Holyoke Avenue and the beach, Holgate.
Don’t come to Holyoke Avenue if you’re a kook who’s still perfecting his pop-up. This stretch of swell, breaking off a long jetty, with a shifting sandbar and waves that roll forever, is for locals and hotdoggers only.
Okie’s Butcher Shop
Clean as a whistle and busy as all get-out, this basic, perfect butcher shop sells homemade pepper and onion sausages, ready-to-eat barbecued spare ribs — and a secret-recipe sirloin “Okie burger” guaranteed not to shrink on the grill (2107 Long Beach Boulevard, Surf City; 609-494-5577).
LBI Pancake House
The machine-made orange juice ($2.25 for a small, $3.50 for a large) makes this place more than just another down-the-Shore pancake stop (2111 Long Beach Boulevard, Surf City; 609-361-8108).
Place to Cure Homesickness
Thursdays are “Philly nights” at this sprawling, Key West-inspired pub:Cheesesteaks are $2, soft pretzels cost 50 cents, and Lagers are two bucks — a nod to us guys on an island overrun with New Yorkers (13201 Long Beach Boulevard, Beach Haven Terrace, 609-492-9751; theterracetavern.com).
Thrift Shop Coastal Consignment & Salvage Co.
Unload your sundresses and beach cover-ups at this three-room, super-cute, extra-friendly thriftery (414 North Bay Avenue, Beach Haven; 609-492-9400).
The Greenhouse Café
Homemade dough and summery Mediterranean toppings like sun-dried tomatoes and black olives make the personal pies here little pleasures indeed (605 Long Beach Boulevard, Ship Bottom; 609-494-7333).
Regulars of the other big raw bar in town have been defecting to this newer one, a BYOB now in its third year. Come for Mullica River oysters or grilled tuna with ratatouille and black olive tapenade, plus the atmosphere: barn board on the walls, butcher paper on the tables (9th Street and Bay Avenue, Beach Haven; 609-492-6100).
Huge, historic and highly varnished, Tuckers feels like a Houston’s, but with a bay view, a shuffleboard table — and a much more original menu. Don’t miss the fried Jersey tomatoes and the spicy crab soup (101 West Engleside Avenue, Beach Haven; 609-492-2300).
Place to Hang Out
Black Whale Bar and Fish House
On Thursday nights, this one-year-old bar sets up the projector to show slides of locals’ surfing trips to Costa Rica, Cuba, wherever. Plus, the dark-’n’-stormies rule (Centre Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Beach Haven; 609-492-0025).
Like your grandparents’ amazing old beach cottage mixed with Shore loft sensibility, this teensy shop stocks worn farmhouse tables, vintage wicker, antique trawler buckets and sculptural coral that turn a vacation house into a beach home (233 2nd Street, Beach Haven, 609-492-7030; wyndecresthome.com).
Chef-owner Michael O’Meara’s lobster gazpacho and subtly sweet Vidalia puree are pure summertime in a bowl — and perfect precursors to an impressively modern, just-a-little-fancy dinner at this BYOB (122 North Bay Avenue, Beach Haven, 609-207-1200; sweetvidalia.info).
Uncle Will’s Pancake House
Described by one regular as “like the Morning Glory, only faster,” this cutesy-country bistro serves the tastiest crabmeat omelets and Jersey blueberry pancakes. Lucky diners get to share their breakfast table with Uncle Will, a three-foot-long ceramic pig. (Come dinnertime, Uncle Will’s turns into a BYOB serving Caribbean fusion.) (3 South Bay Avenue, Beach Haven; 609-492-2514)
Ten years ago, David Lee’s 14-seat sushi bar was ahead of the curve. Today, it’s still cranking out some of the freshest maki on the island (30 Engleside Avenue, Beach Haven, 609-492-1251; engleside.com).
Rommel’s Liquor Store
Go early and often to this liquor store, and you won’t have to ask twice to have that case of pinot grigio — or that quarter-keg of Lager — delivered in time for the cookout (201 South Bay Avenue, Beach Haven; 609-492-6101).
There’s a reason the line’s out the door from 6 a.m. until they’re sold out at 11 a.m.: These are the best at the beach (1714 East 18th Street, Ship Bottom; 609-494-4761).
