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May 6, 2008 11:39 AM

Casual Fine Dining in Cape May Vicinity

Pardon another Cape May post, but we need some specific advice. My birthday is on Sunday May 18 and we (couple in the early sixties) would like to go out for a nice meal. However, we will be there on a camping trip, staying in Belleplain State forest, so the fanciest clothes we will have will be black (or white) jeans and a turtleneck. So where can we get good food and service and not feel uncomfortable in jeans? Since we're used to NYC prices, I don't think we'll find any place too expensive for this occasion, but we will need them to take credit cards as I am constitutionally averse to paying ATM fees and Chase and HSBC don't seem to have any ATMs in southern Jersey. So far, in reviewing the recent posts we've looked at Peter Shield's Inn, the Washington Inn, and the Ebbitt Room (Union Park Dining Room is not open on Sunday), but don't know if we would feel comfortable in jeans in those places. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. The mentioned places are more upscale and they might not actually allow jeans there. I can suggest three places off the top of my head where you'd be fine in jeans and the food is good - Copper Fish, Lucky Bones, and Mad Batter.

    3 Replies
    1. re: dani0622

      My husband and I enjoyed a lovely meal at The Mad Batter last week. Seared scallops, roasted pear salad, crabcakes and they serve our fav, Dogfish Head beers. Meal was wonderful, casual atmosphere in a heated outdoor veranda. Jackson Street.

      1. re: HillJ

        Godmothers is great (BYOB) on Broadway for casual dining and good food. Lobster House of course (outside rec only, not BYOB). Tisha's on the Water, Henry's on the Beach. HB and enjoy.

        1. re: HillJ

          edited to add: if you and your guests seek a night stroll in the heart of Cape May's shopping district after dinner, The Mad Batter is close to both shops & the ocean.

      2. I think you would be fine at the Peter Shields Inn wearing jeans, and you would have a really nice meal there.

        I think a better choice, and actually closer to Belleplain, is Sea Salt in Stone Harbor. My wife and I feel it's the best BYOB in the Cape May area. It's small and casual and has a talented and creative chef. Be sure to call for reservations, because they are just now reopening and they have a lot of fans. Acutally we're liable to see you there.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Rocket88

          Thanks for all the recommendations. In particular, Sea Salt looks wonderful BUT the website is a little lacking. It says it is open six days a week, but doesn't say which ones. Are they open Sunday? And do they take credit cards? I didn't see any mention of that.

          1. re: bobjbkln

            Sea Salt is like a lot of restaurants in the area in that it closes for the winter and reopens around mothers' day. We just got a note from them stating that they are reopening the week after, which is around you were looking at.

            The restaurant is run by a young husband and wife team - he's the chef and she's the front of the house. They are a delightful couple. He's Argintinian born and writes a lot of the menu descriptions and website stuff, which is why it has a bit of an "english as a second language" flavor. It's part of the charm of the place, IMHO. I think they take credit cards, and they are probably not open 6 days to start, but I'm pretty sure they'll be open Sunday. I think Monday is the off day in high season. Best thing to do is call, they'll be able to answer your questions. Ask for Deana.

            1. re: Rocket88

              Another vote for Sea Salt in Stone Harbor. My husband and I enjoyed it so much that we ate there 2 times in 4 nights last summer. When I received the post card the other day about the re-opening I was seriously considering a 4- 5 hour roundtrip just to eat dinner there. It's that good!

              1. re: Rocket88

                I just Emailed them. They are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday (good for us) Starting May 16th (good for us) and take MasterCard and Visa (Good for us). So it looks like we probably will head there. Thanks all.

          2. No No No -- I have been vacationing in Cape May for 21 years. All the restaurants mentioned are fine. But ...
            It should be noted that the fanciest restaurant in this resort town would be happy if you are "neat and pretty" -- wear anything. I assume for a birthday celebration with no limits on cost you would not prefer a casual type place.
            Peter Shields = romantic atmosphere but not tops in food
            Lucky Bones = fabulous Cuban Pork Chop and the best Cosmos but noisy and crowded and very casual
            Godmothers = was good 5-10 years ago when the owner was the chef but not now, mediocre caesar salad, awful fettucine alfredo.
            Copper Fish = new owner
            Lobster House = the classic seafood place, favorite flounder francaise, not fancy but not too casual either. Get a table by the water.
            Mad Batter= noisy, uncomfortable atmosphere
            Henry's on the Beach = are you kidding?
            Hands down the best restaurant is 410 Bank Street (byob). Their Mushroom soup is to die for and the bread pudding is better than mothers. Not sure when they open for the season.
            Runner up The Washington Inn.

            9 Replies
            1. re: NABORLY

              I do take exception to Mad Batter naborly! LOL!
              We had a lovely dinner there last week and never felt uncomfortable. Jazz music was playing at a very subtle level and the meal was top notch. Perhaps you're missing out.

              1. re: NABORLY

                Thanks all for thesuggestions so far
                It looks like there are almost as many varied opinions here as on the New York boards. There was a thread a while back where some people really disliked 410 Bank and another where the Lobster House was panned.

                1. re: bobjbkln

                  Well -- you can't please all the people all the time.
                  If you are looking for something more refined and/or fancy in cape may (ignoring opinions about the food) try 410 Bank Street or The Washington Inn or Union Park or The Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel. Good chops and a beautiful oak bar can be had at The Merion Inn, sometimes with nice piano music. Oh, and I just remembered The Black Duck also very nice atmosphere. Or you could try A Ca Mia. In Cape May, the list goes on and on.

