30 minute wait. But that 30 minute wait can easily turn into 15 minutes or less with Hank's Oyster Bar's "call ahead" policy. Call before you leave, and the host/hostess will put your name on the list, quickly turning that long wait into only a slight inconvenience.
I wonder how many people actually know about this policy -- I should've probably kept my mouth shut. Oh well...
With the name Hank's Oyster Bar, you'd expect the oysters to be good...and they are! I'd suggest a glass of the Muscadet or Viognier with them (there are many wines that go well with oysters), but the oysters are only one of many treats to get at Hank's. Take for instance, the not-too-heavily-creamy New England clam chowder, which on my first trip contained more potatoes than clams, but on my second trip had an abundance of clams. Or perhaps, you'd prefer the homemade mac and cheesy, which is fresh-baked to order, and don't forget the salty Old Bay seasoned fries.
On top of the regular menu, there are four fish specials available. Both times we went to Hank's, there was a sablefish on the menu, a chili-crusted fish (Rockfish or Mahi Mahi) or a white tuna. Chef Jamie Leeds rotates in specials depending on what fish she can get fresh that week and how well they are selling, but she tries have something new on the specials menu every day.
My first night there, I tried the sablefish which is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, ginger and other seasoning for 24 hours. I thought the marinade gave a good contrasting flavor to the slightly fishy flavor of the sablefish. The second entree I had, which was anything but typical when you think of how fish is usually prepared, was a roasted monkfish with a mild marinara sauce and pancetta. The dense monkfish was lightly breaded, almost like you'd see the chicken in chicken parmesan prepared, but it wasn't dry or rubbery like I've had it elsewhere.
After both wonderful meals at Hank's, I was ready for some dessert, but there's no dessert menu, so I was glad I didn't save room. For those of you with a sweet tooth like me, you'll be happy to know that they bring out a little bit of bittersweet chocolate with your check which hits the spot quite well and is probably better for you than that creme brulee or bread pudding.
However, I wouldn't be surprised if Jamie Leads had a silent deal with Johnny Monis around the corner, because both times I was tempted to stop at Komi on the way home and grab some homemade donuts. Of course, you can always order some more oysters for dessert, which is probably what Jamie Leeds would prefer and I'm almost positive you won't regret.
Hank's Oyster Bar
1624 Q St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 462 HANK (4265)
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday 5:30 - 10:00pm
Wed, Thurs 5:30 - 11:00pm
Fri and Sat 5:30 - 11:00pm
Sat and Sunday Brunch 11:00 am - 3:00pm
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: This restaurant is in Dupont Circle. If you're lucky like I was, you can find someone pulling out the moment you're driving by on the same block as Hank's. If you're unlucky, you find a spot five blocks away.
Smoking: Not Allowed.
Closest Metro:Dupont Circle
Reservations: Not taken, but take advantage of the call ahead policy.
Baby-Friendly Rating: 2 out of 4 diapers. The restaurant is nice and loud, so if your baby starts crying, no one will hear them. However, if it's crowded, you'll have a long wait and you'll be outside in the cold with your baby because there's not a lot of room to wait inside.