Hen Quarter: Perfect Southern Comfort Food in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

July 15, 2019

I found my way to Hen Quarter, in Alexandria, Virginia during my never ending search for Black-Owned businesses to visit and enjoy. Hen Quarter is a comfort food lover's dream, located at the corner of cobble stoned King and Columbus Streets in historic Old Town (once home to President George Washington) just minutes from Washington, D.C. Hen Quarter, with its traditional southern menu, fits perfectly into the antiquity of its surrounding neighborhood.

Along Columbus Street, blue and white Gingham-checkered covered tables align the the side of the restaurant for outdoor dining. Inside, seating is available on the first and second floor.  I was greeted by a hostess who seated me and my son upstairs.

Hen QuarterThe lower level hosts a dining area and a fully stocked bar offering a variety of bourbons and whiskeys. The feels like Harpo's juke-joint was featured on HGTV and was completely renovated with antique tin-colored ceiling tiles and hardwood floors. White brick walls give the establishment light, offsetting the romantic gray booths nestled in java colored timber alcoves, and rustic fixtures are strewn through out.

Two chandeliers made of what looks like black cast iron vintage horse-drawn cart and carriage wheels adorned with empty glass bottles provide dim lighting near the bar as well as the stairwell leading to the upstairs dining area. Half of a metal windmill is fixed above the open kitchen where meals are prepared, made with food from local artisan producers of the agriculture and the farming community. Keep scrolling for the complete menu.

My real friends KNOW I love old school music. That juke-joint feel at the Hen Quarter is so real. Shug Avery was not onsite crooning but the smoothest of old school r&b, jazz, and funk was playing while we waited for our food.

 

As the waiter came to take our order, B.B. King and Lucille were lamenting on a break-up; once they cheat, the Thrill Is Gone. I was enjoying the music but my son wasted no time. He instantly knew he wanted the Lobster Roll with a side of slaw and fries. I literally needed Reasons... reasons not to order everything on the menu! But, I enjoyed Earth, Wind, and Fire's version. 

 

By the time Diana Ross sang the theme song from Mahogany, I knew what I wanted. I opted for the Southern Sampler - fried chicken breast, roasted chicken quarter, delta crispy catfish, succotash, and a biscuit.

 

Waiting for our food, I enjoyed the decor, took a few pictures and sang every single song that played. The laughter from my son was worth it as I sang like nobody was watching. He's 16 and I know moments like these are fleeting so I enjoy them.

Our meals appeared just as Michael Jackson asked, "Can it be I stayed away too long..." The Jackson 5 hit different when you are being served heaven on a plate. The lobster roll was served cold on a New England Roll topped with red sushi caviar, perfectly paired with tangy red cabbage slaw and lightly battered dipped french fries. 


I was all aboard the Friendship Train with Gladys Knight and the Pips', fully prepared to dip into my chicken smothered in peach bar-b-que sauce and catfish with a side of remoulade sauce. I opted to just pour the bar-b-que sauce on instead because ain't nobody got time to play with their food.

 

To describe my meal at Hen Quarter as delicious would be an understatement.The chicken was savory, not dry and the catfish came out of the grease at the perfect time. Switch ain't lie when they sang There'll Never Be as delicious would be an understatement. The chicken was divine, roasted to perfection and fried to a crisp. The catfish was golden brown, lightly breaded in cornmeal and seasoned perfectly. 'cause there will never be a better serving of buttered succotash, pan fried and simmered with of salt pork shavings. As I relished the care that went into preparing these dishes, I felt the approval of my ancestors. 

Hen Quarter favors bourbons and whiskey but my preferred adult beverage is vodka (and good ol'fashion Moonshine wasn't on the menu). I selected the Watermelon Patch from the beverage options - Tito’s Vodka, fresh watermelon, lemon, mint, and basil. I looked in my glass and was pleasantly surprised to see watermelon and lemon seeds floating in my drink.

The fare you find at Hen Quarter is an emended rendition of meals our enslaved ancestors made from scraps and rations, plucked from the earth, passed down through the generations from a people who were creative enough to make mastery out of massa's leftovers. Those down-home meals are now sought-after cuisine, enjoyed by all, ethically sourced and made with soul. Everything at Hen Quarter from the ambiance, to the service, to the food was impeccable.

 

As we were leaving, Luther Ingram bellowed, "if loving you is wrong, I don't want to be right." To Hen Quarter, I truly concur. 

Trust me, the next time I am in Alexandria, Virginia looking for more Black-Owned Businesses, I will stop by for another meal at Hen Quarter.

 

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