By R. T and L.G.
The Blackwall Hitch…A Modern Interpretation of a Classic Shore Tavern
This month, in the aftermath of the Blizzard of 2016, we decided to make our way through the shoveled walks along the Alexandria waterfront to The Blackwall Hitch restaurant. Only open 7 months, Blackwall is the newest addition to an ever-growing Alexandria waterfront.
The original Blackwall Hitch was opened a few years ago in Eastport, Maryland right across Spa Creek from Annapolis. It became an immediate success joining the collection of first class restaurants and bars in Eastport. Like Eastport, the Alexandria location is a black and white canvas of separate bars and dining rooms. In nice weather there are three different patios over looking the Potomac River, Woodrow Wilson Bridge and National Harbor to the south and the Washington D.C. skyline gazing north. The patio at the main entrance overlooks the City Dock marina. The 450-seat restaurant is named after a sailors knot used as a temporary means of attaching a line to a hook. Made of a simple half hitch over the hook, it will only hold when subjected to constant tension. This knot was used extensively at the seaport town of Blackwall in England.
The interior is divided into separate dining areas, each with their own scheme. The front room with mostly four seat dining, the middle bar area with four seat and high top tables, and the patio side dining room with booths (these are actually very comfortable black leather setees) as well as tables. In nice weather there is an outside bar on the patio. Above the main bar is the “Crows Nest.” There is a smaller bar with about 8 seats and tables as well as plush leather cushions, which adds a bit of luxury to the cocktail hour. The building, which was once the Alexandria Food Pavilion, is glass sided offering a 180-degree view of the river.
We went for a late lunch after the snowstorm. Like the rest of Old Town, business was a little slow. The third dining area near the patio was in use that day, so we selected one of the tables with booth seating. The menu is loaded with inspiring items. There are 12 appetizers to choose from including their signature Shrimp Blackwall, a sautéed shrimp with white wine, garlic and Creole butter and scallions and is served with warm artisan bread. The list goes on to include Zucchini Fritts, Seared Ahi Tuna, Clams in Crazy Water, Fried Green Tomatoes and of course, Oysters on the Half Shell.
They also offer house-made soups…a Maryland Crab with chunks of back fin crab meat, a Butternut Squash & Fennel and the Chef’s Seasonal Soup. I tried the Chef’s special, which was a seafood stew in a rich tomato broth. The presentation was great and the broth was filled with shrimp, clams and mussels. I ordered just a cup of the soup and it was very satisfying. Although the stew was delicious, the inclusion of a seafood fork would have made removal of the mussels and clams from their shells a bit easier and less messy. The stew made me yearn for summer months and the main course whisked me away to the Eastern Shore. On a previous visit we sampled their version of Maryland Crab soup and it is a very good example of what it should be as well. We also ordered the house salad as a test to the freshness of the greens since the place had pretty much been snowed in. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality and found out that the General Manager had shoveled a convenient path for his purveyors that day!
The entrees at The Hitch are numerous and varied ranging from Grilled Australian Lamb Chops, Mahi Mahi Tacos (a chefs favorite), Braised Short Rib, Filet Mignon, Bone-in New York Strip, assorted seafood including Maryland Crab Cakes and Shrimp’n Grits. With the sun shining on a partially frozen Potomac River, I opted for the Chesapeake Steamer Boil, and it hit the spot.
I had my little bit of summer on a winter day right in front of me in this pail of seafood delight. The meal included Snow Crab Legs (not an Eastern Shore item), Bay Scallops, Mussels & Steamer Clams boiled in a Seafood Broth with Corn on the cob, Kielbasa and Red Bliss Potatoes. This is one of those kind of meals where you just sit back and indulge. Everything was wonderful and I wished I had saved a roll to sop up the broth. Eating food this tasty makes you feel like you never fill up, but by the time I got to the end of the meal I couldn’t finish the potatoes. This is a perfect meal on a winter day. My dining companion opted to try the Braised Short Rib and it didn’t disappoint. The rib was very tender and tasty and the small pearl onions added a little different texture to the dish. The carrots were a little be “al dente” for my taste but didn’t detract from the dish. It is a lot of food and we ended up taking some home. It also reheats well!
In addition, Blackwall Hitch offers an assortment of Fire-Roasted flatbreads and burgers and sandwiches. The Braised Short Rib Sandwich is the same beef that you get with the entrée…a good deal. They also offer five different desserts ranging from an Apple Dumpling and Pineapple Upside Down Cake to Vanilla Ice Cream or Raspberry Sorbet. The apple dumpling was our choice during this visit. It was warm and gooey with vanilla ice cream and warm caramel sauce! It was a great way to end the meal.
Blackwall is on the craft cocktail and beer bandwagon like several other establishments in the area so there are numerous choices on that list. They also have a pretty extensive wine list with offerings that are reasonable in price and high in quality. We started out with good old Vodka Gimlets Up and enjoyed a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with dinner. Happy Hour is at the bar during the week from 4-7 and is a good time to sample the starters and drinks at a great price.
Sail on down to the Alexandria Waterfront and dock your body at one of the tables at The Blackwall Hitch and get away from the winter for a few hours. They also have live bands Wednesday through Saturday nights with a Jazz group on Sundays at brunch.
5 Cameron Street
On the Waterfront
Old Town Alexandria