Frank and I thoroughly enjoyed our week in Cape May. Although we made good use of the kitchen in our condotel, we did manage to eat out several times: we found ourselves returning to our perennial favorites to dine. Most restaurants lived up to our fond food memories, and some fell a bit short. Here’s a list of the places we dined at, replete with highlights….and lowlights. With a nod to Roger Ebert, I’ll go with the thumbs up/thumbs down method of recommendation.
Located at Beach and Perry Sts., in the heart of Cape May is George’s. Since 1968, George’s has been feeding Cape May locals and tourists. Second generation runs the restaurant daily, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with an emphasis on Greek cuisine and seafood.
The interior boasts comfortable booths, muted pastel colors and charming black and white photos of Chef Karapanagiotis and his adorable children. With one center aisle, you can always see the flaming cheese when you hear “Ooopah!” coming from the pick up counter.
On our dinner visit, I ordered a lamb dish. 5 lamb rib chops were moist and delicious, and were accompanied by orzo, tatziki sauce, a dolmade, several kalamata olives and a large Greek salad with feta. The dish was a generous meal for $15. I can’t even buy all of those ingredients for $15 here! 2 thumbs up.
Frank ordered the Greco Chicken, two grilled chicken breasts with roasted red peppers and melted feta cheese on top. While the dish was good, it paled in comparison to the amazing lamb. 1 thumb up.
Frank and I enjoyed breakfast before our trip back home. Although I felt notes of melancholy as I people watched out the window next to our table, I thoroughly enjoyed the homemade cream chipped beef; a George’s Place staple since its opening. A generous amount of chipped beef in a creamy bechamel sauce covered 2 slices of white toast and were accompanied by shredded hash brown, made golden on the griddle. Two thumbs up.
Frank ordered a breakfast quesadilla which was filled with egg, sausage, onions, bell peppers and cheese. Lightly grilled, it came with salsa and sour cream. I manages to snag 2 big bites of this dish, and the flavors of the generous filling were delectable. This is a meal that will fuel you up for the better part of the day.
Two thumbs way up.
Ah, The Cove. Somehow, despite so many visits to Cape May all of my life, I have never managed to eat at The Cove. Located at the western-most end of Beach Avenue across from the ocean and next to sand dunes, The Cove serves up no-frills food in a no-frills setting. At this restaurant, you don’t look at what’s inside–it’s the view that is money here.
Frank and I ate breakfast at The Cove, and ordered chocolate chip pancakes and french toast. We each had a side of sausage links. The pancakes, usually a gut-busting breakfast, were 3 medium-sized, flat pancakes with mini chocolate chips inside. Frank proclaimed them “ordinary” and noted that he could make a better pancake at home (and he does).
My french toast (again, usually a large meal) consisted of 4 wedges of white bread…like Wonder bread. Like Frank’s pancakes, he does a better job of making them at home in the manner that befits french toast using Challah bread.
The sausage links were definitely the highlight, nicely browned and dipped in ketchup.
Considering we paid the same amount for breakfast at George’s Place, I recommend skipping The Cove in favor of the fresh, generous dishes at George’s. Too bad, because the location and service were terrific, and watching early morning sufers was fun.
One thumb up for the experience, and one thumb down for the food.
Located on Perry Street, behind the Washington Street Mall, Gecko’s has been serving up Sante Fe, Mexican and Native American cuisine for several years now. The secluded outdoor deck is delightful at any time of the day, and is particularly romantic in the coolness of the evening when lit by candlelight and torches. Neighborhood cats are frequent visitors, blithely walking by diners in hopes of a morsel of chicken, or rabbit. Who could resist this little fellow’s punim?
Gecko’s has repeatedly been voted “Best Mexican/Southwestern” by NJ and Philadelphia magazine for a good reason: Chef Randy Bithell. Chef Bithell makes authentic dishes and sauces, such as the rich roasted tomato cascabel sauce that covers Chilis Rellenos Camerones.
On our dinner visit, Frank and I split an appetizer of quesadilla. The quesadilla was filled with homemade chorizo, bell peppers, onion and cheese, and came with a fire-roasted salsa, guacamole and sour cream. This dish was delicious, particularly the chorizo. It easily could be an entree.
Next came the gratis house salad-a nice touch and a really terrific salad that I look forward to eating every time we visit Gecko’s. Describes as “Gathered field greens, tossed with our branded onion dressing and garnished with fresh tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, onions, roasted corn, and feta cheese”, this is a serious salad. Come to think of it, I wonder if they sell their salad dressing. I’ll have to look into that.
For my main, I ordered the Chile Rubbed Rib Eye, which came with a latke-like potato pancake and roasted green beans and beets. The generous steak was cooked medium-rare, as ordered and sliced like butter. The spice rub, achiote and ancho chili powder, was a perfect foil for the cranberry and sour cherry ancho sauce.
Frank ordered the Manchamanteles, which is Spanish for “tablecloth stainer”. The dish is Oaxaca mole stewed chicken with sweet potatoes, pineapple and plantains. The chicken was unctuous and moist, and the mole-lip smacking good.
