Who says summer is the only time to enjoy the southernmost community in the Garden State? When the temperatures drop, Cape May continues on, offering plenty of Victorian holiday charm. Dozens of small shops remain open and yes, so do a number of restaurants worth writing home about. Here are just a few Cape May eateries you’ll want to dig into during your holiday season visit.
Start with Breakfast at the Mad Batter
The Mad Batter is set inside the Carroll Villa Hotel. It’s one of Cape May’s best-known breakfast spots and is loaded with Victorian charm. Stop in and enjoy the orange and almond French toast or Belgian waffles with pecans. Customers also love to indulge in the Chesapeake Bay Benedict, which tops traditional eggs benedict with jumbo lump crab meat. On weekends, the restaurant fills up, so arrive early or expect to wait. It’s also open for lunch and dinner.
The Mad Batter
19 Jackson Street
Stop for Lunch at the C-View Inn
When it comes to no-frills lunch spots, the C-View Inn, which prides itself as Cape May’s oldest tavern, is hard to beat. “Great food, cold beer” show in big letters outside, and this place delivers on both. It draws a local crowd, but tourists are always welcome. The restaurant is decorated modestly, and the food is quality. Don’t skip the chowders (clam or corn) or wings—all are local favorites. You’ll find plenty of beers on tap, and the staff is always extremely helpful. Friendly note: Despite its name, this restaurant does not have a sea view.
The C-View Inn
1380 Washington Street
Pick up a Few Gifts at Love the Cook
Love the Cook
404 Washington Street
Before you head to dinner, make a pit stop at Love the Cook. This artisan cookware and bakeware shop offers a platform for local vendors to sell their goods. Cookbooks, bakeware, spices, jellies, and more line the shelves of the small shop, and the employees are extremely friendly, should you have any questions. It’s the perfect excuse to shop local (and treat yourself to an early gift, too). Love the Cook offers gift cards as well and also has its own line of artisanal roasts for the coffee lover in your life.
Break for Appetizers at the Lobster House
It’s one of the most iconic restaurants in Cape May, and it welcomes you as soon as you cross the bridge into town. During the Christmas season, the bar room in the Lobster House offers a perfect place to grab a drink and an appetizer: Try the calamari or oysters Rockefeller. The bar holds plenty of customers, and tables line the back wall, but the best seat in the house is snugly placed between the bar room’s Christmas tree and the massive brick fireplace, decorated beautifully for the season. Before you leave, step out the back door and spend a few minutes walking past the docked fishing boats. You’ll usually see a small, colorful Christmas tree set atop the main boat.
The Lobster House
906 Schellenger Street (at the Fisherman’s Wharf)
Enjoy a Cocktail in the Brown Room at Congress Hall
After taking a peek in the outdoor shops surrounding Congress Hall’s swimming pool (the pool remains open with a fire pit in the center), head to the Brown Room for a martini or a Manhattan. Feel free to sit at the bar and watch the tedious bartenders work their magic, or find a seat on the couch near the fire. Listen to subtle music and take in the decor and conversation. On Saturdays, this place gets packed by late afternoon, so visit earlier in the day or on a Sunday to enjoy it to its fullest.
The Brown Room at Congress Hall
200 Congress Place
Enjoy a Casual Dinner at the Ugly Mug
The Ugly Mug is a pub-style restaurant with atmosphere like no other spot in downtown Cape May. The seating is tight, which reflects the age of the pub and building, and the place is always packed. On a weekend, expect to wait a while for a booth, but it’s worth it. (Make sure to order the mini tacos to start—they’re not on the menu, but your server will know). Look up and notice the hundreds of mugs hanging from the ceiling; they belong to members of the Ugly Mug Club. You’ll notice some mugs face toward the ocean; they’re turned opposite the others to honor individual club members who have passed away.
The Ugly Mug
426 Washington Street
…Or a Cozy Dinner at Lucky Bones
For something a bit cozier and not quite as loud, head to Lucky Bones. It’s outside the town center, so you’ll need to drive a few minutes, but it does have a good amount of parking. The low ceilings and exposed beams make it feel like a warm, pub-style retreat. The menu is mostly seafood, but there are a few meat options included as well, such as the char-broiled steak frites and grilled Cuban-spiced pork chop. If you’re looking for a seafood dish, try the crab and shrimp cakes or the local little neck clams over linguini.
1200 Route 109 South
… Or an Upscale Dinner at the Washington Inn
The Washington Inn has consistently been one of the best restaurants in Cape May. It’s among the town’s most sophisticated dining destinations and boasts one of the most extensive wine lists in the nation. Don’t expect to have a cheap meal here, as entrees average about $33. It’s a more limited menu than other places on this list, but the dishes are exquisite and no meal will disappoint. Plus, dining in an 1840s building means you’re surrounded by history and charm. Round out the dinner by pairing an entrée with your choice of hundreds of wines.
The Washington Inn
801 Washington Street