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by Taylor Shelby
Charleston, South Carolina
April 23, 2005
Just from the exterior you can tell it is a neat place. The sign is painted on, and there are a couple of little ad-like spaces around the entrance. It feels very 1940s, with the style and the patina of the paint being in less than perfect condition. Walking in, the old style is kept up. The restaurant is one big room, with high ceilings held up by distressed cast-iron columns and magnificent dark-wood beams. The floors are huge antique heart-pine boards that were salvaged from the old high school. The bar stretches almost the length of the restaurant and is beautifully appointed. One side of the dining area even has those crescent-shaped booths. It’s very Old-Hollywood.
Hank’s is one of those places where you look at the menu, then look again, then look one more time, until the waiter is finally hovering around. Everything looked so wonderful. I was torn between about six different entrées. To appease myself, I got an appetizer of crispy fried shrimp and calamari ($8). I ordered it for the calamari, which was excellent, but the shrimp was some of the best I have ever eaten. It was lightly battered, slightly spicy, and perfectly cooked. For the main course, I had a big, heaping bowl of bouillabaisse ($22). I had been waiting to try this for ages, and this seemed like as good a time as any. WHAT HAVE I BEEN MISSING??!! I was so good, I almost cried. I could have bathed in it!! It was overflowing with steamed clams, oysters, mussels, shrimp, scallops, and a big hunk of crab meat. The broth was perfection. It was indescribable.
My parents both had combo plates with fried oysters, crumb-fried shrimp, and crab cakes ($18). They are served with these wonderful sweet-potato chip-like things. They sound weird, but were wonderful. They both said everything was great. For dessert, we had a slice of peanut butter pie ($6), which was so rich, I had to take it home and eat it in waves.
So the food is great, but it is served in a setting that is not only beautiful but comfortable. The place is lavish and luxurious, but somehow also manages to be laid-back and casual. We were wearing jeans and the people next to us were wearing suits, but everyone was fine with it. It is unusual to find somewhere like this in Charleston, so I certainly suggest you try it. I can’t imagine you will be disappointed.
From journal Ahhh, Gluttony. A guide to dinner in Charleston
by smmmarti guide
April 9, 2002
We had a short wait at the long, saloon style bar where some happy customers were being served their "raw bar" selections along with drinks. The dining room is very large and all on one level giving a sort of community gathering house feel to the place albeit its general upscale ambiance. The decor is quite simple yet warm and comfortable, suggesting that the focus here was essentially on the seafood being served.
Before we even had time to toast our chardonnays, we were escorted to a great table at the front window facing the City Market’s lively street scene. The dozen or so crispy little fritters that our server placed at our table were gone faster than either of us could have possibly eaten them. (That ghost must have tailed us in here.) But the fish, and local style fish at that, is the reason to come to Hanks’. Start with the richest oyster stew imaginable, a butter and cream bath for the bivalves, or perhaps a steaming bowl of mussels in the shell, as we did. Take your time and move on to the main event; a grilled seafood platter featuring shrimp, crabcake, flounder and scallops and that unique Charleston gold rice. Here you can have your fill (and more!) of what is meant by lowcountry style seafood dining. It’s rich and filling and wonderful.
My husband ordered the seared ahi and though he had been absolutely thrilled with his appetizer portion of steamed mussels (the best, he exclaimed) he was a bit disappointed with the tuna saying it was only "okay." Luckily, my heaping platter had enough on it for both of us and I graciously shared, but only after giving him the old, "when in Rome" lecture about the value of ordering the regional specialties when you go to a regional restaurant.
I offer the same advise to readers here. Stick with the local preparations of locally caught seafood and you will be happy as a clam with your visit to Hank’s.
From journal Charleston Charms
December 19, 2000
From journal Charleston - a truly southern city