Hank’s Oyster Bar

You'll find at least five kinds of oysters at this tiny urban fish bar.

From January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants

THE SCENE. If Pottery Barn were a restaurant, it might look something like this tiny, lovable oyster bar. Pen-and-ink drawings of fish adorn the russet walls, the day's half-shell specials are scrawled on a blackboard, and steel ducts crisscross the dining room. An urbane, pea-coated crowd swigs Sancerre standing up during the inevitable wait for a table.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. Chef/owner Jamie Leeds mixes the rib-sticking fare that won her praise at 15 Ria–nightly "meat and two" specials; buttermilk onion rings; cheddar-and-Gouda mac and cheese–with fresh, simply done fish and at least four varieties of oysters. It's the only place outside the impersonal seafood chains that you'll find icy platters of Hog Islands, Beausoleils, Kumamotos, and Belons.

. Cramped quarters. Hank's doesn't take reservations (though you can call ahead to put your name on the list), which means there's often a long wait and–especially in the winter, when patio seating isn't an option–little place to do it. And the kitchen commits the occasional oversight–be it over-salting, under-frying, or a watery rendition of clam chowder.

BEST DISHES. A Kumamoto oyster shot with sake and tomato water; peel-and-eat shrimp; fried calamari and popcorn shrimp, served in a beachy pail with rémoulade; Caesar salad with oyster crackers and white anchovies; fried oyster po' boy; mac and cheese with white cheddar and Gouda; Old Bay fries and Leeds's famous onion rings.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.