Rae’s Coastal Café: An Inland Island Hideaway

wpid-0530141929.jpgRae’s Coastal Cafe
Augusta, Georgia 

Two of my best friends recently took me to dinner at a place more than 153 miles inland from the Georgia Coast located in my hometown of Augusta, Georgia. They promised it would be “right up my alley” and said I should “be prepared to blog about it.” Though it’s been open since I was nine years old, that Friday night was the first time I’d ever heard of it or set foot through its doors. Tucked away in a small community at the west end of Walton Way, Rae’s Coastal Cafe transported me to the islands the moment I stepped inside, perpetuated only by the best Key Lime Pie Martini I’ve ever had, and a house salad that rivaled my go-to Caesar and sailed away with my heart.

wpid-0530141930b.jpgThe cafe touched on every indicator I consider noteworthy about a restaurant: 1) It’s independently owned, 2) The local, casual atmosphere was well done–coastal but not in an obnoxious way, 3) The food was excellent and 4) The service was informed.

Our waitress, April.
Our waitress, April.

Meet our waitress, April. Servers have the ability to make or break a dining experience and if they’re on point, nine times out of 10, your visit will be too. April was well-informed on the menu items, at the ready with refills, and intuitively aware of when to ask if we were ready for the next course or if she could take our empty plates. As a first time visitor, she sold me on the house salad when I routinely ordered a Caesar, and I’m so glad I took her word. Super friendly and seemingly happy to be at work, April enhanced our meal and represented Rae’s expertly well.

wpid-0530142028a.jpgThere on the table, much to my surprise sat a product from good ol’ Statesboro…Braswell’s Vidalia Onion Steak Sauce. That made this Statesboro food writer proud.


The meal began with fresh-baked rolls, served with spreadable butter, followed by Rae’s Famous House Salad, known as an Augusta favorite. A simple combination of fresh greens and tomatoes tossed in a homemade dressing, the salad is plated in a cold, pewter-like bowl and topped with crunchy croutons made in-house. It was everything one could hope for–light, tangy, crunchy and refreshing.

I ordered the Blackened Mahi-Mahi, a healthy 9 oz. fillet topped with Cajun spices, seared in a cast iron skillet and served with new potatoes. April informed me that Rae’s uses the same spices on the fish as in their famous Jamaican Jerk Chicken. The Mahi-Mahi had the perfect kick to it and together with the buttery potatoes, I was happy and satisfied. My friends shared the special that evening: Carolina Mountain Trout with crisp green beans and new potatoes. For dessert, we tackled a slice of Chocolate Cheesecake made with Kahlua and drizzled with raspberry syrup. Other tempting menu items included Coconut Fried Shrimp, the Crabmeat Sandwich (yes, that’s right. Not crab cake, crabMEAT!), the Dolphin Sandwich and Filet Mignon. Chicken, steak, seafood…they do it all!

wpid-0530142028.jpgIt’s a good thing that I no longer live in Augusta because I would have to have this drink in my life every day. Rimmed in a graham cracker crust, the Key Lime Pie Martini was the most balanced blend of sweet and tart I’ve ever experienced. It was like drinking pie. Move over Malibu Bay Breeze, there’s a new sheriff in town.

wpid-0530142134a.jpgDining at Rae’s Coastal Cafe felt like an episode of Cheers. The owner, Walter, makes his way through the restaurant greeting guests and shaking hands. You’re bound to run into someone you know there. It’s a comfortable place where people go to enjoy good food and good company…after all, that’s what it’s all about!

wpid-0530141947.jpg
My friends, Levi and Angela.

Special thanks to these two (who just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary!) for a wonderful evening out. Y’all know me well.

 

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A Winter Escape on the Plate – Alaskan Snow Crab Legs with Drawn Butter

wpid-IMG_20140108_200724.jpgIt’s a rare day in Statesboro when the weather requires scarves and gloves. This week when the temperatures dropped to 16 degrees, I used the Some Kinda Good™ Facebook page to ask, “What’s your favorite thing to eat on freezing days like this?” Many of you responded with exactly what most would–soups, chili, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot chocolate, hot tea–anything comforting and warm. I certainly agree, but the truth is, I’m a warm weather creature. I don’t do well in the cold. Once Christmas is over, I’m ready to go to the beach. If hibernating were an option, you wouldn’t see hide nor hair of me until April when the flowers bloom and the sunny, bright days return. My cold weather comfort isn’t soup. Ironically, it’s beach food. Food that allows me to envision myself on the Georgia coast after a day of basking in the summer sun. So, I cope by cranking up my summer playlist, with songs like Joe Nichols’ Sunny and 75 or Luke Bryan’s Suntan City. I make meals at home that take me to coast and count down the days when I can cruise with the windows down and smile as my 11-pound Shih Tzu cools his belly on the tile floor of the kitchen following an afternoon walk. 

