Cape May’s Bring Your Own Bottle History
Dining in Cape May
Published on September 30, 2016
A question first-time visitors of Cape May are often curious about is: Why are so many restaurants BYOB?
It happens to be that way due to New Jersey law and so few liquor licenses permitted in Cape May. Back in the late 1880s, the option of allowing liquor sales in Cape May went to the polls and allowing liquor passed. For a time at least until the 18th Amendment passed in 1920. Post-1933 when the 18th Amendment was repealed, New Jersey granted its municipalities the power to pass ordinance and laws regulating alcohol sales and consumption. Though, there are caveats to the laws stating that retail licenses are allowed at a ratio of one for every 3,000 residents. Cape May has two liquor licenses and fortunately many restaurants and retailers were grandfathered in. With so few licenses, many restaurants accepted BYOB policies which can make your dining experience a bit more affordable.
Anna Marie and I are no strangers to Cape May’s restaurants; we make it a point to find excellent dishes around town so we can provide the best dining recommendations for our guests. We tend to favor restaurants that allow us to bring our own bottle in as we can be particular when it comes to our wine and prefer reasonable prices. Some of our favorites that are BYOB include:
- 410 Bank Street – For many years (I won’t specify exactly how many), Anna Marie has treated me to a birthday dinner at the wonderful 410 Bank Street and is a top recommendation for our guests. It’s within walking distance and each dish has outstanding flavors as it is a New Orleans style French Creole restaurant. Be sure to order the blackened sea scallops to start off the evening right with a great bottle – perhaps something bottled in the Cape May region?
- Freda’s Café – Freda’s Café has been one of our favorite places to dine for more than a decade as we can bring our own bottle to complement their wonderful dishes – we’ve never had something we didn’t like! Freda’s is an easy walk though you might want to take some time walking along the beach after your meal as you simply won’t be able to turn away any last bites.
- Union Park – Not only is this a great choice as it’s only three blocks away from The Queen Victoria, but the elegant setting, charming service, and exceptional food seal the deal. An added treat for our guests is The Queen Victoria “Touch of Elegance” package at Union Park that serves three courses from a prix fixe menu for $100.
- Louisa’s Café – Near the Washington Street Mall is the quaint Louisa’s Café that specializes in farm to table dining. Offering lighter takes on meals, this is a great spot to find fresh seafood and unique salads. It’s quite popular around here so I’d recommend making reservations and be prepared as it’s a cash-only restaurant.
- McGlades on the Pier – Though Anna Marie and I tend to suggest McGlades on the Pier for a casual lunch or dinner, many locals will head there for breakfast with a stunning beach view. Take a nice bottle with you and enjoy the beach view and fun atmosphere.
- Sapore Italiano – Sapore Italiano has a fantastic menu of Italian dishes that you can complement with the wine of your choice. The hardest part of your meal will be selecting which delicious entrée to order with choices of meat, fish, and of course plenty of pasta.
- Tisha’s – Located in the heart of the Washington Street Mall, Tisha’s offers impeccable service with a delightful Italian-influenced menu. Tisha’s also hosts a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. if you can tear yourself away from The Queen Victoria’s amazing breakfast creations.
- Cape May Fish Market – A classic eatery, the Cape May Fish Market offers casual dining with delightful seafood creations just a short walk from The Queen Victoria. Anna Marie and I will often recommend this as an alternative to the Lobster House if you’re craving seafood but don’t want to wait for it. As their tagline suggests, you’ll “get hooked!”
Pick up your own bottle or beverage of choice at Collier’s Liquor Store, 202 Jackson Street, to take with you to dinner. Restaurants do not impose a corkage fee if they don’t have a liquor license.
And, some of our favorites that have a liquor license include:
- Merion Inn – Located just across the street, Merion Inn has a delightful ambiance with live music in the piano bar and is a prime choice for great food in Cape May. A popular choice is the three-course prix fixe menu for $25 from 5 – 5:30 p.m. You can get wines by the glass, personal carafe, or by the bottle.
- Mad Batter – One of Cape May’s most famous and popular spots for breakfast, the Mad Batter has adopted lunch and dinner menus to the great delight of Cape May’s residents and visitors alike. Their expansive menus offer seafood, pizza and pasta, and tostadas among other cuisines. The restaurant has Cape May beers on tap and a fun bar with choice wines and cocktails.
- The Lobster House – If you’re looking for traditional Cape May experiences, dining at The Lobster House is one of them! I think you can guess that their specialty is seafood and it’s always served by friendly and attentive wait staff.
- Lucky Bones – Lucky Bones is where we direct guests looking for a fun atmosphere, an expansive menu, and great spirits and drinks from the bar.
- Washington Inn – Noted as one of the best restaurants in Cape May with its sophisticated menu, impressive wine list, and gracious service. You will need to make advanced reservations for the Washington Inn but it will be one of the highlights of your evening when you dine there.
- Ebbitt Room – The Ebbitt Room offers tasty farm-fresh American cuisine complemented with artisanal cocktails. You’ll find vegetarian and gluten-free options on the menu as well and the menu changes seasonally to incorporate fresh ingredients. The dining room also has live piano music every Friday and Saturday from 6:30 – 10:30 p.m.
Whether you want to experience Cape May’s BYOB or find a restaurant with a liquor license, Anna Marie and I are always happy to point you in the right direction though you’ll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that isn’t remarkable around here.