By G & T
Hank’s Pasta Bar
Rustic Chic Italian In Old Town Alexandria
With the temps beginning to cool and the introduction of their new fall menu, we decided to go to Hank’s Pasta Bar in Old Town for this months restaurant showcase. Having opened in February of 2016, Hank’s has made an impact in north Old Town. I am sure that you have heard of Hank’s Oyster bar. Like the Pasta Bar, the Hank’s legacy of restaurants is through the efforts of founder, owner and chef, Jamie Leeds. Hank was her father, who she credits as her inspiration for becoming a chef.
Hank’s Pasta Bar is a rustic seasonally driven Italian restaurant in north Old Town. They feature hand-made pasta made fresh every day, cheese & charcuterie, fine wines, craft cocktails and draft beers. It is a warm and comfortable environment with the well stocked bar welcoming you as you enter the room. There are a few high tops adjoining the bar and a medium sized dining area beyond. There is also a second room for over flow crowds or for special gatherings. The place has a lot of energy.
While the Hank’s Oyster Bars greet you with a dish of “goldfish” snacks, the Pasta Bar starts you out with savory Italian snacks. We love a gimmick and this is a good one.
We were lucky on our visit because the new fall menu had just been released that day.
The menu at Hank’s Pasta is pretty much “just right”. There are creative items – think Chic – mixed with traditional items – think Rustic – in all sections of the menu and it isn’t overwhelming with too many choices. We won’t bore you with the details since you can check out the entire menu online. As an example, there are a number of starters including Antipasti Boards, Crostini and Grilled Flatbread. Small plates start at $8.00 and range from Tomato Gazpacho and Grilled Octopus to Meatballs made of lamb, beef, veal and pork. I have a friend who makes a dish like this so I decided to try the Meatballs. This dish consists of meatballs in a very thick and savory marinara. The combination of meats was very delicious leaving me wishing I had ordered more. We also had the tomato bruschetta featured on the Crostini menu and that didn’t disappoint. You can taste the “fresh” in all of the ingredients.
For the main course I ordered one of their new seasonal entrees…pan seared scallops and lentils… puy lentils, shallots, olive oil, white wine, thyme butter basil oil, garlic and parsley. To my mind, scallops are difficult to cook just right. You need to sear enough to create a little firmness with the scallop but not under cook where it is flabby. They hit it just right. Seared to just beyond a golden brown and serving a firm and tasty mollusk. The usual sweetness of the scallop was well balanced by the flavor of the lentils and made for a very enjoyable combination. Lasagna had been on my dining pals mind all day so that was her choice before we even sat down. Consisting of layers of homemade lasagna noodles, beef Bolognese, ricotta, pecorino romano, besciamella cheeses topped with marinara and a dusting of parmesan, this was a big hit. The portion is quite hearty and she wanted to save room for some dessert so I enjoyed the left overs a couple days later. It was as good the second time around as it was the first.
The combination of the meatballs and scallops were just enough to fill me up without feeling like I had over eaten. Other additions to the fall menu include oven roasted fresh catch, grilled shrimp and polenta, oven roasted chicken, a New York strip steak and rosemary grilled lamb chops. There is also a Hank’s autumn vegetable plate available. Everything but the steak is under $30.00.
We would be remiss if we didn’t admit that we had to order dessert after we found out Jamie has a special recipe for her Key Lime pie. It was over the top good. We both like a good graham cracker crust (yes we have had bad graham cracker crust) and really tart filling and her version is right on target!
Hank’s also offers Family Style dining that features their signature pastas. This is a great way for a group to enjoy “a little of this and a little of that”. You have your choice three, four or five pastas depending on the size of your table.
If you are a Happy Hour kind of person, it takes place every day from 4-7 and you can even reserve a table for your group and arrange for personalized eats and drinks. For some even bigger fun, Hank’s Pasta hosts Drag Queen Brunch the third Saturday of every month. This is a must see! We both love a good brunch and when you add some fabulously outrageous Drag Queens to the menu it doesn’t get much better! They have two seatings, so it is best to call and make reservations. Be sure to take your sense of humor and be prepared to laugh until you cry!
This piece just touches on some of the gastronomic experiences you can have at the Pasta Bar. See their ad in this section for hours. They are only open for dinner during week with brunch served on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you haven’t visited them yet, put it on your dining out list this month. Mangia!
Hank’s Pasta Bar
600 Montgomery Street