There is nothing
like the first stop of the summer season at your favorite seafood shack on the way home from the beach. For Rhode Islanders, clam cakes and chowder are as characteristic of summer as Del’s lemonade and bodysurfing at Narragansett Town Beach. Once August arrives, however, you may no longer crave fried seafood. So how about some barbecue? That sounds better, but is there a place to stop and get barbecue by the beach? I’m here to tell you there is barbecue by the beach, and it offers a great view of the harbor. Hank’s Down South
is located in Galilee, and if you’re a fan of barbecue, you need to pay them a visit.
Amy Mason opened Hank’s Down South in 2013, and although the restaurant is slightly off the beaten path, it’s easy to find. It’s located on the second floor of 33 State Street, which provides excellent views of both the harbor and Great Island. The inside has a comforting rustic charm, while the outside deck is filled with Adirondack chairs that face the harbor and entice you to sit with a drink and stay for a long while. The restaurant is named after Amy’s dog, Hank, who can be seen holding court at the restaurant along with his brother, Georgie. The deck is decidedly dog friendly and provides water bowls to all canine customers.
On a gorgeous southern Rhode Island summer day I grabbed my barbecue loving friend, and we made the trip to Hank’s. Everyone we talked to that day looked at us quizzically when we said we were going to Galilee for barbecue. Even the owner, who was tending bar, greeted us by asking, “Are you here for lunch? You do know this is a barbecue restaurant, right?” We did know, and we both love barbecue, so we were ready. The beautiful summer day deserved a cocktail, so we had a great time perusing the menus. One was exclusively filled with bourbon drinks, which suited me just fine. I had a Bourbon Back ($8) – Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Goslings Ginger Beer and muddled lime. It was refreshing, delicious and a top shelf bargain. My friend got the Lazy Lizard ($9), more for the name than the ingredients, but ended up loving the mix of fruit juices, Absolut Citron Vodka, Peach Schnapps, triple sec and Midori. The drinks were served in mason jars that fit perfectly with the restaurant’s rustic charm. The bar also featured one of my favorite local to love about Southern food, and although barbecue is a big part of the menu, Hank’s has even more to offer. For starters, there are Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers ($6), Fried Pickle Chips ($6) and King Size Beer Battered Onion Rings ($6). My friend and I liked the idea of Smoked Jumbo Chicken Wings ($9), so we started with an order of those. I love smoked chicken wings, and these were made even better with a duo of house-made sauces: a sweet molasses and a spicy buffalo. We both preferred the buffalo sauce because we like things a little spicy, but the molasses sauce was also delicious. Luckily Hank’s keeps a roll of paper towels on each table because the wings were a bit messy (in a good way).
The smoker at Hank’s has its hands full with Amy’s full array of smoked meats. She smokes the usual suspects – ribs, pork, brisket and turkey. Yet one curveball Amy throws onto the menu is her Smoked Fried Bologna Sandwich ($8). Curious about both the brisket and the pulled pork, we ordered a Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich ($11) and a Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich ($9). We were initially surprised by the white bread (think one step above Wonder Bread) the sandwiches were served on, but we both agreed that it worked. The bread kept the emphasis on the barbecue with just the right amount of dough necessary to hold all the deliciousness together. Both sandwiches were good, but I give the edge to the beef brisket, which was filled with large chunks of smoky goodness and accented by sliced pickles and thin red onion. I also really enjoyed the pulled pork, topped with Hank’s creamy chipotle slaw. The sandwiches were served with a bag of potato chips and we added an additional side of Creamy Chipotle Slaw ($2). The mix didn’t pack much heat, but it was fresh with a nice crunch to it.
Although the desserts sounded delicious, my friend and I passed since we were headed to the beach. There was the sinful sounding Chocolate CoveredBacon ($6) served with three scoops of vanilla ice cream or Bacon Wrapped Cinnamon Buns ($4). Both sounded so good, next time I might just eat dessert.
Here in Rhode Island, there aren’t many places you can find barbecue done right, but Hank’s Down South is dishing it out. And, if someone in your group isn’t fond of barbecue, Hank’s even offers Fish Tacos ($10).
33 State Street, Narragansett