Blackwall Hitch Serves Seafood Surfside
Located in the long-vacant Torpedo Factory Food Pavilion, http://theblackwallhitch.com/alexandria/ Blackwall Hitch, 5 Cameron St. in Old Town Alexandria, is getting ready to celebrate its first anniversary in June.
Named after a sailor’s knot used to tie boats from England to shore in the 1800s, the glass-enclosed restaurant has two outdoor patios – the front for watching people and the water taxis and the back with stunning views of the Potomac River – the 10,000-square foot restaurant serves new American cuisine with influences from the Chesapeake Bay and seats over 500 people.
The inside has an upscale look with a nautical twist. Decked out with quartz flooring in the foyer, cedar-wrapped walls, antique chairs, leather sofas and armchairs, wood tables, reclaimed and restored elements and replica Edison lighting along with a black and white color scheme with a pop of turquoise provided by the blue sea glass Mason jars. The banquettes are tufted leather love seats.
Downstairs, there are two dining rooms with 30-foot ceiling framed by exposed beams, a lounge and bar area with live music Wednesday through Sunday, a private dining room and an oyster bar that offers fresh-shucked bi-valves, in addition to the two outdoor patios. The “Crows Nest” bar upstairs offers comfy leather sofas and a view of passing boats.
The biggest draw may be the rear patio directly overlooking the water, outfitted with lounge seating, fire pits and a bar pouring orange crushes, Moscow mules, sangria and other warm weather drinks. The view includes National Harbor and its Capital Wheel on the opposite shore.
Chef Michael Wagner’s seasonal all-day menu follows watery suit, filled with crab cakes, soft shell crabs (as an entrée or sandwich) and steamed mussels, crab and shrimp-topped flatbreads and fish and chips. But don’t worry carnivores, you aren’t left out. Pork osso bucco, filet mignon and a bone-in New York strip steak along with burgers can quell a meat craving.
During a recent visit, I went crab crazy ordering a cup of the Maryland crab soup with garden vegetables in the traditional tomato broth ($7), shard the Chesapeake flatbread ($16) with sweet claw crab meat, grilled chicken breast, red and yellow tomatoes, a five cheese blend, basil oil and Old Bay with a friend, and the Maryland crab cakes ($35) – two jumbo lump crab cakes with roasted corn salsa, cherry pepper remoulade and rosemary fries.
The crab cakes were delicious, made with large pieces of crab meat and very little filler. Definitely some of the better crab cakes I’ve had outside of Baltimore or the beach and definitely the best in the DMV although bit on the small side. The roasted corn salsa was a surprise favorite. I could have eaten a whole bowl of it by itself. While I prefer cream of crab soup over Maryland, the soup was also delicious and something I’d order again on a return visit. The flatbread was OK. There were too many flavors fighting to be the star of the dish and neither the crab or shrimp flavors stood out. I think the next time, I’ll order the filet flatbread with filet mignon, caramelized onions, gorgonzola cheese, EVOO and fresh Italian parsley that I’ve heard others rave about.
My friend ordered the flaming saganaki ($16) with kefalograveiera cheese flambéed tableside and served with pita for his appetizer and the soft shell crabs (market price) dusted in Old Bay and served with chayote squash salad and lime butter sauce.
The cheese was set aflame at the table and had just the right mix of crispy where it touched the cast iron skillet and creamy on top. The soft shells were very tasty and our first of the year, although they could have been a tad crispier. And remember, you need to visit soon if you want the soft shell crabs since the season is short and they’ll probably be gone by July.
We also ordered the herb pearl couscous, which was a winner, and the roasted Brussels sprouts, which could have been crispier. I like mine with some charred leaves to go with the green insides.
Dessert was the low point of the night after having such great appetizers and entrees. The selection is a bit uninspiring. The restaurant doesn’t have a pastry chef, so Wagner has to do double duty. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a cot in the kitchen to sleep on between making the desserts and cooking the meals.
I ordered the monkey bread ($9), which looked like balls of dough baked together and covered in gooey cinnamon. My friend ordered the Key Lime panna cotta ($9) served with strawberry sauce and toasted almonds. It was very tasty, but had gobs of gelatin in it that you could definitely feel as you ate it.
Prices are a bit high, but then you’re paying for waterfront dining. Soups are $7 for a cup and $9 for a bowl; starter salads are $8-$14; entrée salads are $12-$22; appetizers are $9-$17; flatbreads are $13-$16; burgers and sandwiches are $15-market price; entrées are $20-market price; sides are $6; desserts are $6-$9 and chocolate truffles are $2.50 each.
The bar program includes craft beers, international wine and specialty cocktails. Cocktails are $12-$13; and wine is $8-$14 by the glass and $28-$395 by the bottle. There are 18 craft beers of tap including many locals priced at $7 along with But Lite and Yuengling Traditional Lager both priced at $5.50, and 10 beers in bottles priced from $4.75-$6.
Blackwall Hitch has another location on the water in Annapolis and a third will open this year at 52 Rehoboth St., about two blocks from the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. Mid-States Management Group, which owns the restaurant, also owns Green Turtle restaurants in Annapolis and Pasadena, Md., and another in Old Town Fairfax along with several Roy Rogers restaurants and J. Kings Steak and Seafood in Gambrills, Md.
This is definitely a good restaurant for date night, to celebrate a birthday with friends or to enjoy a casual summer evening on the patio listening to river. Blackwall Hitch is open from 10 a.m. -10 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.-midnight Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Jazz brunch is served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.