from left, bait's ceaira jackson, jorge vazquez, alexis morris, misha sampson, juwan ‘j.r.’ rice, kalen hodgest and bobby nguyen photo by izaiah johnson

2019 Best New Restaurants // No. 4 Bait

feels like visiting your fancy friend’s house – the excellent cook and immaculate host who always leaves you feeling cared for. “We wanted it to have the comfort of an old home,” said executive chef Ceaira Jackson. “Every night, it’s an ongoing, upscale dinner party.”

This party usually has a neo soul playlist going. Touches like crown molding and cushy chairs make the homey, sectioned-off rooms comfortable. Service fits the theme too. Professional but conversational, knowledgeable and opinionated, your server may advise you to, “Get this, not that.” Much appreciated.

Every aspect of the menu is an honest expression of who Jackson is: bold, fun and skilled. Take the Flaming Wicked Prawns: large, head-on prawns arrive literally on fire after being cooked with Cajun spices, dark beer and sherry. 

flaming wicked prawns at bait // photo by izaiah johnson

While the focus of the menu is seafood, exploring flavor profiles from different cuisines is an underlying theme, from the Thai red curry mussels to the show-stopping, whole fried snapper with Caribbean rice and vinegary hot pepper sauce. Jackson weaves Cajun flavors throughout with her Bait Spice: a secret combination including smoked paprika and onion powder found in the seafood boil and alligator tacos.

Themes aside, the seafood is beautifully prepared. The Chilean sea bass comes with a searingly crisp exterior, which gives way to tender flakes of mild fish, served over simple vegetables finished in a creamy bechamel. It’s the kind of dish you’ve tried making at home but will never execute this flawlessly. 

Meera Nagarajan is art director at Sauce Magazine.