I don’t get over to Old Town Alexandria enough. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Old Town was founded by Scottish merchants in 1749 and in many ways, the colonial flavor of that time period is still very present today! Old Town is marked by cobblestone paths, brick buildings, and a quaint edge that opens up to the boat-filled Potomac River. Everywhere you look, you see antique shops, little art galleries, and — of course — fabulous local restaurants.
Old Town was the perfect choice for Chris & I’s Valentine’s Day dinner, especially since we usually stay put in Arlington or head into DC most evenings out. We decided to try out Hank’s Oyster Bar. I guess we were thinking of our very fun last-minute getaway to Panama City a few months ago, where we had a great experience dining at Hunt’s Oyster Bar. Additionally, as we were thinking of our Valentine’s Day criteria, the two types of food that are most romantic to us are: Seafood or Italian food. We were very excited for this new restaurant endeavor.
The dinner got off to a somewhat rocky start. There was post-work traffic getting to Old Town, and even though Chris dropped me off while he looked for parking, I walked in the door ten minutes late. Then, the hostesses couldn’t find our reservation… which actually wasn’t too surprising since Chris’s phone conversation with them the previous week had been a little concerning. (He had to repeat himself a few times, and then was passed off to another person, etc.) I did find out that Hank’s only takes reservations twice a year—on Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve. I suppose they just aren’t fully in the reservation rhythm.
The hostesses were extremely kind though, and found a table for us right away. We sat down, and immediately were served a little bowl of Pepperidge Farm goldfish. Very fun substitute for bread! We looked at the menu, and started to get a little worried when we didn’t see the Valentine’s Day special that was advertised on their website (a lobster and oyster combo). Our fears were confirmed when our waiter appeared and informed us that the deal we saw was only going on at the Dupont location. I don’t think this was clear on the website, but the waiter was very nice, and did recommend the lobster risotto as a great way to get our lobster fix. I was also glad to hear that they were still recognizing our Scoutmob $15 off deal on Valentine’s Day.
With all preliminary obstacles out of the way, we settled into the easy-going environment of the back room, which was rustic, casual, and really almost boat-like. The front room was low-lit and quieter; the back room, however, was brighter and louder. Everyone in the restaurant was dressed down, and the lively, bustling atmosphere around us made it easy to chat earnestly without being overheard.
Chris & I started off with some Prosecco. It was Valentine’s Day, after all, and therefore a fun occasion for something bubbly! Next, we ordered a sampler of 12 oysters from 6 different regions: The Pacific Bay in Washington, the North Bay in Washington, Pickering Pass in Washington, Blue Points in New York, Shooting Point in Virginia, and Chincoteague in Virginia. We are hardly oyster connoisseurs, and found ourselves describing the differences with phrases like “This one tastes less like the ocean more than the other one” and “That went down a little easier.” We did enjoy the Virginia oysters in particular!
Since our hearts had been set on lobster, we went for the waiter’s recommendation of the Lobster Risotto. First of all, as you can see, the display was very fun and somewhat life-like! The risotto itself was adorned with a creamy lobster sauce, in addition to generous hunks of lobster meat on top. The sauced risotto achieved the perfect lobster taste, but I think the highlight of the dish was being able to eat large pieces of lobster meat without having to work for them!
We shared the risotto, and though it was pretty filling, we ordered half a dozen fried oysters to finish off the meal. A lobster meal book-ended with oysters… perfect! Now I want to try Pearl Dive Oyster Bar at some point, as it’s been getting a lot of coverage from some local Internet foodies I follow, and as it is now a Top 100 spot. Our time at Hank’s Oyster Bar was a great experience, and I’ll also be excited to visit the Dupont location sometime in the future as well.