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Cape May- Would love some more detailed recos

I have never been to Cape May, so looking over the posts that a search comes up with gives me a bit of vertigo. I am heading to Cape May (Near the Willbraham Mansion) for a wedding this weekend. I have Thursday night to explore the town solo, including dinner and hopefully some after-dinner cocktails. Here in San Francisco I eat out alone not entirely un-often. I generally eat at the bar or outdoors. I can do a higher end place or a more casual, no matter to me if the food is remarkable. I would love to try out some local seafood, but if something is stellar and not from the sea, I'm a very adventurous eater, so I won't set "seafood" as a requirement.

So, solo, adventurous, omnivorous San Franciscan in Cape May who prefers to walk to dinner... where would you send me? Will I need resos? Anyplace I should avoid despite well-wishing B&B hosts telling me otherwise?

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  1. CM is beautiful, weather perfect this time of year. My recs would be Lobster House (outside deck), Washington Inn, and Merion Inn. Blue Pig (Congress Hall) is not great. 410 Bank St has alot of rec's but havnt been there personnally. Godmothers is good for Italian Food, about 2 blocks from Wash.Mall. Enjoy your stay! p.s. Henry's on the Beach is very nice, and Uncle Bill's Pancake House is a good place for bfst/lunch.

    1. a real local hangout (CASUAL) is coconuts, across the street from the beach. havent been there but always hopping.

      1. Louisa's is a small storefront seafood place, casual, BYOB. It gets busy, so be prepared to wait or call for res. I remember the food as being very fresh, simply prepared and all about flavor flavor flavor.....

        1. You can get good seafood just about anywhere in this town. You can go to Union Park (BYO) right in the center of town or Tisha's behind the convention center with a water view. Or 410 Bank St. All very good. My favorite right now is Black Duck in West Cape May, but you might not want to walk there. All are higher end and BYO. Washington Inn is very good and has an excellent wine list. The Ebbitt Room in the Virginia Hotel is also pretty good. Both are expensive. Another restaurant I used to like but haven't been in over a year is the Pier House, which is on Ocean Drive and is part of the La Mer hotel. They have a liquor license. Another place I typically avoid but heard they have a new chef and an inventive menu is Althea's, right in the center of town. They also have a liquor license. That's a nice place to get a drink and sit on the porch and watch the world go by, even if you don't eat there. Blue Pig in Congress Hall is a good place to get a drink and sit in the lounge if you don't want to be outside, but the food is just OK. Avoid the Lobster House. It's an overpriced tourist trap, unless you're getting seafood to take away.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Ellen

            Louisa's is/was always good ... but for something different, considering from whence you're coming, how about the Chalfonte Hotel dining room? Seating is communal style (unless they're changed it -- you might want to ask to be seated with others though if you'd prefer that), they have a bar for before dinner drinks, rockers on the porch for coffee later, and you can certainly walk there.

            I don't think I've ever had anything there that I didn't like. It's very Southern in the menu choice, may have upscaled some of it (up-dumbed), and the hotel itself is truly a throw back to earlier times. Check their website -- perhaps someone can chime in if things have changed in the last year or two (always a problem with seasonal visits -- can go from sublime to dreadful in one fell month!)

            Avoid Lobster House, which is really not walkable anyway. I always like Louisa's and 410 Banks, but it's been a few years.

            1. re: birgator

              I haven't been to Louisa's although I've heard good things about it. I keep intending to go to the Calfonte but people keep talking me out of it -- too old fashioned, heavy, throw-back etc., apparently nothing has changed in 50 years. But I do plan to try it for brunch one of these days...

              1. re: Ellen

                Thanks, everyone, for your input! I am leaning towards the Black Duck (my hotel is technically West Cape May....) or the Chalfonte. I love "hasn't changed in 50 years." The Tadich Grill and Original Joe's remain some of my favorites in SF for ambiance and food, and I am looking for the Cape May equivalent of those experiences, I suppose. Crusty waiters and all :) Then, I think I may hit up Coconuts.

                1. re: Chowsmurf

                  Black Duck is quite pleasant, but the food is definitely better at 410 Bank (excellent seafood, and the blackened prime rib is amazing) or the first-rate Washington Inn (410 is definitely more casual AND BYO - although Washington Inn's winelist is huge and very reasonably priced) or Union Park (though we haven't been in two years).

                  Our one experience at the Chalfonte (dinner) was disappointing - and it's pretty far from West Cape May. Agree on Blue Pig - it's just OK - but the Brown Room in Congress Hall is a nice, relatively quiet place to get a drink). I also agree on Lobster House - except for takeout or a drink and raw bar out back on the dock, it should be avoided.

                  1. re: Striver

                    I have to disagree on 410 vs. Black Duck. I definitely prefer BD to 410 foodwise, but I also don't care for the fact that it is noisy, crowded and hectic. Everyone raves about the prime rib and I'm sure that it's very good, but other things I've have there have been less than stellar for the prices they charge. BD is so much more laid back and I've never had anything but excellent food and service there. Union Park would be my second choice. I love Washington Inn but I'm partial to the cost savings that the BYO's offer.

              2. re: birgator

                Aah the Chalfonte. We spend a week in Wildwood every summer, and every year we go to the Chalfonte Sunday buffet. It is blessedly the same, old-style delicious southern cooking every year. We even bought the cookbook.
                The hotel itself is also way old school - I know they don't have heating so they are open only seasonally, and I believe they don't have AC either -- that's what porch breezes are for!

            2. For very casual dining you have to go to the Ugly Mug. It is a great bar and restaurant located on the Washington Mall. they serve a really great burger that you can have topped with fresh crab, it is sooo tasty. I plan to go there for lunch when I am in Wildwood in a few weeks.!!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Barbarella

                Lobster House is great, cmon. The outside deck is nice to have some cold beer and clams. Their shellfish is on the money, always fresh. I dont recommend inside but outside is cool. Its casual dining.

              2. We've been to Cape May twice in the past 10 years. The first time we went, we went to 410 Bank Street and loved it. We made reservations to go there the second time, but as we drove up, the skies opened up, thunder and lightning everywhere, and then the lights went out. We stood in a courtyard under an awning and then they came around and offered us lobster bisque, which I took them up on. It was the best I'd ever tasted. As we waited, hoping for the lights to come back on, there was a huge bolt of lightning followed by a crash of thunder; then the owner came out from another area, really unhinged, and said she was almost struck by lightning, and was closing up for the night. So, we headed for the Lobster House, which we'd also been to, which was outside of town, and they had not lost power. The first time around, LH had excellent, simply-prepared seafood that we really enjoyed. DOWNHILL ALERT--we ordered softshell crabs and they were not really that fresh, and not really that soft. Everthing we had there that night was totally ordinary or worse, and as noted on this discussion, not cheap. We won't be going back. But I'm glad to hear that 410 Bank is still good, because at our suggestion, our best friends made reservations there for tomorrow.