No. 92: Hank’s Oyster Bar
This tiny, 1½-year-old oyster bar, which takes cues from places like Pearl in New York and Swan’s in San Francisco, celebrates Beausoleils and Kumamotos, Olde Salts and Golden Mantles. At least five half-shell varieties are listed on the chalkboard each night.
Chef/owner Jamie Leeds has built a reputation on dishing up accessible comfort food, such as molassas-braised short ribs and Gouda Mac n’ Cheesy. And one bite of her Ipswich clams or popcorn shrimp will tell you she’s pretty good with a deep-fryer. But she’s also shown she can cut loose from expectations with, say, a rich cut of crisp-skin salmon with Moroccan spices, or seared scallops zigzagged with walnut vinaigrette. Still, the loudest mmmms tend to slip out over a plate of Hog Island–style barbecue oysters or a terrific po’ boy loaded with crunchy Bluepoints.
Hank’s is one of the few good neighborhood restaurants among the brownstones of east Dupont Circle. The 65-seat dining room doesn’t take reservations, and there’s usually a wait and rarely a place to stand. The kitchen’s teensy, too, which means there’s no room for desserts, much less a pastry chef, so the server brings out a few hunks of dark chocolate with the check.