On the rainiest day of this summer, I ventured down to the Cape May Fish Market in the Washington Street Mall. As it rained harder and harder, something told me to keeping pressing on. That something was the unbelievable crab cake I sampled at the Food Network’s Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival just one week before. The “buzz” at the festival was deafening, “Don’t miss the crab cakes in the corner!” There, Paula and her crew from the Cape May Seafood Market were serving what seemed like a mile long line of hungry customers.
After parking our car and dodging buckets of rain, we were greeted with warm (and dry) smiles at the entrance to an enclosed patio seating area before entering the restaurant. From here on out I will attempt to describe how incredible this restaurant is – from the staff to the ambiance (which won an award) to the menu and quality of food….I think King Neptune himself would be pleased.
Holding a quaint booth for us in the corner, Constantine, our waiter, welcomed us with his smooth Russian accent and smile. We were then joined by Paula bearing two cherry lemonades — her own clever twist on a “drink menu” since at the current time no alcohol is served. She does make it a point to send everyone a few doors down to the The Ugly Mug pub for a drink after their meal.
As Paula listened to what type of seafood we enjoyed, she motioned to Constantine to bring over a sampler platter (pictured above) of all of our favorites. I do not think there is a word in the English ‘foodie’ vocabulary to describe the flavor and freshness of this seafood. I am a VERY picky seafood eater and can tell you “perfection” is the closest I can get.
Paula knew we liked both broiled and fried seafood, so she set us up with a plate that basically consisted of everything in the restaurant. This included sea scallops (my favorite), crab cakes (with a coating so ‘thin’ yet crispy and warm and silky on the inside), clams casino, and a totally serious piece of grilled tuna topped with lump crab meat. Every ingredient was fresh and local, Wow…..
Now for lunch. Paula suggested the lobster roll and the broiled crab cake sandwich with chipotle sauce and homemade rolls. Even though we were starting to getted stuffed, the food was so delicious that when Paula said “now for the soup” we couldn’t argue. Two piping hot, thick and creamy bowls of New England clam chowder were set down before us. The aroma of clams, butter, cream and an unusual mystery spice. As we sipped each spoonful, not wanting to miss a drop, we tried in vane to distinguish all the ingredients. Although we did guess the obvious, Paula noted that the chef has his own “secret ingredients” that he experiments with at different times.
When we really could not eat another bite (I think we tried everything on the menu), Paula packed us a doggie bag (or “Bev bag” as my husband loves to call it) with Market sweatshirts, aprons, T-shirts, jackets…oh, and dessert. Paula slipped in a full box of her “secret” cookies. In her spare time Paula is the baker on premises, but when she is too busy they bring in delicious baked goods such as cheesecakes and mouthwatering mile high chocolate cakes from a local baker.
I did not even know the cookies were in my “Bev bag” until she smiled, handed me the bag and said….”When you get home, try the cookies, and let me know what you think.” And I sure did at about 10pm that night. Trust me when I tell you, I would go back just for her cookies – and I am not a big cookie eater!
So, after we packed up and gave everyone a hug, Paula brought us over for a beverage at their sister restaurant, The Ugly Mug. I am very familiar with Cape May, and with this bar specifically, because in my earlier days living in Cape May, I spent many nights here. With our family mug still hanging from the ceiling, we always know that every trip down to Cape May must include a stop at the Ugly Mug. As I walked through the door though I immediately saw a transformed Ugly Mug. Beautiful wood paneling and open windows have made over The Ugly Mug to well, the pretty mug. Remnants of the old Mug still remain but much has been renovated under Paula’s direction. Burgers, nachos, cheddar fries, seafood, salads… and, yes, alcohol, are still all served in great numbers at The Ugly Mug.
After finishing my chardonnay and Bob his beer, we completed our three hour lunch and waddled to the car, assuring Paula that even without the sweatshirts, T-shirts, and her ‘secret’ cookies, we would tell the world about both of these masterpieces in Washington Square….or at least our special readers at Jersey Bites!
Cape May Fish Market
Located between the Ugly Mug and Jackson Mountain Cape in the
Washington Street Mall
Cape May, NJ
Beverly A. Beveridge is our Monmouth County Regional Editor. Bev resides in Eatontown with her husband, Bob, daughters, Melissa and Brittany, son, Glenn, dog, Bailey and cats, Kitty and Slodki (polish for honey/sweet). She enjoys dining out, piano, tennis, travelling, designing her JERSEY GIRL swimsuits and Calendar, music (especially Rock Concerts) and meeting people. Enjoy her ‘fun’ reviews! Passport to Peru – Home of the Jersey Girls Swimsuit models and ‘Calendar’ Girls! ‘Passport Swimsuits – A Swimsuit to fit ‘every body’. www.passporttoperu.net