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Vote now in the 2018 Best of Cape May

Voting is now open in the 14th annual Best of Cape May, our annual survey that looks for the best restaurants, shops, activities, and places to stay in America’s first seaside resort.

The Best of Cape May takes about 10 minutes to complete. We’ll hand tally all of the votes at the end of the month and post the results here. Voting is open now through August 26. To vote, and for the complete list of rules, please use the link below.

Vote now in the 2018 Best of Cape May


Returning Home: On the set of the independent short “Monarch Butterfly”

Monarch Butterfly was filmed at a home in Cape May | Photo: Michelle Giorla

A few months ago, we spoke with the director of Exit 0, a thriller that was shot primarily in Cape May Court House in February. After we published that article, we were contacted by Carol Ann Bell, who was part of another film crew coming to the area to shoot the independent short Monarch Butterfly—this time in Cape May. Carol Ann invited us to visit the set and, along with screenwriter Deborah Kuhn, gave us some details on the project, including Cape May’s influence on the screenplay.

What’s the premise of the film?

Deb: The film is a psychological study of a couple whose marriage is failing, and what someone would do and how far she would go to keep a loved one. I’ve always been fascinated by these types of stories, and was excited to create one in my first short film screenplay.

What made you choose Cape May as a filming location?

CA: My parents would bring me and my five brothers to Atlantic City for a two-week vacation every summer when I was young. Eventually my parents were able to buy a smaller seasonal home in Cape May. My dad remembered first falling in love with Cape May as a young Navy signalman approaching the charming seaside town. It was the perfect vacation spot. When my daughters were born, I would whisk them to Cape May for the summer to visit my mom after my dad died and she built this larger home. I now have that seasonal home and my love for Cape May has deepened each year. When I resumed my acting career after being a full-time mom for so long, it seemed like a perfect match to bring my two passions together: acting and Cape May. I mentioned the location to Deb, who was writing the film, and it was instantly a great fit.

As an actress, I admire what Deb has accomplished: being a female filmmaker and creating such an impressive piece of work. I feel so inspired by Cape May, I hope to someday pen my own screenplay to be shot here in Cape May.

Deborah Kuhn, left, and Carol Ann Bell | Photo: Michelle Giorla

Does Cape May figure into the screenplay at all? Did the location influence the film at all once you were on site?

CA: When Deb wrote the screenplay, we discussed several titles for the film. We were fascinated by the story of the Monarch Butterfly and its returning home to Cape May every year on its flight to their final destination. When we were filming here, we felt strongly that the transformation of the main character that Deb had written, similar to a butterfly’s transformation, and the similarities in the film of “being home” made the title Monarch Butterfly the right choice for this film.

We know you used a house for filming. Did you film around Cape May at all?

CA: No, on this particular film we did not, but we are very hopeful to utilize Cape May as a character in future films.

What’s different about filming in Cape May versus other locations? Were there any challenges or benefits to being here?

Shooting in Cape May was inspiring as it always offers such peace and beauty and possesses an indescribable charm.

CA: We had such an incredible and special crew – the A Team we called them! Directed by Clyde Baldo, the film also featured actors Anthony Grasso and Rob Figueroa, who are all successful artists from New York City. Some of the crew had never been to Cape May before. This location was so incredibly magical for all of us. And Rob and Anthony who do vacation in Cape May were so excited to return and even brought their family on the shoot for a mini getaway. When the double rainbow appeared at the end of our shoot, it was definitely a fitting sign of this magical place, and rewarding to know we had created great work here. We all felt such joy to have been a part of this film and the surroundings of the location contributed to that. Shooting in Cape May was inspiring as it always offers such peace and beauty and possesses an indescribable charm.

Actor Anthony Grasso, center, on set with wife Diane Harrington Lo Grasso and daughter Jolie Lo Grasso | Photo: Michelle Giorla

You mentioned the cast and crew were all from New York. Were there any locals involved in the production as extras?

Deb: No locals were used in the film, but I’ve already got another idea for a short film which could be shot in Cape May, so am hopeful to have some locals in that project. While no locals are in Monarch Butterfly, I was excited that we were able to shoot the film inside one of Cape May’s beautiful homes, as it has so many of them!

