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Dining review: Hank’s does barbecue the right way

By Cloe Cabrera
Published: December 26, 2013
Hank's Catfish and BBQ with collard greens and cheese grits. JIM REED/STAFF

The hind of a swine welcomes you to Hank’s restaurant — that and the mouth-watering scent of barbecue.

Like its motto, “Hank’s is a place to hang your hat and lick your fingers,” so don’t expect anything fancy.

The room has a warm, welcoming vibe with a smattering of picnic tables and benches and some high-top tables.

It’s a comfy place where barbecue is the main event.

You order at the counter, pay your tab and wait for your meal to arrive.

The crew is friendly and efficient, and the food arrives quickly.

At your table, you can choose from an array of sauces. We liked the house barbecue sauce that balanced sweetness with the right amount of tang and a mustardy version.

To get things started, we launched into the Swamp Basket: Gator tail, catfish nuggets and clam strips with some hush puppies thrown in for good measure. It all comes served atop a bed of fries with a terrific Cajun horseradish dipping sauce. The sauce offered just the right bite to contrast nicely with the fried goodness of the platter. We all agreed this would make a great bar meal while watching a game.

Hank’s Corn Sausage Chowder also was a good choice to begin our meal. It was thick and had potatoes, bacon and nice chucks of sausage.

For an entree, Hank’s pulled-pork shoulder was pure oinkster goodness. The mouth-watering chunks of lusciously moist pulled pork quickly disappeared from our plates.

Hank’s smoked brisket also got everyone’s nod of approval. It was fork tender and not overdone, with just enough fat to give it a nice chew.

The smoked chicken arrived with a flattering mahogany skin. The dark meat was moist with a nice smoky flavor throughout. The restaurant doesn’t offer white meat.

We also enjoyed the smoked country sausage, though we wish the thick links would have been better cooked and packed a little more of a punch. We had to reach for the sauce on this one.

Spare-rib fans will go hog wild with the ribs, which are available in half and whole slabs. The ribs were meaty and tender and easy to strip off the bone, though one of my dining companions said his was little dry and doused it with barbecue sauce.

Hank’s offers fried chicken, shrimp and of course, catfish. The fried chicken and shrimp weren’t particularly memorable (this is a barbecue restaurant). But the catfish was delicious. The filets were lightly dusted with a cornmeal breading that didn’t overwhelm the taste of the fish. Hank’s also serves a steak burger with all the fixin’s that would give most specialty hamburger joints a run for their money.

Because a diner can’t live by meat alone, entrees come with a choice of two sides.

You can’t go wrong with the chunky potato salad, the rich and creamy mac and cheese, the Southern goodness of the cheese grits or the thick, smoked baked beans. We liked the collards, though we all agreed they could have used a bit more seasoning.

We can’t say enough about Hank’s hush puppies. The golf-ball sized pups are made-from-scratch, lightly fried and oh-so airy and delicious. Ditto for the not overly-sweet corn bread, onion rings and sweet iced tea.

Cobbler or pie is a natural for dessert after an all-American meal of barbecue. But on both our visits we were disappointed as they were out of cobbler (we’ll have to try again). A piece of bread pudding was hard and crumbly and a slice of coconut cake was nothing special. We ordered more hush-puppies instead.

But Hank’s is about the barbecue and that didn’t disappoint.