Capitol Hill has become a location full of good places to eat in the last four years. There’s really no question about that. We’ve all been beneficiaries of the fantastic places opening and hill residents have supported these places, showing that we enjoy staying close to home and eating good food. It’s not every neighborhood in DC that you have a specialty hot dog place, a diner style breakfast and homestyle cooking place that makes homemade poptarts, a Greek Tapas restaurant, a dozen Thai restaurants (okay, just two), a San Diego-ite (no, San Diego-inan, no San Dieg-on, no San Diegan) imported Italian Restaurant, a fine dining French Bistro, and a rooftop cantina within two blocks of each other. Into this melting pot we introduce the neighborhood’s second, and best, Oyster Bar.
This past Saturday evening a few of us were able to attend a soft opening for friends of family at Hank’s on the Hill, located at 633 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, the latest addition the growing Hank’s Oyster Bar empire and no surprise — it was incredible. Not just incredible, but Hulk-level incredible.
However, before we get to food, it’s worth talking about the interior. They began with putting in a huge Flintstones-caliber marble bar (they’re calling it The Eddy), getting a veteran on-site Mixologist to concoct a dozen or so unique cocktails, and shaving all the ice by hand for each and every drink. San Diego Classy. We did feel bad for the guys (and gal!) working so hard for our drinks but that went away after one sip. You can hand chip ice all night if you’re going to give us fresh, innovative cocktails at an affordable price. They changed the ceiling to put in aged white-painted wood, added custom chrome lighting and a sandblasted cement floor to create what can best be described as Urban Nantucket. It feels both contemporary and timeless inside. And finally, there’s a mix of high top tables and standard sit down spots to give everyone a comfortable view of the entire place while enjoying the great, locally sourced grub. Even with every seat in the joint filled there was no problem with noise and the atmosphere was casual, upbeat and fun.
Now, for the meal itself, It started with the aforementioned pair of glorious hand-crafted cocktails: one gin based called the Hanky Panky (and best described as a modern Pimm’s Cup) and a bourbon drink that was like the unholy (but amazing) union of a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned. There was also some sort of palette preparing punch drink that might have been better than anything else. From there, SHOCKER, we started with a collection of six different oysters. There were six varieties (which we told will be the standard number of variations each night) that came from Virginia, New York and Delaware. Being their signature dish, I was expecting to be totally disappointed, but they foiled my plan and came through. Following the oysters, we had a basket of popcorn shrimp and scallops (batter was flaky and seasoned nicely) and a fresh crab cake as appetizers. Entrees were fired at as on two impressive plates: a flatiron steak* with an Argentinean style chimichurri and a set of diver scallops with mushroom and cauliflower puree. Both were over the top and would have netted a $35 price tag anywhere else in the city however, they were both cost-efficient at around $20 each.
Finally, we finished our feast with an order of key lime pie and a blackberry cobbler**, a Brooklyn Japanese Sorachi Ale from the tap, a pillow, and ten good hours of sleep.
*The meat entrees at Hanks on the Hill are available every night as opposed to the 7 day rotation at other Hank’s Oyster Bar establishments, so you can finally get Monday’s Braised Short Rib on a Friday night.
**Desserts are also unique to this Hank’s Oyster Bar location.
Visit Hank’s Oyster Bar’s website for more information on hours and location.