After the quesadilla and salad, we ended up packing half of our entrees to enjoy for dinner a couple of days later.
On a separate visit, Frank and I popped in for dessert and coffee. I ordered a Key Lime “Taco” which was a thin cookie tuile, shaped like a taco shell. It contained a mouse-like key lime filling and was topped with toasted coconut. The flavor was nice and tart.
Frank ordered a chocolate mousse, which was deep in flavor, however, dense in texture. It was the only miss out of all that we enjoyed at Gecko’s. Still, two thumbs way up.
The Mad Batter
The Mad Batter, with its yellow striped awning, is an iconic figure on historic Jackson Street in Cape May. Located in the Caroll Villa Bed and Breakfast, The Mad Batter has been a tourist favorite for many years. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, The Mad Batter has 3 dining venues; the outdoor covered porch (in season), a skylight-lit dining room and glass-enclosed garden terrace.
Frank and I were joined by my in-laws for an afternoon. We dropped by The Mad Batter and were immediately seated at a 4 top on the porch, which was enclosed in plastic to ward off the chill in the air. Our table shared an appetizer of PEI mussels and chorizo in a white wine and garlic broth. What the dish had in flavor, it lacked in quantity-there were only about a dozen mussels in the oversized dish and worse, no bread accompanied it for sopping, arguably the best part of the dish. When we managed to flag down our server (who never checked back with us), we were told that they only had kaiser rolls, which we opted for in lieu of nothing.
For our entrees, we ordered crab cake sandwiches with fries, and a hamburger with fries. The crabcakes were described as “Our championship super lump crabcake on a Kaiser roll with remoulade ” but were indeed not lump crab, more likely backfin as evidenced by its stringy appearance. The taste was quite good, however and the remoulade sauce was a tasty condiment. The kaiser roll in which the crabcake was served was too much bread, and all three of us who ordered the sandwich wound up pulling bread off and eating the crabcakes plain. Frank had the hamburger which was cooked to well done, past the medium that it was ordered.
At $100 for 4 of us to eat lunch, including an appetizer, a soup and 4 sandwiches, I give the Mad Batter 2 thumbs down for lunch, and a big “thank you” to my in-laws for picking up the tab!
The Lobster House
The Lobster House has been a welcoming presence as one drives over the causeway bridge and enters the town of Cape May. A working fishing dock, restaurant and market, The Lobster House remains one of the most popular dining destinations in town. Wait times for dinner can exceed an hour from 5 p.m. on.
My recommendation is to skip the restaurant all together, and head to the Raw Bar in back. Situated on the dock of the bay, The Raw Bar features indoor and outdoor seating, as well as permanently docked Schooner American, on which you can enjoy libations and small plates.
With good prices and fresh ingredients, The Raw Bar is a great way to satisfy a yearning for seafood. Pick and Peel Shrimp were firm and succulent, accompanied by lemon and a mild cocktail sauce. Clams Casino features 6 clams, stuffed with seasoned breading and topped with bacon. The Cream of Crab Soup is the best on the island and comes with a dusting of Old Bay Seasoning, and a shot or two of sherry.
One of the best reasons to eat at The Lobster House is, of course, the lobster. Fairly prices, the lobster come just cooked and split in half with cracked claws for easy eating. The baked potato and fresh corn on the cob are a nice touch, but really, the lobster is the star of the plate. Drawn butter and lemons set off the ocean-laden taste of the meat from these sea crustaceans.
It’s simply lobster heaven. My lobster, at $26.50, was 2 lbs. and as i mentioned before, came with a baked potato and corn. Two thumbs way up for freshness, value, generous condiments and a terrific view that can’t be beat.
Bonus-I’ll bet you’re from Philadelphia or NJ if you know what these are. OTC’s, or Original Trenton Crackers. These cracker meal balls are served with horseradish that’ll put hair on your chest and give your sinuses a really good cleaning.
Cape May Fish Market
The Cape May Fish Market is a new restaurant on the Washington Street Mall, which opened a mere two months ago. My impression is that it fancies itself as The Lobster House on the Mall, which you can easily walk to. I won’t take up too much space about this place, other than to say that the Cream of Crab Soup was quite good, but without a liquor license, there was no sherry which in my opinion, is a necessary condiment for this soup.
For my main, I ordered a turkey club sandwich which was in a word-skimpy. Skimpy on the turkey, skimpy on the bacon and most offensively, skimpy on the mayonnaise. It came with a small bag of chips, and by small, I mean about 6-7 chips.
Frank’s shrimp dish had 6 or 7 medium shrimp and fries for a whopping $17.
Two thumbs down. Even attentive service and copious soft drink refills can’t make up for poor, overpriced food.
Cape May Bakers
A husband and wife team have been baking in this West Cape May location for over 20 years. I wanted to pick up bread for our dinner the same day, and found the basil bread to be fresh and earthy. The bread also made great toast for a savory breakfast.
We also enjoyed the cannoli here, made with cream cheese instead of ricotta. Apparently, using cream cheese is a South Jersey thing, and at times exasperates the visitors from New York City!
Two thumbs up.