Place to Embarrass Granddad
This cuter-than-cute ice-cream parlor kicks into action when neighbor Surflight Theatre lets out. Annie Get Your Gun or Man of La Mancha characters float in to serve up scoops — and to force patrons to sing for their hot fudge sundaes (Centre Street and Beach Avenue, Beach Haven, 609-492-0018; surflight.org).
Brighton Beach Surf Shop
This place belongs to one of the first surfboard makers on the East Coast; the locals say he inspired the whole Huntington Beach thing in Cali (8511 Long Beach Boulevard, Brighton Beach, 609-492-0342; brightonbeachsurfshop.com).
Best Place to Drink While the Weekenders Pack to Go Home
Sundays at sunset, the Ketch peacefully serves daiquiris on the deck. But at nine o’clock, the weeklong party starts all over again (529 Dock Road, Beach Haven; 609-492-3000).
Between the Sheets
For 13 years, this by-the-bridge linens outpost has stocked the soft goods needed by Shore sleepers: Tommy Bahama’s chocolatey collection, Bella Notte’s watery pastels, and summer-weight terry robes that demand to be worn on decks at sunrise (1012 Central Avenue, Ship Bottom; 609-361-9297).
St. Francis Church’s Island Run
More than 600 runners take part in this annual island-wide (that’s 18-mile) run, which benefits various and good international causes. This year’s is October 8th (4700 Long Beach Boulevard, Brant Beach, 609-494-8861; stfranciscenterlbi.com).
Straight at the end of the bridge, this humble, surfer-owned taco shack is where board riders fuel up before and after sessions (816 Long Beach Boulevard, Ship Bottom; 609-361-5399).
Bikinis — and Bikini Waxes
Freedom Surf Shop-Salon and Day Spa
One-stop shopping along the Boulevard: Up front, Freedom sells baby blue Uggs, Lacoste dresses, Toes on the Nose bikinis and O’Neill board shorts. In back, salon-spa services include vitamin C facials, mani-pedis, cut-’n’-colors, fake bakes, and full-on Brazilians (3301 Long Beach Boulevard, Brant Beach, 609-494-6554; freedomsurfandspa.com).
Beach for Families
Ship Bottom Bay Beach
The knee-to-waist-deep water at this guarded bay beach is fenced to keep kids in, seaweed and crabs out. Outdoor restrooms make life even easier (between 13th and 16th streets in Ship Bottom).
Place to Play
Overlooking Barnegat Bay, with a baseball diamond, a jungle gym, a fishing pier and a basketball court, this community park offers summer concerts, youth camps, magic shows, pony rides, and crab (and human) races (West Salem Avenue and Long Beach Boulevard, Harvey Cedars).
Seriously sought-after Ryan designs accessibly modern beach homes that feel big — no matter what size plot they’re built on (Michael Ryan Architects, 60 Loveladies Harbor, Loveladies, 609-494-5000; 221 Chestnut Street, suite 500, Philadelphia, 215-928-3800; michaelryanarchitects.com).
On an island with restrictions on building heights, Old Barney is the only place to get a bird’s-eye view (609-494-2016; lbi.net).
LBI Foundation of the Arts and Sciences
Watch a film, attend an exhibit of works on paper, take a pottery class (120 Long Beach Boulevard, Loveladies, 609-494-1241; lbifoundation.org).
The seafood is refined. The atmosphere is casual. But there are no reservations at this BYOB. Call the night of to get your name on the waiting list, then have the shrimp, any way it’s offered (3312 Brigantine Avenue; 609-266-6826).
The gelato milkshakes are positively to die for (3307 West Brigantine Avenue; 609-266-1600).
The Pirate’s Den
This spot serves three meals a day. They’re all good — especially the roast pork sandwiches — but the breakfast deserves biggest props for its eggs Benedict, stuffed French toast, and proximity to the beach (1219 East Brigantine Avenue; 609-266-1927).
Root Beer Barrell
Almost 20 years ago, Brigantine’s John Gabries put kayak fishing on the Jersey map. Today, he’s still the man to see for high-performance sit-on-tops — plus all the gear to catch stripers and blues. His 33-year-old surf/lifestyle shop is a Shore classic (301 South 10th Street, 609-266-2505; rbbsurf.com).
Ernest & Son
They sell burgers and homemade sausages that are awesome on the grill — and even worthy of packing into a cooler for the trip back home (3305 West Brigantine Avenue; 609-266-1588).
