Friday, January 13, 2012

Hanks Seafood Restaurant: In The Tradition of Charleston's Fish Houses

Whenever we host out-of-town guests at Hotel de Hammond a night out dining on local seafood is ALWAYS on the itinerary. I guess when you live near the coast and fresh local seafood is readily available and an option for dinner every night, you don’t realize the attraction of good, fresh seafood. I am a big seafood fan, but I have become somewhat picky over my seafood though. In a similar fashion to when I lived in the mountains smack dab in the middle of snow skiing country, I only got real excited about hitting the slopes on days with perfect conditions; I tend to prefer authentic local seafood now to the frozen stuff served in many restaurants as “fresh” seafood. As acknowledged, we are blessed to be spoiled living here in Charleston. It is quite possible to enjoy seafood for dinner that had its breakfast in the water earlier in the day. Accordingly, there are scores of good restaurants serving good seafood in Charleston; however, there are only a handful of great restaurants serving great seafood. Hanks Seafood Restaurant located overlooking the Market at the corner of Church and Hayne Streets is one of those “great seafood restaurants.”

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So, what allows Hanks to distinguish itself from the dozens of other good seafood restaurants in the Lowcountry? Well for me, it’s not just the freshest local seafood, although that is certainly compulsory to being a great seafood restaurant.

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Another part of what sets Hanks apart is an ingredient not possessed by any other Charleston restaurant, Chef Frank McMahon, a native of Limerick, Ireland of course. McMahon has the pedigree that you would expect. He is an honor grad of the Culinary Institute of America in New York and has former stints in world renowned restaurants in New York City and Los Angeles on his resume. But it is not just his reputation and resume that allows Hanks to rise to the top.
It has more to do with Chef McMahon’s creative use of local seafood to offer exquisitely prepared gourmet versions of Lowcountry seafood favorites dating back to the genesis of Charleston’s famous fish houses of the early twentieth century.

In fact, Hanks Seafood Restaurant doesn’t just pay homage to the heritage of Charleston’s fish markets and fish houses through the genius of McMahon’s menu planning, the atmosphere at Hanks owes itself to its location in a 1900’s warehouse building turned restaurant thanks to a design created by the design firm responsible for many popular New York City restaurants like The Modern, and Gramercy Tavern as well as being involved with the makeover of New York City’s Grand Hyatt. Upon entering Hanks be prepared for a delightful “wow” experience thanks to the use of mahogany, hand-blown glass windows and pine plank floors, can you say rich interior? But it’s not just the bricks and mortar that create the unique atmosphere for your dining experience at Hanks Seafood Restaurant. No, it’s much more than that. It’s the detail that Hanks puts into making your night out an individualized experience, and in a town that is packed with thousands of tourists that is a quality that resonates loudly with local patrons. You don’t have to look any further than the “community table” at Hanks. The community table is a wonderfully unique idea for a busy restaurant. It allows you to walk in off the street by yourself, without reservations and join other like diners at a community style long table, after all, who wants to eat alone?

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Hanks is well worth it at any price, but thanks to Charleston Restaurant Week, you can enjoy a gold standard gourmet three-course-meal created by an acclaimed chef for just $40.00. My tab for the night at Hanks will look sort of like this: for starters, I can’t pass up the Charleston She Crab Soup. Hanks does it good, as good as I have ever tasted in fact. The soup will lead into the main course quite adequately. For me, it’s going to be the seafood platter #1, a generous serving of fried grouper filet, crumb fried shrimp, French fried sweet potatoes and of course, southern coleslaw. Keep in mind; we are not talking Captain Long John here. As you know, I always save a little bit of room for desert, you will too at Hanks during CRW because the entire Hanks desert menu is available for you to choose from as part of your 3 for $40 deal. Immediately, I see pecan pie but just at the last moment, something else catches my eye. My decision is made as soon as I see the word “Signature” in front of a menu item, as in Signature Pie, chock full of bananas, drizzled with caramel and chocolate sauces. Yep, for me tonight, it’s Hank’s Banana Cream Pie, but of course.

Don’t miss out on Hanks Seafood Restaurant during Charleston Restaurant Week, but if you can’t make it to town this week, make sure that your next visit to the Land of Palm Trees includes a trip to Hanks. Your senses will thank you.

Don’t forget the great giveaway we are providing for the rest of January. You could win a one-year subscription to AZALEA Magazine just by commenting on this post at the bottom of the post or by choosing to follow From The Land of Palm Trees on Twitter (Doug@landofpalmtrees). AZALEA is a great magazine that captures the charm and essence of life in a small southern town. Don’t miss out on the opportunity. To visit AZALEA click the link to the right of this post near the top of From The Land of Palm Trees.

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