Dining on a Shoestring: Hank’s Tavern & Eats

Geoff Tracy's Hyattsville crowd-pleaser.

The Hank Burger, with cheddar, bacon and a fried onion ring. Photograph by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

When the waitress at Hank’s Tavern & Eats in Hyattsville brings the six-inch-tall Hank Burger to the table, my eyes widen. If this is the regular burger, what does the Impossible Double Hank Burger look like?

It’s hard to imagine a burger twice the size of this behemoth: an eight-ounce patty of grilled Angus beef stacked with strips of bacon, a slice of cheddar, a fold of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a large fried-onion ring.

The burger ($8.99) has more than size going for it. At a time when even pedigreed chefs are slinging burgers, this one ranks among the area’s best. Geoff Tracy, the brains behind Hank’s (with brother Chris), has demonstrated a knack in his other restaurants—Chef Geoff’s in DC’s Wesley Heights and downtown and Lia’s in Chevy Chase—for creating affordable, crowd-pleasing places.

Tracy brought the same formula to Prince George’s County when he opened Hank’s in the University Town Center six months ago. His company, Chef Geoff Universal, has a one-year management contract, which means he’s essentially leasing with an option to buy. Will he stay on after the year is up? He won’t say, but the fact that the restaurant is named for his two-year-old son may provide a clue.

Prince George’s residents, who have wanted more good dining options, will find more than just a terrific burger. Standouts among the starters are crispy shrimp dumplings ($7.99), vibrant with hits of ginger and scallion, and popcorn shrimp ($9.99) with a spicy aïoli dip. The fish burrito ($9.99) is elevated by beans that are clearly not from a can and by fresh fried-fish chunks. The excellent shrimp with creamy grits, peppers, and onions might bust the budget at $19.99, but you could get two meals out of it.

Hank’s isn’t immune to missteps. The spinach dip ($8.99) was flat on flavor, and a mini-buffalo-burger starter ($9.99) lacked the juiciness and seasoning of the Hank Burger. The brownie sundaes ($5.99) look picture perfect, but you might find yourself eating around hard chunks of brownie.

While the restaurant often delivers on its promise of “creative twists on classic bar food,” it seems content to have provided a generic sports-bar setting. Perhaps that can be explained by the length of the lease, a reluctance to make too strong a commitment. Tracy should stick around. He’s got a good thing going.