Susan and I have lots of favorite Cape May restaurants so I’ll divide them by price. You can pick a splurge spot or a more modest dinner.
The Ebbit Room at the Virginia Hotel
26 Jackson Street, (609) 884-5700
This is a very elegant restaurant with great food. The food is modern chef-designed cuisine, not any ethnicity. It often comes artfully stacked on the serving dish with something sprinkled and something drizzled. Only a couple of blocks from Leith Hall – if you face the ocean, go two blocks to the right, then one half-block up from the beach.
The Washington Inn
801 Washington Street, (609) 884-5697
This is Cape May’s favorite special occasion spot where everyone goes for birthdays and anniversaries. The food is wonderful – often a variation on some traditional “continental” dish. Suzie had veal cheeks with lobster in a champagne butter sauce (their version of Surf and Turf) Cathy Cressman Pastiu us the pastry chef and makes great desserts. Only four and a half blocks from Leith Hall – turn right at Washington Street and go two blocks.
La Verandah at the Hotel Alcott
107 Grant Street 609 884-5868
Susan and I were driving past the Hotel Alcott last month and noticed that there was no sign for the restaurant, La Verandah. We asked a hotel guest who was standing on the porch and he reported that there was no restaurant in the hotel. We were crestfallen. One of our favorite restaurants – gone forever. Then we got a menu in the mail just this week. La Verandah wasn’t gone, just hibernating for the winter. The menu looks much the same as it did – balanced with seafood, duck, chicken and veal. The entrees range from the high 20s to the low 30s in cost. The food doesn’t have French names, but the chef is French (Patric from Lyons) and his talent and technique shows. I usually order duck, which is otherwise hard to find, and always order dessert, which is delectable.
Union Park at the Macomber
727 Beach Avenue, (609) 884-8811
This is another very elegant restaurant, with lots of silver and cream and white room with Chippendale chairs. The food is wonderful often including meats that you don’t often see – like elk, or bison, or fois gras. The last time we were there, all of the dishes came to the table together, and the waiters whisked off silver domes ion unison to reveal the dishes. Jst my style. From Leith Hall – just walk to the beach, turn left and go three blocks.
410 Bank Street
410 Bank Street, (609) 884-2127
This is a cajun/creole restaurant with delicious, spicy food. They specialize in fish, New Orleans style. The atmosphere is younger and louder that most Cape My restaurants with the tables set close together. The street behind Leith Hall is Decatur Street. Three blocks up Decatur Street at the corner of Lafayette Street, the street changes its name to Bank Street – 410 Bank Street is on the corner.
Fresco’s Seafood Trattoria
412 Bank Street, (609) 884-0366
Next door to 410 Bank Street and owned by the same person, this is a Northern Italian restaurant. Suzie and I have spent months in Northern Italy, and I’ve seldom come across some of the dishes I find at Fresco’s. It is more like the dishes are in the style of, or inspired by, Northern Italy. They have a good selection of dishes to offer vegetarians as well. The food is wonderful and interesting and the atmosphere is informal, like 410 Bank next door.
233 Washington Street (on the Washington Street Mall)
Years ago, Tisha’s was located on the beachfront, in building rented from the City of Cape May. When they were rousted to build the new convention center, I was concerned that they wouldn’t make it without the spectacular ocean view. It turns out that they are great cooks and that their clientele would follow them anywhere.
MEDIUM PRICED RESTAURANTS
301 Beach Avenue, (609) 884-6088
I didn’t know where to put this restaurant in the list. The price is is ridiculously low and the food is great. You’d pay more at a diner or even McDonalds if you are hungry. Yet the food is delicious and nicely presented in an attractive room. We used to go there when it was a luncheonette run by the present proprietor’s father-in-law. The next generation, John Karapanagiotis, took it over and remodeled it into a cozy, low-key restaurant. The staff is unfailingly friendly and gracious. The first courses are large, delicious and beautifully plated. A variety of bruschettas, falafels, or humuses are typical starters. Main courses feature lamb chops, crab cakes, and various other dishes, accompanied by Greek or Caesar salad. The style is Mediterranean (with an accent on the Greek). From Leith Hall – walk to the beach, turn right and go three blocks to Perry Street.
301 Washington Street, (609) 898-3663
That’s Amore is an Italian-American restaurant in Collingswood that’s moving to Cape May.. So if the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie – That’s Amore will open in April. (I realize that if you are younger than I am, you won’t know that That’s Amore was a pop song in the 1950s) I’ll try it when it opens and report back to you. This is only four blocks from Leith Hall. It is the last spot on the Washington Street Mall at the corner of Perry Street.
