In just two years of operation, Hank’s Oyster Bar has become one of the biggest names in the Washington, DC culinary scene, offering an array of New England classics while being nominated as "Best Neighborhood Restaurant" in 2007 by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.
Chef and owner Jamie Leeds and partner Sandy Lewis had been searching for another location when their accountant mentioned the Old Town Alexandria building where her office is located. The 1026 King Street setting — formerly home to Bohio's Cuban Bistro — had the same vibe as their D.C. location: an older building in which they could expose brick. "It kind of felt like home," Lewis said, "and for us it was kind of natural to have seafood in Old Town Alexandria."
Hank’s Oyster Bar will open in Old Town between Sept. 10 and 20, according to Lewis, who said the deal to open another Hank’s in Alexandria came together fast. "Forty-five days is crazy in a way. It all happened very quickly," she said.
The transition should be a smooth one since the space was already a restaurant; because it will mimic the menu of the Hank’s in D.C.; and because both Leeds and Lewis intend to spend significant time getting the new location off and running.
Unlike in the District location, their time will also include lunch hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. "The great thing about Hank’s Oyster Bar, Old Town is that we will be able to serve lunch, with a menu that includes more salads and sandwiches," Leeds said in a statement. Lewis added that some of those items could end up on the dinner menu.
The other significant difference is that the restaurant will open serving only beer and wine; but with a larger storage space, the Old Town location will have a larger selection of both than the D.C. one.
Hank’s Old Town, which will be closed on Mondays, will follow the hours of the space’s previous tenant: dinner to 10 p.m. on weekdays, brunch at noon on Saturday and Sunday, with dinner to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sunday.
One of the first significant restaurants to open during the city’s ongoing campaign to rid smoking from its eateries, Hank’s won’t face any conflicts, as it will open smoke-free like its other location. Lewis said that at 50 seats, the restaurant would be too confined for smoking anyway.
Lewis, who lives in Arlington, is thrilled to bring Hank’s Oyster Bar to Alexandria. "For me, it’s really cool because I’ve always wanted to open up a restaurant in Virginia," she said. "There’s places [in Old Town] to get oysters, but there’s not places to get the kind of oysters that we offer. In a way, it’d be nice if we were closer to the water. But we love the space. In a way, it’s kind of like the new restaurant row."
Indeed, Hank’s Oyster Bar will be within a reasonable distance of Vermilion, Bistrot Lafayette, Majestic Café and Eammon's A Dublin Chipper on King Street.
It’s because of that last eatery — chef Cathal Armstrong’s chipper — that Hank’s will not offer fish and chips, according to Lewis.
"We can say it’s out of respect for him, and it is," she said. "When there’s something that good right down the street, you don’t mess with it."
What Hank’s will offer are New England classics like lobster roll, and lightly fried items such as popcorn shrimp, calamari and Ipswich clams, along with a daily raw bar.
<1b>-- Greg Wyshynski