Provided by The Vacationer

Food, Glorious Food

 In Southern New Jersey we grow it, we catch it, we make it and we relish our Garden State moniker that is helping the farm/sea to table trend gain a healthy following.  

We grow Cape May Salts, Jersey tomatoes, corn and more.     We catch scallops, flounder and crabs. We make fudge, honey, olive oil, peanut butter, beer and wine.  And, we even make salt.

Freshness and sustainability are on the menu from The Red Store in Cape May Point were the chef picks fresh herbs outside the front door,  to Careme’s Gourmet Restaurant at Atlantic Cape Community College where Academy of Culinary Arts students recently debuted a farm-to-table dining experience.

For a close up look at fresh, tour Beach Plum Farm in West Cape May – over a hundred varieties of fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs – that eventually end up on the tables of local restaurants.  And eggs – the chickens on the farm produce 50 dozen eggs a day – you read that correctly.  Fifty dozen a day

About that salt…it’s exactly what it says – sea salt produced straight from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. More good news – it’s available at a variety of local stores and restaurants.  

  One of the best ways to sample this smorgasbord of exciting cuisines, talented chefs and trendy places is any of our local restaurant weeks.  Atlantic City, Somers Point, Wildwood, Avalon/Stone Harbor and Cape May have designated weeks – and sometimes more than one – to tempt the palette with prix fixe menu selections. Hey, just another excuse to dine out and savor a taste of the shore, one course at a time.

Known for its variety of fine dining experiences, from casual sit-down to formal dining, Cape May’s Restaurant Week showcases just about every restaurant in town June 5 to 12 with restaurants offering culinary adventures that are both affordable and tempting.  Check back for another restaurant in November, too.  www.cmrestaurantweek.com          

         The Wildwoods have two – that’s right – two! – restaurant weeks. The first one is June 19to 24 and just in case you can’t make that one, there’s another Aug, 21 to 26. Participating restaurants offer a complete four-course meal, appetizer to dessert for one low price, plus tax and gratuity.   www.wildwoodbythesearestaurantweek.com   

“Small town, big taste” – that’s how Somers Point advertises its restaurant week in early November, offering diners a choice of a three-course dinner or a two-course lunch.  www.somerspointba.org

More than 30 restaurants in Avalon and Stone Harbor join together for  the 7 Mile Restaurant Week June 6 to 12  with  breakfast, lunch and dinner specials. www.visitavalonnj.com, www.stoneharborbeach.com or www.stoneharbornj.org

Atlantic City’s Restaurant Week  is always in March,  a seven-day celebration of the culinary scene when participating restaurants offer a multi-course meal for a fixed price for lunch or dinner, not including beverage, tax and gratuity. www.acresturantweek.com         

Don’t forget…New Jersey is the Garden State and that means from farm to table, the freshest fruits and vegetables in season are used on a daily basis.  The same is true with seafood – the greater Cape May area is one of the largest ports on the East Coast – and many of the seafood choices are delivered to restaurants within hours of being caught.        

Take, for example, Fish Alley in Sea Isle City, right on a stretch of Park Road that has always been home to local commercial fishing boats and interests. Enjoy great seafood along with panoramic views of the fishing boats, the marina, boating businesses and more. An impressive archway sign lets you know you’re there. How’s that for a welcome! This year’s Food Truck Festivals are once again ready to roll into Sea Isle City. The first Food Truck Festival is June 24 to 26 and the second is right after Labor Day, Sept. 9 to 11  with some of the best food trucks in the Northeast, representing multiple cuisines so bring your appetite and head to Kix McNutley’s, 63rd and Landis Ave., Sea Isle. By the way, this festival has been named to the Top 10 truck festivals …after only one year. Wow!    

                                                               

Many restaurants throughout Southern New Jersey, from the high end dining establishments in Atlantic City’s casinos to the eclectic restaurants in Cape May, are following the national trend to provide special menus for every palate.  Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices are listed –and most chefs welcome the opportunity to make sure that any dietary request is taken into consideration. So, if you don’t see what you need, just ask and chances are you’ll get to enjoy an entree prepared especially for you.

“Local” isn’t limited to vegetables, fruits and seafood….it also applies to beer and wine.  So, if you’re enjoying dinner at a BYOB restaurant, it’s possible that wine from a local winery is available for purchase. Check your favorite Southern New Jersey winery to see what restaurants serve their great wines.  Enjoying a salad or picking at some crabs? Pair it with a brewski from a local brewery – doesn’t get much better than that.

