When we heard that Chef Jamie Leeds was selling CommonWealth Gastropub in Columbia Heights to focus on an expansion of her original Hank’s Oyster Bar, our thoughts turned to the only one of her restaurants unaffected by the news: the second Hank’s in Alexandria.  While there are some restaurants we haven’t written about because we don’t have many nice things to say, our silence regarding Hank’s is more a reflection on its role as a solid go-to for oysters, seafood and even brunch in Old Town.  We rarely plan our visits, so we don’t tend to have a camera with us when we stop in for a bite.

Now you know we love good oysters.  You’ve heard us tell the tales of Oyster Riots passed, and we shared our love of the oyster happy hour at Johnny’s Half Shell years ago.  So you can understand at least part of the reason we’re happy to keep coming back to Hank’s.  But the menu, with its daily specials and its emphasis on classic preparations of fish and seafood, has offered us plenty of reasons to visit beyond a few briny morsels every now and then.

A few of our favorite things from the sea after the jump.

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In between last year’s Burger Bracket and this year’s Cupcake Cup, Washingtonian’s Best Bites Blog put together something they called the Pizza Pool.  They pit thirty-two DC-area restaurants who serve up pizza as one of their main menu items against one another.  The goal?  Settle once and for all the question of who’s got the best slice (jumbo or otherwise) in Washington.

As you might expect, their brackets didn’t exactly put the question to bed.  Like always in these online ballots, the establishments with the biggest email lists (usually the most corporate competitors) and the folks with the most rabid following tended to overshadow those who simply turn out quality pizza without the fanfare.  And it’s a pretty safe bet that most people who voted didn’t bother to go out and sample every competitor before picking their winner.

But I digress.  Regardless of who ultimately won the Pizza Pool (it was Flippin’ Pizza, by the way), questions of ultimate pizza mastery remain.  And for those of us in Alexandria, they’re going to get a lot harder to answer in the next year.

After 27 years, Bugsy’s is about to get some real competition on King Street. (more…)

Click on the image to go to our Google map that locates every restaurant participating in Alexandria's Second Annual Restaurant Week.

By now, you’re probably enjoying the fruits of your diligent preparation – passing by the lesser Restaurant Week participants with a self-satisfied smile as you settle in for some of the best $35.10 meals Washington has to offer.  If only it didn’t have to end, right?

Good news – it doesn’t.  At least not for another week or so!  As they did last year, Alexandria restaurants have joined forces to put on their very own version of Restaurant Week.  From this Friday until the following Sunday, more than 50 Alexandria establishments will be offering one of three deals:

  • $35 prix-fixe dinners
  • $35 dinners for two
  • $3.50 sweet treats

We’ve put together a map that lists all of the participants, like we do for DC Restaurant Week.  After the jump, a few thoughts about taking full advantage. (more…)

In a neighborhood flattened by foot traffic, a new restaurant with an accessible menu is always going to be a welcome addition. At the Columbia Firehouse, the latest installment from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (who also brought Rustico and Tallulah to grateful NoVA neighborhoods), delivering elevated but recognizable food in a friendly setting is what they do best.

IMG_8971This decree was apparent when Mike and I arrived to meet my parents who were not only seated but already enjoying a steaming bowl of mussels they spotted on the menu and just couldn’t wait to try. Their instincts were spot on: the juicy, briny mussels were served with a generous helping of thick cut bacon, arugula, and oven-dried tomatoes, a dish that pushes you long past any “just one taste” intentions. The broth was rich, complex, and buttery; the kind that makes you ask for extra bread to mop up all the flavor. Be careful of this bread by the way. It looks innocent but with a crust bathed in salt and butter, it’s far too easy to suddenly inhale it. In no time Mike and I were licking stray broth from our fingertips and thinking bashfully about opening the menu for our actual orders. 

We were helped along by our criminally adorable waitress Erim, who guided us with cheer. We swayed between the cornmeal crusted oysters and blue-crab hush puppies before deciding on the ‘pups.  Arriving piping hot with a crispy golden crust, the hush puppies were rich on the inside and complemented nicely by a dollop of savory pepper mustard. IMG_8974

The slow-roasted Amish chicken “is actually Amish,” Erim assured my father in her uncannily Bart Simpson-like voice, “from a farm in Pennsylvania.” In just the few weeks since the restaurant opened, the chicken quickly rose to most popular dish status.  This is not a meal for a shrinking appetite. The portion is generous, served with a leg, thigh, and a breast, alongside a healthy side of cornbread stuffing and andouille sausage: a citified country comfort meal.

I couldn’t resist another order of mussels, this time going for a kettle with tasso ham, red-pepper flakes, garlic, and lager. With ingredients like that, how could it be wrong? Although the broth was a touch thinner (my fault: I asked the kitchen to scale back on butter this time) the flavors still came alive with a rich, deep zest. 

More food and dessert after the jump! (more…)