Everything about Chef Geoff‘s new establishment, Hank’s Tavern & Eats in Hyattsville’s University Town Center,seems designed to ease a Boomer’s pain during the economic downturn. The space is homey, almost too homey for a restaurant. It feels like a rec room with all those TVs and that easy-to-clean carpet. The music is a non-stop assault of classic rock: The Moody Blues, Neil Young, the Beatles, Foreigner, and the like. You half expect to find a Barcalounger and a used bong in the main dining room.
The menu is also built for comfort, mostly sandwiches, salads, burgers, and a few reasonably priced entrees. There’s even a 33-ounce beer stein, priced around $10, to help raise your spirits even as your stocks plummet. But the thing that really caught my eye was the side of barbecued potato chips. The kitchen makes them in house.
The chips are nestled in a paper cone, which itself rests on a metal stand. The thin fried rounds sport nice little air pockets, and the chips crackle loudly when you bite into them. The sound alone is very satisfying. But the most surprising thing about this housemade snack is its flavor, which is decidedly sweet, not hot, as you’d expected from barbecued chips. I asked my server about this, and she reported that the kitchen sprinkles two types of sugar on the chips.
I wouldn’t go so far to say that the sweetness ruins the chips, but it does go against your expectations. I’m looking to irritate my tongue. Hank’s, for reasons I don’t understand, wants to soothe it. After all, even mass-produced barbecue potato chips feature more heat than sweet; for once, Chef Geoff has the marketplace’s clear permission to burn up our palates. But even here, the good chef opts to play it safe. He may be the most trustworthy neighborhood restaurateur in D.C., but when it comes to barbecued chips, I’m not looking for Ned Flanders.