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center
The only one of its kind in New Jersey, it’s great for little kids, who love to peer into the 1,000-gallon outdoor tank, stocked weekly from seining trips. The gift shop has t-shirts of mascot Cupid, a rescued harbor seal (3625 Brigantine Boulevard, 609-266-0538; marinemammalstrandingcenter.org).
Alternative to Saltwater Taffy
Jagielky’s Home Made Candies
Made in Ventnor, exported to a second shop in Margate, Mike Carr’s buttercreams and almond butter crunch are worthy trade-offs for a perfect beach bod (5115 Ventnor Avenue, Ventnor, 609-823-6501; 8018 Ventnor Avenue, Margate, 609-822-2204; jagielkyscandy.com).
Testament to the Survival of Beautiful
Old Shore Homes
The stretch of houses in the 8500-8900 block of Ventnor Avenue in Margate.
Dino’s Sub and Pizza Shop
They’re delivered to the beach, and they’re delicious (8016 Ventnor Avenue, Margate; 609-822-6602).
Narrow, overcrowded and, until this year, completely smoky, this pub offers simple Formica tables, ice-cold beer, and cafeteria trays of not-too-greasy, just-spicy-enough wings, delivered by Robert’s very own modelesque daughter (7807 Atlantic Avenue, Margate; 609-823-5050).
Send a delegate to wait for a table at this petite luncheonette, the best place in town for a nova omelet, whole-grain pancakes, and a grilled cheese with mushrooms and spinach (7310 Ventnor Avenue, Ventnor; 609-823-1466).
Going-Out Clothes, Moms
Obviously, there is nowhere else in town to get dressed for a night of waiting in line at the Quarter. (Ask for Randi. She’ll be honest about your back fat showing through in that Only Hearts wrap top.) (8001 Ventnor Avenue, Margate, 609-822-9442; knitwitonline.com).
Going-Out Clothes, Kids
Because it’s just not fair to deprive your 13-year-old of the same Juicy and Diesel duds you wear around the
beach house, and because little boys (even infants) have a right to dress well, too (8009 Ventnor Avenue, Margate; 609-487-0488).
LoBianco Coastal Cuisine
Sandy colors and point-on fusion established the LoBiancos’ second venture as Margate’s latest, greatest spot to show off the wine collection (8409 Ventnor Avenue, Margate; 609-822-0600).
Because to know the Geat is to love the Geat, and to have your name spoken by His Geatness over the sound system while “Baby Love” plays feels like greatness indeed (9518 Amherst Avenue, Margate; 609-823-2196).
Deck on the Beach
Last year, the crowds never quite made it to the Greenhouse’s new perch over the sand. This year, things will be different. Arrive early to stake out a spot (106 Benson Avenue, Margate; 609-822-0140).
We shouldn’t be telling you about this place; it’s already hard enough to get a reservation. But for years, Barrels has been riding the border between fancy night out and family eatery, and the involtini is just too good not to mention (9 South Granville Avenue, Margate, 609-823-4400; barrelsfoods.com).
Yes, we’ll always love the sushi chefs, the glamazons by the bar, and the families filling the dining rooms at Tomatoes, Margate’s gourmet standby. But there’s a new game in town: Back on the mainland, Savaradio, with its mod architecture, Calder-like mobile, lobster risotto, antipasto buffet and giant centerpiece bar, is vying for serious see-and-be-seen status (Cornerstone Commerce Center, 1201 New Road, Linwood, 609-601-6570; savaradio.com).
The Trop’s IMAX theater
Take the fam to the movies (the Quarter at the Tropicana, 2801 Pacific Avenue, 3rd floor, Atlantic City, 609-340-4020; imaxtheaterattropicana.com).
The warm powdered-sugar doughnuts are the reason families send reps to line up at the crack of dawn outside this Boardwalk breakfast spot — the last stand on the North End (110 Boardwalk; 609-391-0677).
The Flying Carp
Folks who’ve outgrown shark bracelets and puka-shell necklaces but aren’t quite ready for Jacob the Jeweler’s nautical line will appreciate the semi-precious bling at this earthy gift shop (743 Asbury Avenue, 609-391-1546; theflyingcarp.com).
The phone line is always busy with customers calling in mega-orders for whole lasagnas, meatball subs, chicken parm, and the kid’s spaghetti with one meatball. Be patient. It’s worth it (957 West Avenue; 609-399-0743).