 

Mad Batter

Considered the granddaddy of Cape May’s many fine restaurants for more than over 30 years, the Mad Batter Restaurant, in the Carroll Villa Hotel on Historic Jackson Street in Cape May is THE place to start your morning with their award-winning breakfast – maybe on the porch with a Bloody Mary or a freshly-squeezed orange juice mimosa –oh my!  Come back for lunch or dinner in the sky lit dining room or the sunny garden terrace – my suggestion:  their famous crab cakes. Drinks and dinner are complemented with art exhibits, live music, open mic nights and Jazz at the Batter. Enjoy happy hour year round with a great bistro menu. www.madbatter.com; 609-884-5970

 

Fresh on Fifth

Have you tried Fresh on Fifth? Of course you haven’t! They just opened this season. So, now that you know, stop by and make a selection or two from wraps, grilled paninis, salads and soups – topped off with one of their popular smoothies or freshly-roasted coffee drinks. Fast doesn’t mean unhealthy at this modern urban-style eatery, the newest addition to the cuisine scene in North Wildwood, where the menu features a variety of foods made from farm-grown ingredients. Eat in or take out – how about grabbing lunch and heading to the beach or back to the pool?  You’ll be the envy of hungry people all around you. Where is it? It’s on the corner of Fifth and New Jersey avenues in North Wildwood.  609-305-5316.

 

Icona Resort Diamond Beach 

Summer at Icona Resort Diamond Beach is all about soaking up the sun and enjoying the luxury of a private beach. Bungalow No. 7 Beach Bar boasts South Beach sophistication with comfortable lounges right on the sand, fresh signature cocktails and live music – with stunning ocean views.

Enjoy Coastal Blue Oceanside Bar & Grill, or have bites to eat and drinks delivered to your beach chair or poolside.   

Thanksgiving weekend is filled with family activities or enjoy a romantic New Year’s Eve or maybe New Year’s Day brunch.  Plan Easter brunch or a special Mother’s Day celebration.  Engaged? Maybe a beach wedding and reception at Icona’s Pavilion, a fairy tale atmosphere!   9701 Atlantic Ave., Diamond Beach; 609-729-6600; www.iconaresortdiamondbeach.com

Marie Nicole’s

             Named “Best of the Shore” by Philadelphia Magazine and bestowed with Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, Marie Nicole’s in the Diamond Beach section Wildwood Crest is the perfect setting for a stylish seashore dining experience.    

The bar area creates a lively and comfortable setting to enjoy a cocktail and perhaps ahi tuna tacos or short rib sliders. The dining room offers an extensive American menu featuring classic Jersey Shore favorites with a twist. Dine inside, at the bar or enjoy the outside patio area. Free onsite parking; reservations recommended but not necessary. 9501 Pacific Ave., Wildwood Crest; www.marienicoles.com; 609-522-5425.

North End American Grill

California cool is now as close as North Wildwood – at the North End American Grill. Meet your friends at the bar – a 38-foot custom-built surfboard bar, the longest custom built board on the East Coast.  The entire restaurant, both inside and out, is northern California surf atmosphere.     

The laid back vibe extends to the outdoor patio with a bar, bamboo benches and cozy seating.  Kick back and relax, listen to music and enjoy happy hour specials.  Margaritas are a specialty along with a great selection of beers and wines plus classic and signature cocktails made with fresh ingredients to pair with a tasty appetizer…or save your appetite for dinner.  You won’t be disappointed!  Chestnut & Olde New Jersey Aves., No. Wildwood; www.northendamericangrill.com; 609-435-5691.  

Concord Cafe  

The Concord Cafe has been serving the best food in Avalon for over 20 years. It was the first restaurant the Barnabei family opened — then they added Marie Nicole’s in Wildwood Crest and the North End American Grill in North Wildwood. From juicy burgers, Italian roast pork sandwiches, fresh dough pizza, pasta and homemade crab cakes, The Concord is family dining at its best.  Open daily for lunch, dinner and late night snacks; dine in or take out.  7800 Dune Drive, Avalon; 609.368.5505.

Sitters at the Shore                                                                                                                                       Ready for date night, sans the kids? Or an afternoon of shopping, a movie or hanging with your friends?  Since 1998, Sitters at the Shore has been providing capable, responsible child care to families vacationing in Southern New Jersey.  Sitters range in age from 18 to 70 years old and are fully screened and background-checked. They are nurturing, caring, responsible sitters who enjoy playing, laughing, entertaining, and caring for the young and old. The majority of sitters are present or former teachers, aides, substitutes or college students majoring in education or other related fields and all are nurturing, caring responsible sitters who enjoy children.  Sitters at the Shore was the first babysitting agency in Cape May County and now services Cape May and Atlantic counties with senior sitting, pet sitting and house sitting. www.sittersattheshore.com; 609-465-0840

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