For the last seven or so years, my husband and I try to get down for one weekend in December to Cape May, NJ. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this quaint , Victorian seaside town, it’s the most Southern place in NJ. We love it there so much we even got married there last year. It’s a great place for couples, families, whoever. In the summer, it’s the typical NJ shore town with beautiful, old Victorian buildings, tons of B&B’s, and lots of great shopping. But in December, it’s a whole other experience. Cape May in December IS Christmas to me. The Victorian houses with the charming decor, the trolley and horse and carriage parading down the streets, the smell of the fireplaces- I recommend experiencing this for yourself if you can.
Enough about the town though! Cape May is considered by many, the dining capital of NJ. There are a ton of restaurants for every taste- American, seafood, French, Italian, Caribbean, you name it, you can find it somewhere in Cape May. This trip we visited three old haunts and tried one new one. We had some good and okay dining experiences…
One of our traditions when we arrive in Cape May on a Friday evening is to head to the Washington Street Mall, an outdoor pedestrian mall filled with speciality shops and restaurants. In December, you can often find Dickens carolers or a brass band playing holiday classics. Once we get there, we head straight over to The Ugly Mug. It’s half tourist, half local bar with pretty good food. It’s been around for over 60 years and hanging from the ceiling are mugs of all of the members of the bar. The ones facing the sea have passed away. It’s also a family friendly spot. This year, my husband and I were joined by my 13-year old sister, a teenager who appreciates good food like her big sis. At the Ugly Mug, little sis ordered a Chili Cheese Burger, hubby ordered a Fried Flounder Sandwich, and I had a Crab Cake Sandwich. All three meals were delicious and hit the spot after a long drive down. I particularly enjoyed my Crab Cake, it was fried golden brown and had tons of lump crab meat inside. I’ve had the Fried Flounder before and tasted my husband’s and it was good as always, not greasy, flavored right, and lots of tender, flaky fish inside.
The next day for breakfast we headed over to the popular Mad Batter Restaurant inside the Carroll Villa hotel. We’ve been going here since our first trip down and have had scrumptious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners every time. We like this particular place so much, when we got married, we had our rehearsal dinner here. The Mad Batter is perhaps one of the most popular places for breakfast and usually there is a short wait, but it’s worth it. My husband had oatmeal pancakes (hearty and filling), while my little sis had buttermilk blueberry pancakes (bursting with berries), and I being the most adventurous of the group that morning had the Croustade- scrambled eggs with roasted peppers, garlic, green onions, sausage crumbles and Pepper Jack cheese served over Texas toast. I’ve had this before and it is creamy, flavorful, and really filling. In fact, I’ve noticed the same item on another restaurant’s breakfast menu….
For lunch that day, we headed over to The Bella Vida Cafe in West Cape May. It’s a family-run “diner”, very small and quaint in a tiny, yellow building. You’d almost miss it, if you weren’t looking and that would be sad 😦 We discovered Bella Vida a few years ago and this place has some great home cooking with huge portions, low prices, great service, and always an open table. This is definitely a local place. Little sis had some crispy, gooey mozzarella sticks, husband had the Happy Thanksgiving Wrap (turkey, cranberry, coleslaw) which he loved, and I had an ABLT (a BLT with avocado). My sandwich was served on the most delicious wheat bread with fresh avocado. I wasn’t too hungry because of breakfast and this small, light sandwich was perfect. Little sis and I also shared a Creamy Crab Chowder that was ultra thick and creamy and filled with huge chunks of tasty crab. Hubby had some French Onion soup topped with some gooey melted cheese he loved.
Later that night for dinner we tried a new place, The Blue Pig Tavern in Congress Hall hotel. Congress Hall is one of the larger hotels in Cape May and one of the oldest and most beautiful. I like to compare it to the Short Hills Hilton but with a Victorian flair. The Blue Pig Tavern was quite cozy, dimly lit with a beautiful fireplace. The service was pretty good, the food was just okay. I don’t think we’ll return here in the future. For appetizers, we had Crispy Ginger Shrimp Wontons which were just okay, the ginger was underwhelming. We also had the Crab, Caramelized Onion and Fontina Tart. We were told this would take awhile and I figured it was because it was an individual tart. Turns out, we received a lukewarm slice from a larger tart but it was actually quite delicious. For our main course, my husband had the fish and chips, which was very tasty. My little sis and I had the Saturday night special, Prime Rib and baked potato. I usually get Prime Rib when it’s on the menu, but this one was just too fatty. And worse, the potato was undercooked. Sadly, I cannot recommend this place, there are just far too many more fabulous restaurants in Cape May.
The next morning, we headed back to Bella Vida for breakfast. We all decided to be boring that morning and get the same thing, scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon or ham, and a short stack of pancakes. Simple but tasty!!!
If you do venture down to Cape May, you’ll have a wide selection for every taste and every budget. If you ever need any feedback feel free to comment here about any Cape May restaurants and I’ll respond if I am familiar with them. We’ve been to many so we may be able to help!
P.S. Let me know how you like the pics! A co-worker, (MS-you know who you are…) said my pictures weren’t too good and that’s putting it nicely!