The Oyster Po' Boy at Hank’s Oyster Bar. (Renee Comet/For the Washington Post; styling by Bonnie S. Benwick)

The fried oyster sandwich served at Hank’s Oyster Bar in the District and Alexandria is not a by-the-book rendition of what you’ll find in New Orleans — and it might be all the better for it. The chefs line a toasted, buttered brioche bun with watercress and serve a zippy coleslaw and piquant tartar sauce alongside. The seafood’s clearly the star: crunchy, juicy, surprisingly easy to re-create, and just the thing to tuck into on a cool afternoon.

Hank’s Oyster Po’ Boy

4 servings

Italian “00” flour is a soft, white flour that is highly refined, and available at larger grocery stores and Italian markets.


For the coleslaw

1/2 large green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced

1/4 small red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced

1 small carrot, scrubbed well then cut into matchsticks (julienne)

1/3 cup plain rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3/4 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

1 tablespoon prepared (white) horseradish

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the sandwich

6 to 8 cups vegetable oil or peanut oil

2 cups "00" flour (see headnote)

24 freshly shucked oysters, drained (from a 1-pound jar)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 brioche lobster-style (split-top) brioche buns)

About 1 cup homemade or store-bought tartar sauce

About 3 ounces watercress, rinsed well and patted dry


For the coleslaw: Combine the green and red cabbage and the carrot in a large mixing bowl.

Whisk together the rice wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, Dijon-style and whole-grain mustards, the horseradish, celery seed, sugar and salt in liquid measuring cup, until emulsified, then pour over the cabbage mixture. Toss to coat evenly; let sit at room temperature for 2 hours or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Toss again just before serving.

For the sandwich: Heat the oil in a large, deep pot over medium-high heat, to 375 degrees. Place a wire cooling rack atop a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Place the “00” flour in a mixing bowl, then add half the drained oysters and toss lightly to coat. Use your hands to lift out each one, shaking off excess flour while checking to make sure it’s evenly and completely coated. Carefully lower a few at a time into the hot oil; cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or just until craggy and golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining oysters; discard any unused flour.

Spread the insides of the buns with the butter. Open the buns to spread them buttered sides down in a medium nonstick skillet; toast over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until golden.

When ready to serve, place a toasted, butter bun, right side up, on each plate. Spread a small dollop of tartar on the inside of each bun, then line each one sparingly with the watercress. Nestle about 6 fried oysters in sandwich. Serve right away.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick; e-mail questions to

From Theary So, chef de cuisine at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont Circle.

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