                  1. re: bobjbkln

                    The lobster house so jumped the shark. It smells like bathroom cleaner and you can get better food just about anywhere. I can't imagine eating there. I buy fresh seafood there and take it home to cook. I was completely underwhelmed by 410. I thought it was highly overpriced and noisy. Washington Inn is always a good choice but its not BYO and is $$$. Go to Peter Shields only for the location, food is secondary, the good chef went to Union Park a few years ago. Henry's on the Beach is awful, don't bother. I never had a great meal at the Mad Batter but all the tourists seem to love it. Try either the Union Park in the Hotel Macomber (not the warmest atmosphere but the food is very good and BYO) or the Black Duck in West Cape May. Very good food and BYO. Ebbit Room is good too (not BYO) The menu at Tisha's on the boardwalk looks great but I've never been. Marie Nicoles in Wildwood Crest is very very good, not BYO (I'd pick that or Washington Inn for your birthday.). I have heard great things about Sea Salt. I plan to try it next week. And in Cape May, you can pretty much wear whatever you want anwhere. It's a vacation town. No one will turn down your money. Have fun and happy birthday.

                    1. re: Ellen

                      Well, my tastes or more in line with Ellen than NABORLY, but that's what these boards are for. I was not aware of the PS chef going to Union Park, we'll give it another try. That would have been about the time the old Union Park chef went to Black Duck, no?

                      Regarding Mad Batter, I think the food and atmosphere took a big step down a few years ago when it got a liquor license. We'll still have lunch there on the porch, but that's about it. Thumbs up for Tisha's and you've seen what I've said about Sea Salt.

                      1. re: Rocket88

                        Mad Batter has new owners. The new bar (literally a brand new bar) is beautiful and the dinner & breakfast my dh & I enjoyed there recently was fabulous. To each their own :)

                        1. re: HillJ

                          I didn't know that - maybe we'll give it another shot.

                          All this discussion has been fun, but with the weather we're having down here, after bobjbklin's camping trip he might be in more of a mood for chicken soup and sudafed from the local wawa than a gourmet meal .

                          1. re: HillJ

                            I haven't been down yet this year, but this is news to me. The web site still reflects the owners of the last 30 years.

                            1. re: Batona

                              We have several Cape May favorites and MB is still one of them. When you return this year, be sure to include a stop at the new bar area.

                  2. I just happened upon this thread when I was doing a search for Tisha's and now I'm really torn. We literally live a block away from Sea Salt, but have never been (was planning on trying this summer). I made reservations for Tisha's tomorrow night based on high praise from friends and the fact that it's got such nice views. What to do???

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: cjc519

                      Even though I'm the Sea Salt cheerleader, I like Tisha's too. I'd keep the reservation, Sea Salt is liable to be booked up anyway as this is their opening weekend. Make sure to go sometime, though.

                      And since you're in the area, the same couple that own Sea Salt have opened a second restaurant, Quahog’s Seafood Shack. 206 97th St. Stone Harbor, that's specializing in takeout and more casual fare. Have not tried it yet myself, but intend to soon.

                      1. re: Rocket88

                        That's good to know. I'll have to run by and take a look this weekend. I will keep the res as Tisha's. It will be much more convenient for us to stay in Avalon/Stone Harbor as the summer gets into full swing so we'll have plenty of oppurtunities to check out Sea Salt. Thanks!

                        1. re: cjc519

                          Please post back on Tisha's. I'd love to know your experience. And for a totally fabulous but takeaway only crab cake, dont miss the tiny crab cake stand at 24ht and New Jersey in Wildwood. They are outstanding. As are his sea salt baked potatoes.

                          1. re: Ellen

                            My husband and I both really enjoyed Tisha's. We started with an appetizer which is shrimp in some kind of butter bbq sauce on top of crostini with melted fontina cheese. I could've eaten it all myself. I would love to get the recipe for the sauce... delicious. Salads are included and you've got a choice of house or ceasar. Both were good. For entrees... I had the halibut with crab in a light sauce (forget exactly what it was) and dh had the shrimp and crabcake. Both were excellent. Our server was very friendly. The only thing was that they ran out of broccoli rabe, so any dishes with that were subbed with spinach. It was pretty chilly when we went and we didn't sit outside, but next time I would love to. I'll definitely be back. I'm a huge fan of crabcakes and usually get them Back Bay seafood in Stone Harbor (next to Sea Salt), but I'm definitely going to give your place a try! Sea Salt is next on my list... maybe this weekend if I'm lucky enough to get a reservation.

                    2. Thanks again everyone. We're back now (actually came back Tuesday instead of yesterday, given the weather). I am pleased that the conversation went on even after we could no longer hear it (no laptop in the woods). Surprisingly, despite the often miserable weather we only ate out once (the planned birthday meal), so we did not get a chance to check out the other restaurants.

                      We did go to Sea Salt on Sunday and were very pleased we did. The atmosphere was both casual and "special", just what we were hoping for. We called for a reservation at about 3 that day. We arrived as scheduled at 6:30 and were promptly seated. The place was lively although there were empty tables when we arrived and throughout our dinner. The food was very good, but perhaps a bit too ambitious (fois gras with the scallops appetizer; artichoke--heart and leaves--in a heavy sauce on my tilefish). Marilyn's seafood risotto was appropriately simple and tasty. Surprisingly, there was no offer of dessert (perhaps their supplier has not opened yet) and they had no espresso, although the American coffee was excellent.

                      All in all it was like having an upscale comfortable neighborhood restaurant in the middle of a resort area. A pleasant surprise. So thanks all for the recommendations.