The restaurant, located off Dupont Circle at 17th and Q streets, bills itself as a neighborhood spot reminiscent of a New England beach bar. Northeastern mainstays like lobster rolls, fried fish and classic sides (tartar sauce and coleslaw) feature prominently on the menu. Suck down one of the oysters from the raw bar sampling platter — paired with a generous few drops of Tabasco sauce and a lemon squeeze — and your taste buds might remember that time you made a stop by Wellfleet, Cape Cod’s oyster capital; if you haven’t been to the quaint-but-famous Massachusetts port, Hank’s offers a delicious substitute.
The selections aren’t merely New England fare transplanted, however. After sharing a raw bar selection and some fried calamari with friends, I went for the Po’ Boy sandwich, a Louisiana favorite. Plump, juicy and well-floured oysters filled the buttery, toasted bun. A couple sides for the table — collard greens and a not-too-rich mac and cheese — added some soul food flavors to the main courses.
The Southern flair didn’t stop there, with dishes like griddled crabcakes and fried chicken with honey also offered. Sake oyster shooters, seafood ceviche with lime and jalapeno, and barbecued oysters (served up like those in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Hog Island) also spiced up the otherwise classic menu. For carnivores, a rotating menu features a daily meat offering, with everything from short ribs to a blue cheese-encrusted sirloin.
Opened in 2007 to much critical acclaim, Hank’s opened an additional bar and lounge area this spring in a once-abandoned townhouse next door. The updated cocktails menu adds to the already-reliable selection of microbrews and wines, all of which go well with the coastal grub.
In the original bar and restaurant, the atmosphere is cozy — just rustic enough that it doesn’t sacrifice being trendy. The dining room and bar area features stainless steel appliances and industrial-style lighting that is softened by the cream-colored walls and friendly service you’d find in most classic coastal cafes.
But for the quintessential summer experience, head to the newly expanded roadside patio. By taking in the slow, pedestrian pace there, you might as well be transported to your favorite American fishing village. Pairing the experience with the sound of crashing waves just requires a little imagination.