wpid-20140108_191241.jpgIf any meal helps me escape the winter, it’s Alaskan Snow Crab Legs with drawn butter. They’re the easiest thing to make. You’ll need salt, Old Bay, Shrimp & Crab Boil, butter and a few pieces of equipment…

wpid-20140108_191320.jpgA large stock pot fitted with a steamer basket and a lid are essential. Fill the pot about a quarter of the way full. Just be sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the steamer basket. You want to steam the crab legs, not boil them. Then season it with salt and add about a teaspoon of the Shrimp & Crab Boil. Stir.

wpid-20140108_191334.jpgBring the water to a boil. If your crab legs are frozen, rinse them good under cold water or thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. Place the crab legs in the steamer basket and set the basket inside the pot.

wpid-20140108_192409.jpgSeason the crab legs with several dashes of Old Bay.


Then, cover them with the lid. Let the crab legs steam over medium-high heat for at least 8-10 minutes. If frozen, you may want to steam them longer, but no more than 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter. I like using unsalted butter. To create drawn butter or clarified butter, use a spoon to skim the fat off the top. Once melted, the fat and solids separate (pictured above on the right). Melted butter takes steamed seafood from good to gourmet.

wpid-20140108_194948.jpgThe result is beautiful, tender, succulent crab meat fit for a king. I served the crab legs with rosemary roasted potatoes and a fresh green salad, but another complimentary side dish is good ol’ Southern grits. 

wpid-20140108_195359.jpgNothing makes me happier than a whole, intact piece of crab meat fresh from its shell. Thank you, Jesus. The art of cracking crab legs takes some time, but oh, is it worth it. Boy, is it ever. Dunk the meat in the butter for optimum food nirvana.

wpid-20140108_204011.jpgThe aftermath.
wpid-20140108_195010.jpgIt may not be summertime yet, but a girl can dream.

White Zinfandel and Wild Georgia Shrimp

Sting Ray’s Seafood Restaurant
Tybee Island, Georgia 

It’s the kind of place you drive by and think, “We have to go there!” Maybe it’s the sound of live beach music that lures you in or the colorful umbrellas and white lights. For me, it was the idea of strolling over from the beach, sun-kissed and sandy to enjoy some wild Georgia shrimp on the patio in the ocean breeze.

Around 7 p.m. on a Saturday night following a great day at the beach, we joined the crowd at Sting Ray’s Seafood Restaurant located just across the street from the Atlantic ocean.

Wearing a little powder and lip gloss, dressed in my swimsuit cover-up and sparkling flip-flops, I ordered a cold glass of white zinfandel and enjoyed the music. The casual, laid-back atmosphere is such a nice change of pace from the everyday office environment.

The menu was full of good food and it was hard to make a choice. You can order seafood by itself or as a meal, which is great if you don’t have a huge appetite.

I ordered a 1/2 pound of steamed, peel & eat wild Georgia shrimp for $9.95 with a house salad.

Nothing fancy here-just simple, familiar ingredients with a cold drink.

I wish y’all could reach through your computer screen and taste one of these. They were the most plump, succulent shrimp I’ve ever eaten. Served with melted butter and seasoned with Old Bay, the shrimp were swimming in the Atlantic just two days before they were served to me. Fresh at its finest. I squeezed the lemon juice right over the top and dunked them in cocktail sauce.

 I don’t know this fellow’s name, but he entertained everyone well with classic beach tunes: Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay, It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere…you get the idea. Jam on my friend, jam on.

Sting Ray’s sits at the intersection of Butler Avenue and 14th Street.

Every table was full but the wait wasn’t long. Who’s counting minutes anyway when you’re on island time?

After dinner, we took a walk on the pier to listen to the waves crash and say goodbye to the Atlantic one more time. It really wasn’t goodbye though, only see you later–because I’ll be back soon, and very soon.

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