Lox and a Bagel
Fitzpatrick’s Jewish Deli
The name makes no sense. But Sunday brunch at this bona fide deli tucked away in a strip mall just across the bridge is so good, all you should concern yourself with is the availability of counter seats (501 New Road, Somers Point; 609-653-8155).
Annarelli’s is like a boutique jeweler of bike shops: They know that if they’re nice enough to help fix your flat, you’ll come back when you’re shopping for a shiny new beach cruiser (1014 Asbury Avenue; 609-399-2238).
Ice Cream, Good for You
For more years than we can remember, this café has magically transformed frozen bananas into a creamy whip that’s a healthful ringer for banana ice cream. Have it with granola, and not just because the person writing this worked there for four consecutive summers (946 Boardwalk, 609-398-9677; bashfulbanana.com).
Ice Cream, Just Good
The faded red-and-white sign above Annie’s Carousel is as classic as the Breyers mint chocolate chip scooped by Annie herself (322 Atlantic Avenue; 609-399-8210).
Just because you’re down the Shore doesn’t mean you have to settle for FTD. This sweet shop is light on the carnations and heavy on the hydrangeas (917 Asbury Avenue; 609-391-0311).
Secondhand Beach Reads
From a creaky shop on the Avenue, the Bookateria sells inexpensive, new-to-you summer reads, some already filled with sand (1052 Asbury Avenue; 609-398-0121).
New Pub Scene
Across the bridge, Mac’s new owners have given the old, dark place something of a glamour makeover, complete with plasma screens, sculptural plates, and fancy-schmancy, sugar-laden cocktails. Old-timers are grumbling, but crab mac-and-cheese is good no matter how fancy the dish it’s served in (908 Shore Road, Somers Point; 609-927-2759).
Nan and Gay Talese’s
While the rest of O.C. turns into plastic duplexes, this wooden cottage is a bastion of proper seashore design, all rambling and faded and, one imagines, full of good books (154 East Atlantic Boulevard).
Monogrammed Boat Totes
The ladies of Ocean City wouldn’t think of purchasing their sturdy canvas beach bags from a catalog company. They’ve been going — and will continue to go — to Alma Taylor for decades (700 Asbury Avenue; 609-398-1740).
South Jersey Lifeguard Championship
There’s an odd charm to Ocean City’s patently wacky contests: the hermit crab beauty pageant, the saltwater taffy sculpting competition, even the baby parade. But the town’s Lifeguard Championship is actually worth attending (August 11th, 6:30 p.m., 34th Street Beach; 609-525-9201).
Discovery Sea Shell Museum
Now that seashells are the shelter trend of the moment (you never should have thrown away that jewelry box covered in mini conchs), this place, with its conch-tipped toothpicks and shell purses, feels nearly hip (2721 Asbury Avenue, 609-398-2316; shellmuseum.com).
sEA isLE CITy/sTRATHMere
Busch’s Seafood Restaurant
This 124-year-old seafoodery isn’t the place for preening wasabi tuna tartare. It is, however, the Jersey Shore’s capital of crab: cocktailed, deviled, souped
(she-crab, on Sundays and Tuesdays) and caked (8700 Anna Phillips Lane, Sea Isle City, 609-263-8626; buschsseafood.com).
Tourists come here for the upscale BYOB atmosphere and Northern Italian fare: broccoli rabe-stuffed veal braciola, hearty rack of lamb. Locals — and others whose bathing suits are still wet — come for the specialty pizzas topped with sweet roasted onions and fresh basil, or the version with steak, gorgonzola, grilled chicken and barbecue sauce (27 43rd Street, Sea Isle City; 609-263-1010).
La Fontana del Mare
Call three weeks ahead for a table at this basic, rustic Abruzzese BYOB. No matter how hot it gets, diners still dig into osso buco, homemade gnocchi and porcini risotto — and end the meal with house-made rum raisin gelato (1 Commonwealth Avenue, Strathmere; 609-263-7700).
Ben and Jerry themselves couldn’t compete with Yum Yums, a scoop shop that puts a gum drop in the bottom of every cone (31 JFK Boulevard, Sea Isle City; 609-263-2345).
