The DMV has something going for it when it comes to seafood. The shellfish and crustacean situation around Washington, D.C. is all locally caught and has been largely family-run for decades. D.C.’s White tablecloth restaurants have perfected the ostentatious delivery of seafood on silver platters to prim and proper men and women in business-formal attire. Tell me you can’t picture POTUS with a heaping helping of surf and turf and bib around his neck. The SW Waterfront has changed the game, making seafood accessible and casual, while still keeping pace with evolving restaurant trends.
Hank’s Oyster Bar is a D.C. establishment where the seafood is reliable in flavor and quality every time. Jamie Leeds Restaurant Group has opened a few Hank’s concepts over the last several years, and when the Wharf started to glimmer in all of its restaurant glory, another waterfront location was only fitting. There’s “something for everyone,” but the winning dishes here come from the big beautiful ocean.
You can order a bloody or mimosa to get the fun started, but honestly, I’d go straight to Champagne. Buttery bubbles to cut the citrusy salinity from your seafood? Yep. That’s the real pro-move.
Oysters need to be on your table. Served straight up with the proper accouterments or broiled with bread crumbs and cheese, slurping at Hank’s is encouraged. We went both raw and broiled and added some ceviche to start. The oysters on the rocks have that salty, summer flavor we crave (with Champagne. Did we mention Champagne?). The broiled babies could sway any non-believer and fish adverse into the son of a preacher man. Meanwhile, crispy creamy cheese atop a plush oyster belly is our new winter delicacy.
We kept our entrée choices relatively mainstream. We ordered crab cakes eggs Benedict, the Hank’s burger, the lox platter, Hangtown fry, and French toast. Not to be a broken record, but there’s very good crab flesh in this crab cake. Meaty, sweet, and tender, it didn’t even need to take “cake” formation. The crab patty itself was too soft, and the Benedict didn’t have any bread item beneath it. We understood added bread could be carb overload, but the dish needed a crunchy base or textural contract to soak up the yolk, hollandaise, and lustrous shellfish. The dish came with the potato-driven steak fries that perfectly carry, mayonnaise, ketchup, malt vinegar or whatever your French-fry-dipping tendencies include.
Hank’s burger is a perfect choice for any seafood skeptic. Beneath a classic bun is a fried egg, bacon, cheese, and hollandaise sauce. This burger reminds us of a fast-food burger and there’s really nothing wrong with that. The burger is stout, oozing with oils and sauces. The burger’s side was a crusty-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside macaroni and cheese. More of a combo meal than a fancy gourmet burger, you just need to know what you’re getting yourself into. And, trust us, you want in.
The lox platter comes with (obviously) lox, sliced hard-boiled eggs, tomato, capers, onion, and a bagel. The lox checklist for rich, fatty, thin-cut slices is complete, but the bagel could use some work. Though not made in-house, the weightless bagel is a styrofoam disaster that really takes away from what could be an excellent DIY bagel brunch plate.
When the Hangtown fry arrived, I felt like I was suddenly on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives getting a history lesson on a crazy food phenomenon that struck the West Coast. Traditionally, this dish is a panfried omelet with bacon, cheese, and fried oysters. This mish-mosh of breakfast and seafood items seemed off-putting but was sinfully satisfying. It’s a crazy, unique omelet you won’t find in any French man’s restaurant, but it’s balanced in acid, decadence, and texture and fun to eat.
We’ll take a sweet brunch entrée over basic dessert any day. French toast is our weapon of choice, but the Hank’s version couldn’t save us in battle. It was dry and under-embellished. Typically, we have the opposite problem: we are often presented with soggy bread doused in chocolate sauce and ice cream, however, this one could have benefitted from a higher quality toast base and a more well-thought-out garnish.
The Bitches say: four champagne flutes
Hank’s serves a delicious D.C. brunch in a great location. Opt for seafood and large format entrées.
Hank’s Oyster Bar serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm