BYOBs in Cape May Part I
We love to go out to dinner in Cape May. It truly has some of our absolute favorite restaurants. I have mentioned restaurants in so many of my prior posts like A Girl’s Trip in Cape May and Planning a Cape May Vacation. When deciding where to dine, BYOBs in Cape May are a great option and there are so many of them. This post will cover some of the higher end BYOBs with a follow-up post covering the rest. I resisted using the term “fine dining”, because I think that really is a very personal thing. What is fine dining for one person, it just an average restaurant to another. So, this post will cover ten that have higher entrée prices overall. They are not in any particular order—just somewhat random.
GRANA BYOB on the corner of Perry and Broadway is new as of 2022 and is owned by Carl and Meg Messick. Carl had been the chef at Peter Shields (more on that below) and brought much of that flair with him. The venue is cozy and light with a bit of a romantic feel. Everything on the four-course menu (as well as a chef’s tasting) is made in-house, include their amazing pasta and desserts. Items such as Hudson Valley Foie Gras (I’m not a fan but my husband loves it) are perpetually on the menu, but they do change it up seasonally. In season, they also offer a lovely brunch on Sundays. We have found the service to be warm and attentive. They participate in Restaurant Week which is a great way to give them a try. Reservations can be made on Resy. Pro tip: there’s a liquor store (Sunset Liquors) conveniently located right down the street.
Peter Shield’s on Beach Avenue is an iconic Cape May BYOB and Inn. There are five lovely rooms (as well as the porch in the warmer months) that are bright and airy with an elegant ambiance. You might even be lucky enough to snag an ocean view table. The (dinner only) menu is two courses and dessert of course and changes with the seasons and is all made in house. It is not a large menu, but it has a great balance of options that are traditional, but with flair such as duck with mustard infused spaetzle, wilted Swiss chard and a cherry white balsamic gastrique. For decades, patrons have raved about the wonderful food and service. Reservations can be made on OpenTable.
410 Bank Street on (you guessed it) Bank Street was established in 1984 and has been the favorite BYOB of many for years. The menu is Cajun inspired and really has a New Orleans vibe to it. You will find items that are blackened, creole and a touch Caribbean. Everything is made in house, including their award-winning desserts. In my experience, the menu is relatively consistent and always wonderful. One of the things that has always delighted me at 410 is their attention to detail and plate presentation—they are like works of art. There is limited outdoor seating in the warmer seasons, and they are not open all year. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant.
Tisha’s on Washington Street Mall (it had been located on the beach) was established in 1995 and has developed quite a following. In addition to a lovely dinner menu, Tisha’s also serves lunch during the busier months (they take a few months off at the start of the year). The menus are limited but hit all the notes of cuisine from seafood to steak to pasta. Tisha’s consistently gets high marks from patrons, and it is often one of those places that folks say they “must go to” while in Cape May. They have a small, heated front porch area for outside dining, as well as a back doggie friendly patio. Reservations can be made on OpenTable.
Union Park on Beach Avenue is on the first level of the Hotel Macomber. They are currently serving a three-course pre-fixe menu with a few items that have a bit of an up charge. The menu items are for the most part quite traditional, but globally inspired using local ingredients. Union Park has collected quite a few awards over the years and gets rave reviews for both food and service. Dinner is served indoors in a romantic and elegant setting, as well as on their front porch with a view of the ocean. They are not open during the coldest of months and do not have menu options for children. Reservations can be made on OpenTable.
The Black Duck on Sunset has been around for many years and is quietly the favorite restaurant of many. The menu is Asian fusion and limited but complex. The pu pu platter often gets a “must order” mention in reviews! The restaurant is in a lovely house and the atmosphere is cozy and bright with black and white photos of Cape May long ago. It reminds me a little of being in Key West. Sunset Liquors is also conveniently located nearby right across the street. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant.
Primal by Mia on Beach Avenue is the only one that directly overlooks the ocean! There is literally a cult following for this place. The chef owner Mia Chiarella has developed an interesting menu with an emphasis on wood grilled steaks including a 36-ounce tomahawk, but there is so much more. Completing the evening is a complimentary chef’s choice dessert. The intimate but bright dining area offers fabulous views of the beach which is unique in Cape May. Primal is open all year. Reservations can only be made by texting the restaurant a week in advance (full instructions are on the website).
Vintage on Washington Street at the Physick Estate has only been open a few years but has really established itself. As part of the Kara Restaurant Group, it is owned by the folks that own a few other BYOBs in town such as George’s. Vintage offers both a dinner and brunch menu with a bit of a Greek flair. The menus change seasonally, but a perennial favorite for bunch is their pancake charcuterie board (yes please!) There’s a lovely indoor space, as well as a really pretty outside patio dining which is doggie friendly. They are not open during the chilly months. Reservations can be made on OpenTable.
YB on Beach Avenue is another Kara restaurant. The evolving menu is small but has a nice variety of starters and entrees. They also offer a complimentary amuse-bouche at the start of the evening to whet your appetite. In my experience, the portions are generous so plan accordingly (and try to save room for dessert if you can because it is worth it). YB is open all year and during the warmer season. The intimate dining room is dark, moody, and romantic. It’s got a great date night atmosphere. Reservations can be made on OpenTable.
Jardin on Washington Street in the Hugh Bed & Breakfast is the only BYOB on the list that we have not enjoyed (yet). The plant forward menu is pre-fixe 10 courses and definitely is for the more sophisticated palate. Each course is complex, imaginative, and artfully arranged. Chef Michael Schultz has impressive credentials that are impressive and extensive—Le Bec Fin, Lecriox, Tangerine, The French Laundry just to name a few. It also comes at an impressive price $121 before tax and gratuity. The dining room is light filled from walls of windows with touches of white, brown, and turquoise. They are not open during the colder months. Reservations can be made on their website via TableAgent and are payable in advance—a gift certificate will be provided for cancellations.
Following is a handy map to show each location!
Many of the spots on this post do offer limited wines from local wineries. It is best to call ahead if you prefer to go that route. Fun little story—Gerard and I were at 410 Bank Street once and the couple next to us pulled out a cocktail shaker with martinis! Genius, right? We have many favorite restaurants that offer a full bar service, but what a fun alternative.
Again, I will be covering additional BYOBs in a future blog post. Have I inspired you to try new restaurants or return to old favorites? It is always astounding to me that the variety of cuisine offered at restaurants in Cape May and the BYOBs are no exception—from French/Cajun to Greek there are so many options. I always love to hear about your favorite spots and memories, so please let me know. Look forward to BYOBs in Cape May Part II in the coming weeks.
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