Jamaican Me Crazy
You’d think there’d be more shops like this in beach towns — a place so stocked with beach chairs, flip-flops, bathing suits, umbrella stands and sand buckets that, in theory, you don’t need to pack for your summer vacation (4204 Landis Avenue, Sea Isle City, 609-263-0330; jamaicanmecrazy.com).
Mallon’s Homemade Sticky Buns
Like Mack & Manco’s, Uncle Bill’s, Kohr Bros. and Johnson’s Popcorn, Mallon’s bakeries have pervaded just about every Shore town. Their signature: dense trays of doughy, buttery, sugary and square cinnamon buns stuck with raisins, walnuts or fruit (5008 Landis Avenue, Sea Isle City, 609-263-1280; check mallonsbakery.com for other spots down the Shore).
Bagels named after Beatles songs and wraps named after local radio personalities aside, Steve and Deneen Trevelise’s memorabilia-laden café (which becomes a venue for acts like Big Daddy Graham and Reverend Bob Levy at night) serves a mean cup of house roast (29 JFK Boulevard, Sea Isle City, 609-263-JAVA; coffeedotcomedy.com).
The Bath & Body Boutique
For the pink bra you want to pop up under your tank top — and for an ocean view while you shop (3700 Boardwalk, at the Spinnaker on the Promenade, Sea Isle City; 609-263-9401).
Let’s be clear: Boating and drinking don’t mix. Still, when it’s high tide and the bay’s glassy, it’s hard to resist pulling up the Boston Whaler to the dock of the Deauville, just for one, as the sun goes down (201 Willard Road, Strathmere, 609-263-2080; deauvilleinn.com).
Mind Erasers at Shenanigans
(3815 Landis Avenue, Sea Isle City; 609-263-3900).
Sea Isle’s Skimmer Festival
A weekend Penn alums can relate to celebrates, among other things, the cement promenade, local food, antique cars and straw hats (June 16th-18th; seaislecity.org).
The 43-seat Sea Salt works wonders with local ingredients. Chef-owner Lucas Manteca plates up organic heirloom tomato salads, truffle-foamed asparagus, Argentine barbecue, and garlicky frites that are downright haute. Reservations highly recommended (8307 3rd Avenue, Stone Harbor, 609-368-3302; seasaltstoneharbor.com).
ARCHITECT WHO’LL MAKE YOUR HOME LOOK LIKE IT FITS IN
While towns like Ocean City and Brigantine give way to look-alike houses with plastic columns, Stone Harbor-based Mark Asher takes the high road, building homes with natural woods and a tried-and-true beach aesthetic (9723 2nd Avenue, Stone Harbor, 609-368-1411; 115 West Avenue, Jenkintown, 215-576-1413; asherarchitecture.com).
BREAKFAST ON THE WATER Avalon Anchorage Marina
Yes, there are a few fumes from the dock’s filling station, but there’s something about eggs and toast with the morning boaters that just feels right (885 21st Street, Avalon, 609-967-3592; avalonanchorage.com).
The magic of Fred’s: The beer tastes colder as this bar gets more crowded (314 96th Street, Stone Harbor; 609-368-5591).
The warm roasted red peppers and spag-and-balls come easy at this bare-bones, laid-back Italian BYOB with done-right South Philly fare. Bring the kids (206 97th Street, Stone Harbor; 609-368-1303).
The best thing about couch-strewn Coffee Talk is the latte. The second-best thing: It’s not the SUV scene of a few other cafés in town. Third best: It’s got wireless, if you absolutely must open the laptop (299 97th Street, Stone Harbor; 609-368-5282).
PLACE TO SEE A COVER BAND
Yes, yes, it’s a little little-old-lady-ish. But honestly, there’s no better place to groove to the band’s rendition of “Proud Mary” without feeling fully outdated (9628 3rd Avenue, Stone Harbor; 609-368-2929).
Sylvester’s Fish Market and Restaurant When it’s local, it’s more likely to be fresh: Pick up regional catches of bluefish and fluke from this BYOB clam bar that doubles as a takeout market (21st Street and 5th Avenue, Avalon, 609-967-7553; sylvesters-avalon.com).
Avalon Yacht Club
Membership in the club scores sailing lessons for the kiddies, dinners with the captains, and a modicum of status. But the best benefit: the right to schedule a perfect bay sunset on the night of your nuptials. (Sorry, non-members: You can wed there only in the off-season.) (704 7th Street, Avalon, 609-967-4444; avalonyachtclub.com).
Tuck into hatha yoga and tai chi classes at this wholesome wildlife sanctuary and research center (1075 Stone Harbor Boulevard, 609-368-1211, Stone Harbor; wetlandsinstitute.org).
Brendan Borek Surf Memorial
The Brendan Borek is one of the biggest surfing competitions in the Northeast. Arrive by noon on Saturday, and watch as a group of 50 surfers paddles out, forms a circle, tosses flower petals, and paddles back, a tribute to the contest’s namesake, an Avalon surfer who died at 18 of Ewing’s sarcoma (August 19th, 30th Street beach, Avalon, 609-967-0100; brendansfund.org).
Depot Market Restaurant
You know the Crest is going upscale when Cape May’s Depot Market decides to open up a second operation there. This time, it’s a full-service, three-meal-a-day, 60-seat restaurant, with French toast, tomato basil bisque, meatloaf, and eggplant parm (5911 New Jersey Avenue, Wildwood Crest; 609-846-0022).
This isn’t just the spot to stock up on Reefs, wetsuits, and adorable belts made of wooden beads. It’s the locals’ hangout, and the best place in town to learn to surf. The attached Back Door Café makes a mean banana carob smoothie, too (6101 New Jersey Avenue, Wildwood Crest, 609-729-7400; surfoceanoutfitters.com).
Marine Biology for the Family
The Big Blue Cruiser
Every Monday morning at eight, “Captain Ocean” (usually Chuck Schumann, owner of this dolphin-watching boat) offers a free 45-minute lesson about marine life — a show-and-tell of sharks, sea robins, skates, stingrays, squid, crabs — anything he’s culled in the past week (Rambler Road and the Beach, Wildwood Crest; call the Wildwood Crest Tourism office at 609-522-0221).
Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grille
The refined Beach Creek opened its dockside bar last year — it’s officially for martinis, but it’s better for sharing a bottle of bubbly (500 West Hand Avenue, Wildwood, 609-522-1062; beachcreek.net).
The bar at Russo’s has changed little from 60 years ago. You’ll find old photos on the walls, a pool table, and plenty of talk of the condos that are overtaking town (4415 Park Boulevard, Wildwood; 609-522-7038).
A&LP Italian Food Center
Just the cheese fries, nothing else (101 East 15th Avenue, North Wildwood, 609-522-3576; alpfoods.com).
Place to Buy
The Bello brothers have taken a sandy lot in the Crest and developed it into Jersey’s own Seaside, Florida. The single homes — including the only beachfront homes in all the Wildwoods — have thick doors, ocean views, airy belvedere rooms and endless windows (7701 Atlantic Avenue, Wildwood Crest, 866-387-4939; belldonscoastalcolors.com).
Scoring a teal booth at the sprawling, chrome-covered Star Diner is a summer ritual. You’ll wait. And wait. And once you’re in, you’ll order the corned-beef-and-onions omelet, or thick French toast dusted in granola, Wildwood and go home with a slice of strawberry shortcake (325 West Spruce Avenue, 609-729-4900, Wildwood; stardinercafe.com).
This boxy bistro exists right on the edge of Wildwood (wet) and the Crest (dry), making it the last bastion of drinking and dining (dirty martinis and shrimp tempura, anyone?) before Cape May (9510 Pacific Avenue, Wildwood, 609-522-5425; marienicoles.com).
Ocean Oasis Waterpark and Beach Club
South Beach’s Nikki Beach it’s not. Still, the Moreys have seen fit to add private cabanas and towel and beverage service on the side of their brand-new, 13-slide water park (at the Surfside Pier, 25th Avenue and the Boardwalk, 609-522-3900, North Wildwood; moreyspiers.com).
National Marbles Tournament
After 82 years, kids still come to Wildwood’s Ringer Stadium for a sincerely old-fashioned, thoroughly nonviolent and completely charming marbles shoot-out. Admission is free (June 19th-22nd, 8 a.m. noon, Wildwood Avenue and the Beach, Wildwood, 304-337-2764; nationalmarblestournament.org).
Lucky Bones Dockwater Grille
Alas, the Pelican Club has gone the way of the condo. The club’s chef and owner have moved on to a new, casual, nautical 200-seat spot for wood-fired pizzas, Cuban-rubbed pork chops, Victory Prima Pils and $20 bottles of wine, in the old Anchorage, right at the entrance to town (1200 Route 109; 609-884-BONE).
