On the corner of 14th Street and 1st Avenue, where we once reviewed the short-lived Meatball Factory, there now sits a welcome addition to this trending East Village neighborhood: Bait & Hook Seafood Shack. Specializing in seafood favorites and American comfort food, Bait & Hook flaunts a warm, intimate interior and minimalist nautical décor that includes authentic, re-purposed lobster traps suspended from the ceiling and ship’s wheels adorning the walls.
Restaurant manager Mitchell tells us that additional custom artwork has been commissioned specifically for the restaurant that will soon arrive to enhance the seaside theme.
We were happy to see that the varied but concise menu reflects very reasonable prices and my dining companion and I were not disappointed when we saw the good-sized portions of all the dishes we selected, as follows:
To start off the meal we enjoyed the Roasted Baby Beets Salad ($9), one of our favorites. This dish has an especially refreshing taste owing to the addition of fresh chopped mint with added texture from crumbled goat cheese and toasted chopped pistachio nuts — an interesting touch! Serving size is large enough to share.
We also sampled a half portion of Fried Ipswich Clam Bellies (a full-portion is $14) served in a classic style with tartar sauce and lemon wedge. These clams were fat and tender and quick fried crispy in a tasty, seasoned batter. Bait & Hook also offers a Fried Clam Roll at $16.
For main dishes we chose to split two of the restaurant’s signature sandwiches. A unique specialty to Bait & Hook is their Chicken Waffle Sandwich ($12). Using the crisp and light waffle as the bread, the sandwich features a tender and moist fried chicken breast which is served with the contrasting additions of a sweet maple syrup as well as a lightly Tabasco-spiked mayonnaise. The sweet syrup will give you the flavor of the traditional Chicken and Waffle entrée that is so popular across the country, while the Tabasco Mayonnaise brings out the savory flavor of the chicken for a more traditional chicken sandwich taste. This dish is served with a generous side of fresh greens tossed in light Dijon-vinaigrette dressing.
Of course, at any seafood specialty restaurant, a Lobster Roll is a must-try and Bait & Hook’s (at $21) is no exception. Although the sandwich is reasonably sized, the amount of sweet, tender chunks of lobster meat is amazing! Lightly dressed with mayonnaise and lemon zest and served on a toasted buttered soft roll this ample sandwich also includes a side of field green salad and a side of delicious, crisp coleslaw, which is enhanced with a light shaving the fresh onion. Although the portion of this sandwich is appetite-satisfying on its own, we would suggest adding a side of French Fries (or perhaps even Cheddar Grits) priced at $5.00 each.
We chose to go in a less traditional route with our sides and sampled the Roasted Brussels Sprouts, which were topped with a generous shaving of Gruyere cheese. These tiny sprouts have a distinctively different flavor and texture than larger, leafier sprouts, giving them a taste similar to that of roasted chestnuts. This may be an acquired taste for some, so just be aware before ordering. Again, this side is portioned generously enough to share with friends.
Bait & Hook offers a variety of four thin-crust pizzas on the menu, and we had to try the Classic, made simply with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil ($8). The thin, crisp crust is actually a highlight of this pizza, and it would be the perfect dish to order as a shared appetizer if you are going to be ordering on the light side for your main entrée. Bait & Hook’s other three pizza choices do feature seafood toppings including White Clam, Smoked Salmon (done bagel–style. with cream cheese, cucumber, capers and dill!), and savory Crab Chorizo. We will have to return to try one of those unique combinations!
You’re not going to have much room for dessert if you order as generously as we did, but if you still have a sweet tooth you can indulge in a choice of two desserts, including Banana Pudding (topped with crisp Vanilla Wafers and Bruléed bananas accented with just a bit of fresh whipped cream) and a Rocky Road Brownie Sundae, loaded with chunks of toasted pecans and topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and toasted miniature marshmallows. Both desserts are priced at $6.00 each.
If we could’ve eaten even one more bite we certainly would have been trying classic dishes such as the Lobster Mac & Cheese ($16), the perennial favorite beer-battered cod Fish & Chips ($14) or Crab Cakes ($17). Fortunately, Bait & Hook Seafood Shack is in the neighborhood and priced for our budget. With its friendly service and welcoming atmosphere, we will be back.
Bait & Hook Seafood Shake is Located on the Northwest Corner of 14th Street and Second Avenue in New York City. Phone (212)260-8015 for hours, specials and more information.