479 West Perry Street, West Cape May (609) 898-7750
This April, Gecko’s will be taking over the space formerly know as Higher Grounds, on Perry Street in West Cape May. It sounds like the menu will be a little less Mexican, but still feature several Southwestern items. I think that it will be more of a soup, salad, and sandwich restaurant, but I’m not sure. It will open in April and stay open all year.
This is a southwestern and Mexican restaurant run by Randy and Susi Bithell . It has delicious that is not the standard fast food takeout fare that most Mexican restaurants serve. Chicken in a mole of Oaxaca is one I really enjoyed, and Suzie had an acorn squash stuffed with a mixture of unexpected things including black beans and a variety of vegetables. There are mostly outdoor tables so it’s a great warm weather choice. The price is very moderate for such good food. From Leith Hall, walk to the Washington Street Mall. Turn left and walk to the other end of the mall. Turn left, away from the ocean, and walk up Perry Street about three blocks to the corner of Park Boulevard. You’ll see Gecko’s on your right.
La Dona – 326 Carpenter’s Lane
What will take the place of Gecko’s on Carpenter’s Lane?
This is a new restaurant that just opened this Summer. The woman who runs it is from Oaxaca and her husband is Italian. We had light food for lunch, and they have more substantial dishes for dinner too. We found the food to be fresh and delicious.
Walk up Ocean Street from Leith Hall to Carpenter’s Lane. Turn left and continue two and a half blocks. La Dona is between Jackson and Perry Streets.
The Mad Batter
19 Jackson Street, (609) 884-5970
This was Cape May’s first “Gourmet” restaurant a million years ago. They don’t do the artfully composed plate like the Ebbitt Room or Union Park, however, the food is very good. The price is a few steps lower than the high-price restaurants in town, and the hosts are charming and genuinely welcoming. Go down to the beach from Leith Hall. Turn right and go two blocks to Jackson Street, then turn up, one half-block from the beach.
The Black Duck
1 Sunset Boulevard, (609) 884-5555
An Asian Fusion restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in West Cape May, this restaurant does elegant presentation of very good food. Because it is in West Cape May (about seven blocks from the inn), it is less expensive than a similar restaurant in Cape May. I recommend it highly for a low key “New York” style interior and good, interesting food. From Leith Hall – walk up to the mall, then to the other end of the mall, which is Perry Street. Follow Perry Street away from the ocean for about four blocks. At the corner of Broadway in West Cape May, the street becomes Sunset Boulevard, and the restaurant is on your right.
Aleathea’s Reastaurant at the Inn of Cape May
7 Ocean Street, (609) 884-5555
The Inn of Cape May (with the purple awnings is right across the street from Leith Hall. Aleathea’s has ocean views and a wonderful porch. Tai Menz, the chef, turns out very good food. I’ve had the lamb chops, the crab cakes, and the tuna and was very pleased with them all. The is not as elegant as the Ebbitt Room, but the restaurant is right across from the ocean, and the cost is definitely less. Diagonally across the street from Leith Hall at the corner of Ocean Street and Beach Drive.
The Blue Pig at Congress Hall
251 Beach Avenue, (609) 884-8422
This is a tavern-y restaurant in Congress Hall. They have a roaring fire in the winter and patio seating in the summer. The food is good and the cost is moderate. If you order the special of the day, the cost is downright cheap. From Leith Hall – walk to the beach, turn right and go three blocks to Perry Street. Congress Hall is on Beach Drive at Perry Street.
A Ca Mia
524 Washington Street, (609) 88-6661
Over twenty years ago, this was a Venetian style restaurant with wonderful bizarre dinners. When we moved to Cape May it was sold to new owners and I was so disappointed that I refused to go back. More recently, we visited a couple of times with our nephew who was visiting Cape May, and the food pleasantly surprised us. Ravioli stuffed with lobster, cioppino, and osso buco alla Milanese were all very good at a reasonable price. From Leith Hall – walk up to the mall. Turn left a A Ca Mia’s on your left.
416 South Broadway
West Cape May, 609 600 1422
This is a fairly new restaurant that many locals in Cape May are talking about. A coworker at Coastline Realty raves about their calamari and about their pasta. They are busy even in the winter, so they must have a very loyal local clientele. The menu is southern Italian with the normal New Jersey/Neapolitan dishes. Because it’s on Broadway rather than in the center of Cape May, it’s also a little less expensive than many Cape May restaurants, though still very convenient. While you are there, check out the back room. It is the oldest house in West Cape May, and dates from the early 1700s. The giant fireplace is the giveaway to the age. When the house was built, this room was the whole ground floor; kitchen, living room, dining, bedroom all combined.
