My family and I moved to the Washington DC Metro Area back in December. I had visited the area several times before so I knew that there are thousands of restaurants that some day I would eventually like to try. Maine’s food is just…. Meh. Unless it’s seafood. THAT most of Maine seems to have down to a T. Within the first few weeks of moving I started Googling, and utilizing Yelp to start making a list of places I’d like to go. Hank’s Oyster Bar was right at the top of that list. An ever-changing menu (majority of it seafood), oysters, cocktails, beer, wine… sounded right up my alley.
A friend of mine from college ended up coming into town for some Physicians Assistant workshop/conference thing, and we decided to go out Sunday night to Hank’s Oyster Bar in Old Town, Alexandria since that is only 2 metro stops away from the airport where she needed to drop off her rental, and only 2 stops away from my house too. More people ended up being invited, which is awesome – the more the merrier right?? And since two of them were staying in down town DC we changed our location last minute and went to the Hank’s Oyster Bar at Dupont Circle. Two members of our party got there SUPER early. However it’s the policy that Hank’s will not seat you at a table until your entire party is there. OK, that’s kind of a bummer, but at least there were seats at the bar so they weren’t just standing around twiddling their thumbs.
When we finally made it to our destination we were told there was going to be another 20-25 minute wait for a table. I think it was just assumed we wanted an outdoor table, but there seemed to be a few indoors that would have worked for an earlier seating. I’m slightly torn. I mean I definitely wanted an outdoor seat, but we were starving. By the time we were finally seated it was between 8:30 and 8:45pm (and we had arrived around 8pm or so). That probably should have been an omen about how long our meal was going to take.
We sat down and decided on some drinks to order. I figured $7 for a mixed drink (Meagan’s Choice) was fair, a little pricey, but fair. It had gin and grapefruit, and starfruit, house-made syrups, and what sounded like a bunch of other yummy ingredients. That was until I saw it served in what looked like a 4-5oz plastic tea cup with a ton of ice in it. Not to mention I really believe it was watered down – probably by the ice, or maybe it was pre-mixed and was just chilling out on ice too? Not sure what “punch” the waiter was telling me this drink was packing, but it was more like a sucker punch to my wallet. Whew, OK. Live and learn from that experience. A friend and I decided to split one of their other cocktail bowls after we placed our dinner order. We figured that if the individual glasses from one of their bowls is $7, then a bowl that’s supposed to serve 4-6 would be our best bet. Not too big, and definitely something two of us could finish off by ourselves. Plus we liked the sound of the vodka, wine, and sherbert mixed in. This is when the night really started looking up for us. The punch bowl was $50 and MASSIVE. We started cracking up about how we were planning on just drinking it…. just the two of us. It ended up serving all 5 of us at our table with 2-3 full drinks each. Split between 5 of us, that made for 2-3 drink for $10 per person. Now THAT made sense. It was also the only drink that anybody had all night that everyone enjoyed.
After our first round of drinks were delivered we decided to order some oysters. How can you not? You’re at Hank’s OYSTER Bar. I was an oyster virgin so to speak, along with one or two other friends, and was a little wary the whole texture and process of consumption thing. Four of us decided to go for 2 local Virginia oysters each. At $2.25 a pop it was just a question of how many to order. If you didn’t like them, more than 2 is just a waste of money, but if you did like them, ordering 1 just wouldn’t be enough. Of course you could always order more later, but that whole waiting for food thing was starting to get old. In addition to the oysters, that we all LOVED, we split a bowl of Seafood Ceviche from the Raw Bar menu. It wasn’t quite what we expected, and it was a slight let down for some that it was pre-prepared so we couldn’t order it without the peppers in it. Otherwise, YUM! The Seafood Ceviche was shrimp, scallops, and calamari with lime, and jalapenos and I thought it was scrumptious. Not normally a dish I’d have ordered for myself, but one that I’m very glad I had the opportunity to try.
At the same time we ordered our appetizers we also put in our meal order. Three Lobster Rolls with Old Bay Fries, a Small Plate Griddled Crab Cake, and Sunday’s Special of Dinner + 2; Chesapeake Fried Chicken with Baked Mac & Cheesy and Buttermilk Onion Rings. Well, we waited. And waited. And we even managed to finish off that entire cocktail bowl before our waiter decided to stop by and ask us if we had been given our food yet. It was about 9:45 to 10pm at this point. Also, this particular location’s restaurant closes at 10, so it wasn’t exactly like it was beyond super busy. My guess is that the kitchen completely forgot about us. I’m sure this isn’t usual based off of all of the reviews I’ve read about Hank’s, but this was extremely disappointing. We wanted to go out somewhere after dinner for dessert and a few more drinks, but I had to get myself back on the metro by 11 so I wouldn’t miss the last yellow train back home.
When our food FINALLY arrived, it wasn’t even served by our waiter. Thankfully it was really hot and very fresh tasting which most likely means it hadn’t been sitting under heat lamps completely forgotten. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that also means the kitchen forgot to prepare our order until the waiter went in to check on our ticket. *headdesk*
The food was DELICIOUS. Probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had while eating out. Originally being from Maine I’m quite the seafood buff and can be a little picky about my lobster. The lobster in the rolls was cooked perfectly and there was a generous portion of it. I hate it when restaurants skimp out on the best part of the lobster roll. The roll that the lobster was served on was absolutely amazing. It was soft, sweet, and seemed to be very lightly toasted. It complimented the lobster really well. The fries were great too. We all got to try some of the Mac & Cheesy and I think that is the best mac I’ve ever had. Oversized macaroni noodles, baked to perfection in a bacon cheese sauce and crispy golden bread crumbs on top. SO darn good. I could eat that every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although I didn’t get to try the crab cake or the fried chicken, they both looked equally delicious and cooked very well. The chicken had that dark golden color, and looked crispy, which is exactly how fried chicken should be.
The portions, while generous weren’t enough for leftovers. I love leftovers, but I understand that technically your meal shouldn’t have any. My friend who ordered the chicken did take hers home. I’m not sure why, but it’s a good sign that she asked for a box instead of just leaving it, so I’m going to assume she filled up on onion rings and macaroni & cheese. Hank’s did provide us with goldfish crackers to snack on while we were waiting for our waitress to come take our orders, and we were given bread as well. At the end of our meal they gave us a generous portion of large chopped dark chocolate chunks that was really good.
We didn’t seem to have the option to split our order into five separate tickets, so we all decided to split the bill evenly 5 ways and handed over our credit cards. Our total bill was $231! For 5 people who all ordered drinks, it wasn’t a ridiculous bill. I think we all paid about $46 + tip. The manager did comp our oysters due to the long wait which was very nice. However, I was a little unimpressed with the generosity of making up for our 3 hour meal from start to finish, but hey, it was still a nice gesture and one that helped make the Hank’s Oyster Bar experience just that much better.
If I had to give Hank’s Oyster Bar (Dupont Circle) in DC any stars their food would definitely get 5 stars from me. I think everyone else would have agreed with that too. The drinks in my opinion would have ranked probably 4 stars, and the service only 3. Honestly I would have given the service a 2, but our waiter was good, had a great attitude and she took care of us. Our water glasses were always filled, and she would check in with us occasionally to see how things were going, and when we handed her our payment she graciously took it and split up our bill without a single ounce of complaint.
I will definitely go back to Hank’s Oyster Bar again even though our meal took forever. The food made the wait worth it, and I can only imagine how awesome that place would be if we hadn’t been forgotten about.
Hank’s Oyster Bar (Dupont Circle)
1624 Q Street NW
Washington DC 20009
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