CONDO TO RENT
Sandpiper Beach Club
Curtis Bashaw keeps expanding his reach — this time, with the Sandpiper Beach Club, a 1980s motor lodge converted into a beachy condo-hotel, complete with Congress Hall’s Belgian linens and room service. All units are sold, but there are some rentals left (11 Beach Avenue; 609-884-6582).
Randy Bithell’s laid-back New Mexican BYOB serves the kind of fresh, straightforward fare that should be common at the Shore, but isn’t. His quesadillas are absolutely awesome, but the house salad, which comes dressed in a vinaigrette made with caramelized onions, is amazing (31 Perry Street; 609-898-7750).
The King Edward Room at the Chalfonte
The antithesis of a -frozen-margarita joint. The surroundings are historic, and the bar is small and quiet — perfect for when you don’t want anyone to find you (301 Howard Street, 888-411-1998; chalfonte.com).
CHOCOLATE CHIP PANCAKES
Plain-dealing Dock Mike’s serves chocolate chip pancakes so divine, they’ll spoil your kids for life. You’ll learn this when you attempt to recreate the breakfast at home: Junior will smile politely. And you’ll both know yours aren’t as good (1231 Route 109, Cape May, 609-884-2855; dockmikes.com).
Cape May Day Spa
Forget that the word “Victorian” precedes the names of the signature treatments at the Cape May Day Spa. This is the only spot in town for serious deep-tissue work, whether in the stand-alone facility, or in the satellite at Congress Hall (607 Jefferson Street, 609-898-1003; Congress Hall, 251 Beach Avenue; 609-898-2425; capemaydayspa.com).
The Star Inn
The best-kept secret of this cutely chic inn: Each morning, off to the side of its wee lobby, a coffee bar serves La Colombe beneath two shell chandeliers (29 Perry Street, 800-297-3779; thestarinn.net).
Bar for Cruising Lifeguards
Chances are your favorite zinc-nose is sipping a frosty mug at this Irish pub right across from the beach (Beach Drive and Jackson Street; 609-884-4424).
410 Bank Street
Go for the Louisiana oyster stew. Go because the servers are so professional, they’ll jump the back fence to get to Collier’s liquor store if you’ve forgotten the sauvignon blanc. Go because it’s casual enough for shorts, but never jean shorts (410 Bank Street; 609-884-2127).
The Ebbitt Room
It could draw upper-crusty customers based on its vintage chandeliers and stunning British wallpaper alone. This is the place to dress up for a dinner of iced Champagne oysters, local scallops over tomato marmalade, boutique wines and sticky caramel cake. (Bonus: Menu prices recently dropped) (The Virginia Hotel, 25 Jackson Street, Cape May, 800-732-4236; virginiahotel.com).
Located in a two-story shack, Caroline Lacy’s shop sells a rainbow of James Perse, Michael Stars and Three Dot t-shirts — all light and soft (especially on sunburnt shoulders) (Carpenter’s Lane between Decatur and Jackson streets; 609-884-5055).
Hot Dog Tommy’s
A frozen Coke and a dog slathered in Mary’s homemade chili: the perfect midday snack, without having to cross Beach Avenue (Jackson Street at the beach, 609-884-8388; hotdogtommys.com).
Lima Bean Festival
It’s worth returning in October to witness what is said to be the nation’s only Lima Bean Festival. Locals come out in full force to sell lima bean crafts and foods — soup, stew, salad, quiche, even cake and ice cream — to benefit the Shade Tree Commission. And it’s free! (October 7th, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wilbraham Park, Broadway and Perry streets, West Cape May; 609-884-1005)
Cape May County Zoo
This zoo is a lot like your favorite boutique. It’s not too big and not too small, and it’s stocked with your favorites: kookaburras, howler monkeys, turtles and giraffes. Admission is free (Route 9, Cape May Court House, 609-465-5271; capemaycountyzoo.org).
Cape May Seashore Rail Line
A 1950s train runs 11 miles from Cape May to Cold Spring Village to Cape May Court House and back again. All aboard for cute conductors, comfortable seats, and great views — especially over the Cape May Canal moveable bridge (departs from Lafayette and Elmira streets; 609-884-CMSL).