Photography by John Antaki
Having spent more than 40 years in the restaurant business, Walter Clay, owner of Rae’s Coastal Cafe, knows what he’s doing when it comes to creating the ideal dining environment for anyone. The restaurant is strategically laid out with quiet corners for special dates, larger tables for families, a beautiful deck for friendly get-togethers, and a comfortable and welcoming vibe for everyone. Tucked into a quaint corner of a neighborhood oﬀ Walton Way, fabulous food and word-of-mouth has had people ﬁlling up tables every night for 25 years.
When Rae’s ﬁrst opened the menu was short, with four entrees, four appetizers, one sandwich, and two desserts. Today’s more extensive menu features dishes with inspiration that stretches from North Carolina to Jamaica but still retains those original entrees that helped Rae’s make a name for itself: the Fish of the Day, a juicy Fillet Mignon, Frogmore Stew, and the signature Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Mr. Clay was so insistent on getting the jerk chicken correct that he was willing to travel to Jamaica and learn from the locals what it is that truly makes it special.
Upon returning to the States, he made the dish over and over again until it was absolutely perfect. Try the signature dish, served up with black beans and rice, or inspired variations like the jerk chicken salad or sandwich featuring this juicy version of the Jamaican specialty.
With the amount of commitment that is put into creating headlining entrees, even the basics are bound to be fantastic. “I think it’s love,” was the response I got when I asked what makes their signature salad so good. Every single staﬀ member is trained to make the staple to standard and, topped with their homemade dressing, it is not to be missed.
From creative dishes like shrimp and grits baked souﬄé style or chicken in puﬀ pastry to a special kids menu, there’s something for everyone. Even something as classic as a ribeye comes out being one of the best in Augusta. Whatever you choose there’s no doubt it will have you coming back for more.
“A little something extra”
Jamaican food has evolved over the last few hundred years to become what we know today. With inﬂuences from the native Arawak peoples to the European and African immigrants, jerk chicken (or pork) has become quite an iconic dish. Traditionally the meat is “jerked” – poked with holes – to help with the absorption of moisture and ﬂavor and marinated for a minimum of 24 hours. Before the invention of contemporary grills it would have been wrapped in leaves and buried in the earth with hot coals. Modern Jamaicans get creative with their cooking methods and can be found selling their specialties from roadside stands all over the island. Before opening Rae’s, Walter Clay spent 10 days trying as many of these variations as possible and then spent months perfecting his own recipe to be as authentic as the original Jamaican dish.
Chilly winter months can be a drag. Escape to the warmer climates with a festive piña colada served in a pineapple shell or a key lime martini made with fresh limes and rimmed with crushed graham crackers. Between the creative cocktails, a well-balanced wine list, and beers to pair perfectly with the coastal Caribbean menu, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
Whether its enjoyed casually out back on the patio next to the mini putt-putt course, at the bar, or to top oﬀ a meal with your loved ones, don’t be afraid to ask the staﬀ for suggestions and seasonal specials!
Article appears in the February/March 2018 issue of Augusta Magazine.