3245 M St., NW
Washington, DC 20007
Cuisines: Seafood, American
Open daily 7 to 10 PM.
Price Range: Inexpensive
Noise Level: Chatty
Reservations: Not Accepted
Fried bay scallops with lemon; fried clams with tartar sauce; fried shrimp on a potato roll; lobster roll; wood-grilled calamari with basil-walnut pesto; wood-grilled asparagus; braised greens; potato salad; coleslaw; blueberry pie.
Starters $6 to $12, Main dishes $9-$12
Never mind that the Atlantic is hours away: Barton Seaver’s new Tackle Box in Georgetown has the feel and taste of a New England fish shack, down to the paint-chipped picnic tables and weathered buoys hanging from the rafters.
Tackle Box is a feisty younger sibling to Hook, Seaver’s slick fish restaurant next door. The seafood is purported to be just as fresh and ecofriendly, but the plates are paper, the cutlery is biodegradable plastic, and you order at the counter. The baseball-capped Seaver is often there calling out numbers and handing out plates.
Deep frying and wood grilling are the things here, and the kitchen seems comfortable with both. Belly fried clams are expertly battered and fried. Ditto for the shrimp, oysters, and calamari. Enhancing the seafood is a lineup of house-made sauces including a classic tartar and a lemony aïoli.
That other shack staple, the lobster roll, may not be what you’d find Down East—the chunks of sweet meat aren’t as hefty, and there’s a mite more mayo—but it’s close enough to spur memories of Bar Harbor.
Wood-grilled fish is a more subtle pleasure than fried seafood, but platters of tilapia and rainbow trout, with their woodsy perfume, are plenty rewarding.
I wish the quality of the sides were up to that of the seafood. Fries, whether sweet potato or potato, can be soggy. Hush puppies have resembled leaden balls; last I heard, they were undergoing a makeover. Mashed potatoes, spiked with horseradish, are delicious—though who wants to eat mashed potatoes with fried shrimp? The pick here is the asparagus, perfectly cooked and smoky from the grill.
Heather Chittum, who makes the sweets at Hook, does so here, too. Look for her blueberry pie, a fruity, tart-sweet wedge that was a harbinger of summer all spring long.