Alexandria, VA 22314
Fridays during Lent have always proved to be difficult to me as a somewhat lapsed Roman Catholic since I'm not primarily a fish eater (I mean I like fish but I generally tend to choose different proteins). So, this particular Friday, I decided to try out Hank's Oyster Bar which I had heard a bit about from a co-worker. I went to the Old Town location and luckily it was open for lunch (note to self: always check hours of operation before going to eat at a place) since it isn't open for lunch on other week days.
The narrow space in the Alexandria location and the similarity in name was gave me a pleasant flashback to Pearl Oyster Bar which is one of my favorite restaurants in NYC. The decor was simple and refined but felt unfinished and sparse. The restaurant was about half filled and I was sat in the back which was very much like the back room of Pearl. They had six offerings of oysters (three from Virginia and three from the West Coast) and I decided to try one from Paradise Cove, BC and one from Barcat, VA. The Paradise Cove as smaller in size (as expected) and was clean and on the sweeter side. The Barcat was bigger and had are more meaty taste. Both were delicious though I did experience some grit from the Barcat.
I was feeling hungry so I ordered the Lobster Bisque and something called the Hangtown Fry which I'll get to later. The bisque was not your traditional bisque with more of a tomato base rather than cream. While I was craving the creaminess of what I expect from a bisque, this worked quite well. The tomato gave a sharp contrast that cut through the creaminess. The addition of chunks of lobster meat in the soup was another pleasant surprise and added to the success of the dish.
For my entree, I ordered the Hangtown Fry or rather the Hangtown Fry Fried Oyster Frittata with Bacon, Parmesan and Tartar sauce. This is essentially an omelet covering a bed of fried oysters with homemade tartar sauce on top which is something I had never seen before. The omelet had chunks of tomato, parsley, and capers with melted cheese mixed in. At first it seemed that it was dry and a tad burned but as you worked your way into the middle, it burst with flavor when you mixed the egg, fried oysters and sauce all together. My expectations for fried oysters have been elevated ever since I ate the ones at Pearl. Those were crispy yet light that didn't get soaked down by the oysters. The ones in this dish came up short of that and batter felt a little heavy and were soggy on some of the oysters. But, they were still hearty and captured all the flavor of the oysters. The dish is described as having bacon and I have to admit, I didn't see where which is surprising since bacon is such a strong element to any dish.
While I was eating, I observed that all the dishes coming out of the kitchen were vibrant, colorful and looked amazing. The smell from the steamed mussels almost made me order more and the size of the soft shell crab sandwich was spectacular. While this may not be Pearl exactly, it hit the spot as a straightforward, fresh Seafood restaurant that is worth visiting again which I'll be doing soon since I did spot a lobster roll with my name on it on their menu.