The Blue Rose
653 Washington Street , 609 435 5458
This is another Cape May restaurant in a beautiful historic building. The menu is general, with a broad selection of seafood and meat. I haven’t eaten there, so can’t tell you about the food, but feel free to report back to me if you have. The prices are quite moderate for a Cape May restaurant.
315 Ocean Street, (609) 898-0088
This is Cape May’s Asian restaurant. Glendy Huang is the owner and host and treats her diners very warmly. They have very good Chinese food, as well as Thai and Japanese food Suzie is especially fond of the Saba Sushi (but Suzie is one of the few Americans who really likes mackerel) Can you say Suzie eats saba sushi by the seashore? I always opt for something Szichwan or Hunan. The restaurant also offers a number of modern chef-designed dishes mixing Western ingredients and Chinese flavors, with ymmy results. It’s located in Washington Commons just two blocks up from Leith Hall. Across Ocean Street from the Mall, it is at the end of the main aisle.
301 Beach Avenue, (609) 884-6088
I didn’t know where to put this restaurant in the list. The price is is ridiculously low and the food is great. You’d pay more at a diner or even McDonalds if you are hungry. Yet the food is delicious and nicely presented in an attractive room. We used to go there when it was a luncheonette run by the present propretr’s father-in-law. The next generation, John Karapanagiotis, took it over and remodeled it into a cozy, low-key restaurant. The staff is unfailingly friendly and gracious. The first courses are large, delicious and beautifully plated. A variety of bruschettas, falafels, or humuses are typical starters. Main courses feature lamb chops, crab cakes, and various other dishes, accompanied by Greek or Caesar salad. The style is Mediterranean (with an accent on the Greek). From Leith Hall – walk to the beach, turn right and go three blocks to Perry Street.
Lucky Bones Backwater Grille
1200 Route 109 South, (609) 884-2663
This is on the harbor in Cape May. It is the first thing you se when you drive off the parkway. Owned by the Washington Inn family, it is a loud pizza, ribs and seafood house with entertainment on the weekends. We go for the pizza, which is wonderful. Pizza in Naples, where pizza was invented, is always personal size, very thin crust, with not much stuff on it. The stuff that is on it is very flavorful and high quality, though. Luck Bones makes pizza like you were in Naples. Drive from Leith Hall to Washington Street, Turn right and go to the end of the road. Follow the signs to leave Cape May and get on the Garden State Parkway, but, at the last moment, bear right and go under the bridge that spans the Cape May Canal. As you come back into Cape May – Luck Bones is the first thing on the right
Freda’s Cafe Deli
210 Ocean Street
Right behind Freda’s Cafe on Ocean Street, only a little over a block up from Leith Hall, Freda’s deli has good pates, interesting salads, and unusual side dishes. I’d get some food to go and makes a picnic on the beach during the summer. Just go a block and a half up from Leith Hall to the corner of Carpenter’s Lane.
600 Park Boulevard (609) 884-8700
This little shop is on Park Boulevard in West Cape May. If you go over there to go antiquing or to visit the Linen Outlet, Cheeks outlet, or the wicker outlet, stop by for some Gorgonzola dolce or smoked Emmenthaler. Its the only source for good cheese in the Cape May area as the Acme doesn’t carry much. Go straight up Ocean Street from Leith Hall. The street will change its name from Ocean Street to Elmira, then cross the street to West Cape May. Turn left at the first corner, Park Boulevard, and continue two blocks.
Cape May Market
Right next door to Seaside Cheese is another Cape May treasure. It’s our health food market and so much more. Tai Menz, who is the chef at Alethea’s, sold the business to a new couple, Rob and Julie. They’ve been renovating all winter and will be open soon. I’m looking forward to seeing what theyt did with the place. Personally, I liked the bizarre antiques scattered among the chips and seaweed – but you may like the smoothies, wraps, and salads available for your picnic on the beach.
120 Park Boulevard
West Cape May NJ 8204
Takeout at the Lobster House
If you go into the outer lobby of the Lobster House (just at the foot of the bridge off the Garden State Parkway) and then walk out onto the dock (instead of into the restaurant) you come to the takeout window. There are big spool tables and chairs out on the dock, two raw bars and the takeout window. You can sit out here in good weather and have the same food as inside at a fraction of the price. Or, you can take the food back and eat on the beach.
The Depot Market Cafe
409 Elmira Street
This little building is on Elmira Street, right next to the train terminal (hence the name) They have a few inside and outside tables, but much of the business is in takeout. They are good cooks, make great soups, and are very good value.