Hank’s Seafood Restaurant

Downtown. 10 Hayne St. 723-3474

Hank’s Seafood Restaurant is the perfect embodiment of compromise — on one hand you have sophisticated specialties like ceviche, carpaccio, and tuna tartare. On the other, you have fried seafood platters, crabcakes, and the ubiquitious shrimp and grits. In between, you have extensive raw bar selections and massive seafood towers.

Chef Frank McMahon remembers hammering out the menu with restaurateur Hank Holliday and Chef Robert Carter back before they opened in 1999. Holliday’s concept was to revisit the old classic Charleston seafood restaurant once embodied by Henry’s, where locals went for fried seafood platters and dishes like curried shrimp and seafood a la Wando. McMahon, a chef with contemporary sensibilities, wanted a more modern approach — seared scallops, tartare, and the like. Luckily they had Carter at the table, a chef perfectly capable of dancing that fine line between art and commerce. The three settled on a menu that appeals to pretty much anyone who walks through the door — from serious shellfish lovers to picky nonseafood eaters.

As McMahon puts it, “We both agreed and both gave way. We ended up right in the middle. You can come in here and be comfortable whether you’re in shorts and a T-shirt or a tuxedo.”

As Holliday remembers, at the time Charleston had only a handful of seafood restaurants and the number one question asked by guests at his hotels was, “Where can we get seafood?” Rather than send them to Hyman’s or A.W. Shuck’s, Holliday decided to create a destination for them. And boy, did he. The rich, wood paneling, the massive community table, the bustling bar — is there really a better place for seafood? Our readers don’t think so. Hank’s has won this designation every year since it opened in 1999, a testament to its perfect fit with Charleston, appealing to both locals and visitors looking for some fine seafood.

Chef Frank McMahon happily shares his recipe for Charleston’s best She-Crab Soup.

She-Crab Soup

1 c. celery chopped

2 c. onion chopped

1 tsp. garlic chopped

1 c. butter

1 c. white wine

2 c. dry sherry wine

Dash Tabasco

1 c. flour

1 1⁄2 qts. crab stock

2 qts. heavy cream

1 tsp. crab roe

salt and white pepper to taste

garnish with crab meat

Sauté chopped vegetables and garlic in butter in a large pot. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Add sherry and white wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and sift in flour. Continue to cook for approximately three minutes, and then add in the crab stock, cream, and Tabasco. Simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours, being careful not to scorch. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. When finished add crab roe and adjust with sherry if needed. Then puree the soup until a velvety texture is reached. Garnish with crabmeat. Yields one gallon.