If there was one common complaint about Hank’s Oyster Bar, Chef Jamie Leeds’ “urban beach food” venue, it was that there just wasn’t enough room.  Regulars and first-timers alike would often find the small space, located in a Q Street townhouse near Dupont Circle, filled to capacity (capacity being 65 or so) from happy hour to closing time.  Six years later, Hank’s is all growed up.

Yesterday evening marked the opening of Hank’s new Lounge, next door to (and incorporating) the original space.  With this welcome expansion, Hank’s has effectively doubled its indoor seating capacity.  An outdoor patio allows for another 40 diners, which means they’ll be doing a whole lot of additional shucking at the raw bar.

Fortunately, they’ve expanded that, too.  The bar that used to serve Hank’s has been stripped of its beer taps and will now serve as the raw bar.  The best part?  They’ve kept the bar seating there, giving a lucky few a ringside seat to watch the shuckers work their magic.

More on the new layout, including some nautically inspired new rooms and a look at some new food items (can you say “never-before-seen oyster variety?”) after the jump.

 Guests will now enter the double-wide Hank’s via the door to the new space.  No longer will they have to squeeze past the tables at the front of the room to make their way to a coveted table in the back beneath the lanterns and the fish drawings: a host stand will greatly improve the flow of traffic and help to guide you to your table with a minimum of bumping into others.

But where will you sit?  Sure, there’s space right there at the new Corian marble bar, if you’re looking to focus on cocktails and bar snacks.  But there are three additional seating areas you owe it to yourself to check out.

The “Charc” Bar – We had to smile when we heard the name of the space at the top of the first landing.  With a schooner wheel on the wall and a meat slicer behind the counter, this is where Hank’s will turn out slate serving plates piled high with cured meats and cheeses.  Check out that handpainted ceiling and bask in the natural light!

The Yacht Room – It doesn’t get more nautical than this, as the new upstairs dining room is decked out to evoke a ship’s cabin.  The walls are covered with a sparkling vinyl fabric and the mismatched, salvaged chairs have all received a fresh coat of paint that gives them a luxe, vintage look. This space is available for private dining for groups up to 30 people and includes a slick flat-screen TV tucked away behind a chart of the tidal Chesapeake.

The As-Yet-Unnamed Lounge – This may be the best new date venue to open in the Dupont area in years.  Dimly lit, with hexagonal tufted seats and tables that are meant to reference oyster crackers, the lounge is equal parts cozy and chic.  There’s only room for a dozen or so diners, so expect it to fill up quickly most evenings.  And if you’ve got some thoughts on a name, let us know…we’re pulling for “The Grotto.”

Hungry yet?  If so, you’ll want to take a look at the “Bar Snacks” menu to the left.  It’s got some tempting treats from land and sea, including housemade pretzels with a cheese dipping sauce and a tin of specially-sourced smoked oysters served with saltines to enhance their working-man appeal.  We’ve got our eyes on that Bacon Pecan Brittle to start off…or would that be for dessert?

So what about those never-before-seen oysters?  The press release touted the first appearance of “Hayden’s Reef Oysters,” a variety from Nomini Creek, VA, cultivated especially for Chef Leeds.  The low salinity of the area results in a light, sweet flavor that should be popular with oyster virgins and veterans alike.  Bonus Trivia: Hayden’s Reef Oysters are named after Chef Leeds’ son!

With all this delicious new food and drink to take in, we’re looking forward to spending many more nights at Hank’s.  Here’s hoping the extra space will be enough to handle the crowds…

Hank’s Oyster Bar
1624 Q Street, NW
Washington, DC
Hank's Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon