Our happy place is Cape May, NJ. We vacation here every year for a full week and we know all the hot spots, the not-so-hot spots, and everything in between. We are total food snobs, BUT…on vacation we do like to indulge and sometimes that involves eating “junk” food like boardwalk food and (gasp!) kids meals. I think you’ll find this little list helpful if you ever venture down to Cape May for a weekend or week-long getaway.
Let’s start with my absolutely favorite spot–Quincy’s Lobster Roll. My mouth starts watering for these amazing little treasures the minute the weather starts to turn. I actually know I’m going to eat here at LEAST twice when we’re down for the week…every.single.time. It’s that good. Bonus–if you don’t mind the kids’ meals, kids eat free Wednesday nights during dinner hours. Quincy’s is an unassuming little spot right on Beach Ave. across from the convention center. It’s tiny–you can’t eat-in (but they do have some outdoor tables), and you won’t need to because your plump, delicious lobster goodness will be gone LONG before you reach the end of the sidewalk!!! 😉 You seriously won’t be able to stop thinking about these lobster rolls the entire time you are in Cape May. And the rolls are served on this light, fluffy, delicious, buttered, toasted bread (almost like a Texas toast) instead of a boring and dull roll. Anyway, I can’t go on and on about Quincy’s because this one post has to cover several of our favorite Cape May joints, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!
On to the next! You HAVE to hit Aloha when you’re in Cape May. If you’ve never had a smoothie bowl…RUN, don’t walk, to Aloha. The smoothies and smoothie bowls here are a super healthy alternative to many of the other quick grab-and-go options right on the beach. These are REAL smoothies…made with fruit, almond milk, and other real, whole-food ingredients. The bowls include things like bananas, granola, goji berries, shaved coconut (like…they take a whole coconut and shave it. It’s not a purchased shaved coconut form a bag!), honey, peanut butter, and so much more. No added sugar and no unnecessary stuff. Try their signature pink mango smoothie. It’s a vibrant bright pink color, which the kids love! Again, Aloha is right off Beach Ave….it’s actually right around the corner from Quincy’s.
Next I’d like to highlight a place where I forgot to take photos (eek!). We hit up this spot first every year as a tradition. We leave NY around 4:30am, say good morning to the beach when we arrive, and then head over to Back Street Cafe for some delicious, no-frills breakfast. It’s just simple, good food with amazing service and an easy atmosphere. We have gotten to know the owners and it’s become an extended family tradition to eat here–it’s always fun to see who has called ahead to pay for our bill when we arrive at this spot each year (we return the favor, too! Like I said…fun family tradition!). Sorry there are no pictures, but I had to give Back Street a shout out! Check it out here.
Next let’s talk about The Rusty Nail. If you want to feel like you’re on a tropical vacation, you have to hit up this spot. Not the most amazing food ever (although not terrible), but for what it lacks on the menu, it 110% makes up in vibe. You will dine with your toes in the sand, listening to live music, watching the sun set and hearing the waves crash across the street. There’s a fire pit for chilly nights, a rowboat for the kids to jump around in, a shuffleboard court, a ping pong table, an open-air bar, and the drinks are plentiful. This is a little gem and we dine here every year, too. They do have a nice chicken parm on the kids’ menu and something really fun is that each kids’ meal comes served on a frisbee (which you get to keep) and includes a big house-made chocolate-chip cookie for dessert. Kids love it! Be aware–they do not take reservations and the prime tables (in the sand, near the music) fill up VERY EARLY! You’ll notice I only took “atmosphere” pictures here…the food just isn’t that exciting. Although they do a pig roast every Tuesday and my husband really likes that. I apologize for the lack of food photos, but these will give you an idea of the atmosphere…and let’s face it…that’s why we come here!
A trip to Cape May wouldn’t be complete without a trip (who am I kidding…SEVERAL trips!) to Peace Pie. This is our favorite place for ice cream/dessert. The reason I included both the words ice cream and dessert is because Peace Pie is a unique treat. It goes like this: cookie, ice cream, pie filling, cookie. BAM! Super-charged ice cream sandwich. It’s a tiny place–no eating-in here. But no worries. You will have that thing gone before you reach the end of the street 😉 And they have so many flavors to choose from. Something for everyone. Yum!
Well…that covers our favorites. Cape May is FULL of amazing places to dine. I’m going to give a shout out–but not a full review–to the new establishment Iccara, a traditional Italian place that just opened up this year. VERY good authentic food and very good to the kids. We’ll be dining here again if it’s still around next year (my thoughts are that it will be!) and maybe I’ll do a full review next year after having two separate experiences here!
I could spend three hours writing about all the fantastic places we’ve eaten in Cape May, but the point here is to highlight just a few. I’m going to individually rate each one below for you but since we park our car on the first day and don’t get back in it until the last day (and since CM is primarily a walking town), I’ve eliminated the “parking” category. I’m glad I got to share a little piece of my happy place with you all!
Happy eating, friends!
INDIVIDUAL RATINGS BY VENUE
Aloha: overall rating is a 5
Quality and Variety of Food: Since this is a smoothie place, I’m going to rate based on the quality and variety of smoothies. You don’t come here looking for a sandwich! I’m giving a 4 because the quality is VERY high and they have some unique choices, but it is, indeed, a limited menu. They have what they have.
Kid-Friendliness: Total 5 here!
Cleanliness, Comfort and Atmosphere: Great atmosphere with a total beachy vibe and every time we’ve been in, it’s clean, which is no small feat with people bouncing in and out wet and sweaty and sandy…solid 4.
Cost: For the freshness and quality offered, it’s a big 5 for us.
Experience with the Staff: Always friendly and never been a line more than a few minutes! Another 5.
Backstreet Cafe: overall rating is a 5
Quality and Variety of Food: The variety of food is outstanding. It’s no-frills, home-cooked goodness. I give a 5 🙂
Kid-Friendliness: Another 5. They don’t even flinch when things spill, etc, and they asked us this time if we’d have a fourth with us next year….(!) Spoiler alert–WE WON’T!
Cleanliness, Comfort and Atmosphere: Always clean, always comfortable…it’s a small place but you can go outside if they kids get antsy. There’s a cat shelter a few windows down and our boys love to watch the cats while we wait for the food (and it’s never a long wait but keep in mind we open the place at the crack of 9am!). Giving a 4 because you have to walk into the kitchen to get to the bathroom.
Desserts: We’ve only had breakfast here but I have SEEN the dessert menu and they have this amazing-sounding (and my MIL attests to its yumminess) cobbler that you have to order 30 minutes in advance so it comes out piping hot and scrumptious! I’m not going to rate because I haven’t personally experienced this category.
Cost: VERY good prices. Five.
Experience with the Staff: A huge 5 here.
Peace Pie: overall rating is another 5!
Quality and Variety of Food: Well….they only serve peace pies here. So, it’s kind of N/A.
Kid-Friendliness: Total 5 here! They love kids and kids love ice cream, so…match made in heaven!
Cleanliness, Comfort and Atmosphere: Aways been clean and comfortable. My one gripe is that they don’t have a place to sit and eat the treats. HOWEVER…they’re on the backside of the Washington Street Mall, so there are plenty of benches nearby. It still gets a 5.
Desserts: WELL….OBVIOUSLY A 5! I’ve never had a flavor I don’t like. Until I do…this is a 5, too!
Cost: I think these giants ice cream sandwiches (with pie filling) are a steal at $6 each! For the kids, we get them cut in half so it’s really only $3 per child…it’s pretty huge and heavy for a toddler to do more than half of one of these babies! Another 5.
Experience with the Staff: This is always a pleasure, too. They are very accommodating, let you take your time, will cut the treats in half for you…and they have a FREE jar of “misfit” cookies that broke and couldn’t be used for the sandwiches. FREE. Places don’t do that anymore. It’s really nice. Another five!
Quincy’s: overall rating….you guessed it…FIVE!
Quality and Variety of Food: I am giving a 5 here because although they are a lobster roll place, they also have a crab roll, a shrimp roll, chicken fingers, clam strips, mac and cheese, lobster mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and some other things to choose from. It’s a pretty good menu for a small take out place that focuses on lobster rolls. Quality is through the roof!
Kid-Friendliness: Total 5 here…it’s a take out place so there is no where to eat inside the joint, but they do have tables and chairs outside, underneath an overhang, nonetheless. So, you get to eat without the sun blazing down on you. Kids can sit or run around while they eat and watch people passing by. They have kid-friendly meals, too (like the chicken fingers, grilled cheese, mac and cheese, hot dog and corn dog).
Cleanliness, Comfort and Atmosphere: It seems very clean but, again, it’s just a take out place…you do see part of where they prepare the food in addition to the counter where you pick up, though, and it passes my test. The workers also wear gloves, which IMO should be a thing at all restaurants where people touch your food! Another 5.
Desserts: Hmm…I’ve never had dessert here so I’ll skip this category. BUT. I do always see their frozen whoopie pies on the menu. So they do have a sweet offering here!
Cost: Not gonna lie…it’s pricey. The quality and freshness of the lobster is worth every penny. But if you’re on a budget…you’ll probably skip this one. We typically spend about $50 for lunch here. But don’t forget–kids eat free Wednesday nights! So you can save some money that way. I’ll give a 4 in this category.
Experience with the Staff: Always a pleasure! We order from the beach and go pick it up lots of times and it’s always ready on time, fresh, paying is quick and easy, and staff is friendly. A five here.
Rusty Nail: overall rating, 4.
Quality and Variety of Food: You already know how I feel about this, I’m giving a 3. here. It’s not terrible. It’s just nothing to write home about. I’ll say this–the kids always love it. And that’s important!
Kid-Friendliness: Super 5 here!
Cleanliness, Comfort and Atmosphere: I have to say…the atmosphere and comfort would be a 5. But…this place reminds me of my gigging days…it smells like the bars on McLean Avenue at 2am when the gig is over and you’re trying to pack up your gear and drink Irish people (I can say that–I’m part Irish!) are stumbling all over each other. So…I’m giving a 2. Yes, it’s that bad. The bathrooms in particular have a distinct stench. I don’t doubt that they clean this place every night. I just think the smell is embedded in the grains of the floors and walls by now…maybe it’s time for a makeover, Rusty Nail!!! If you stay outside and try to avoid using the restroom, you won’t even notice this and you’ll think my rating is BS!
Desserts: I love that the kids get a warm chocolate chip cookie with their meals. It’s included, it’s not too much, and it’s something I don’t have to think about because it’s taken care of! Adult dessert…they have plenty to choose from but we typically skip the desserts from the menu here since we prefer ice cream shops, etc. I’ll give a 3.
Cost: Reasonable. I’m giving a three because it’s very reasonable but the quality isn’t up there. You can all eat here and feel you’ve gotten a good value overall. The kids’ meals are especially good value here. The kids’ chicken parm meal and the kids fish and chips meal were both big hits for us.
Experience with the Staff: Staff is friendly. We’ve talked to most the musicians and they are always super friendly–they have regular musicians so if you really like someone, call ahead and see which night he is playing. Staff is also accommodating and patient. Sometimes the service can be slow, but this place is ALWAYS absolutely PACKED after 5pm so it’s par for the course. They’re working hard! Four here.