Did the crew get to experience Cape May while you were in town? Was there anything that stood out?

CA: We had a very tight shooting schedule. But there were some definite highlights that we enjoyed as a team in Cape May. Break time and lunch time during long work days is vital to a film shoot. Gaiss Market hoagies did not disappoint! Everyone was so pleased with their lunch. The entire cast and crew spent our last night celebrating the film wrap with a wonderful dinner at Back Bay Bistro. Both establishments were so pleasant and accommodating to work with. I wish there had been more time to do some ghost tours and wander the Washington Street Mall; even a drink on the Congress Hall lawn was something I had hoped we would have had time for. Next time for sure! Patrick Logue and Cape May Resorts were very helpful in assisting us with lodging options. As it turned out, our logistics did not work out but we appreciated their going out of their way for us. The double rainbow at the end of our wrap was certainly something that stood out!

Toro Nishikudo | Photo: Michelle Giorla

Is there a target release date for Monarch Butterfly? How can people see it?

Deb: We are in post-production throughout July, and hope to have the film completed by August. We have a Facebook page called Monarch Butterfly, so you can follow that page and keep track of the film’s progress and release schedule. [We also have a campaign on] GoFundMe. Any donations would be really appreciated to help offset the costs of creating and distributing the film!


You can follow Monarch Butterfly on Facebook for more information


Backstage at “An Evening to Die For” Murder Mystery Dinner

From left: Steven Church, Ryan Hastings, Alyssa Fazio, Jacklyn Fazio, Jennifer Hickok | Photo: Michelle Giorla

I witnessed a murder at Aleathea’s Restaurant. A murder mystery dinner, that is.

It wasn’t a dark or stormy night. My colleague and I arrived at the Inn of Cape May in fading daylight, on an April evening so warm we didn’t need jackets. We’d come for the opening night of An Evening to Die For, a new murder mystery dinner written by Jacklyn Fazio and sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC). I grew up on Agatha Christie, fluent in Poirot and plot twists, and was excited to put my deduction skills to work.


Get a look at the 2018 lineup for Movies on the Beach

The saying goes “nothing in life is free,” but Cape May has one thing that really is. Movies on the Beach is back this July and August, and it costs nothing for your whole family to attend. Honestly. You won’t even need a beach tag since the event takes place in the evening. A blow-up screen is anchored to the sand next to Convention Hall at Beach Avenue and Gurney and seating is a free-for-all on the sand. It may hard to find parking, so be prepared to walk a couple blocks if you’ll be driving over.

Music begins at 7pm, and the main feature begins at 8:30. We recommend arriving at least 30 minutes before the movie starts so you can find a good spot on the sand—especially for JAWS. Bring food (pizza is popular, but please be sure to remove your trash after the movie ends), chairs, towels, and blankets. It can get cold by the water after the sun goes down.

And if it’s raining, don’t worry. The movie will be shown inside Convention Hall.

Here is this year’s movie lineup:

July 12 – Flubber (1997; PG)

A remake of the 1961 movie The Absent-Minded Professor, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and starring Robin Williams. Professor Phillip Brainard works to create a substance that’s a new source of energy and winds up inventing flubber, a substance that allows objects to fly through the air.

July 19 – X-Men Apocalypse (2016; PG-13)

The ninth installment of the X-Men franchise starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence. After the re-emergence of the world’s first mutant, the X-Men must unite to defeat his plan to annihilate the world civilization.

July 26 – Disney’s The Sword in the Stone (1963; G)

In this animated musical by Walt Disney Pictures, a 12-year-old orphan begins his path toward becoming King Arthur, the legendary ruler of British literature.

August 2 – The Sound of Music – Sing Along! (1965; G)

An Academy Award-winning musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. In 1930s Austria, a young woman leaves a convent to become a governess to the children of a Naval officer widower.

We don’t have details of what the sing-along involves, but if it’s been a while, you have some time brush up on the lyrics.

August 9 – JAWS (1975; PG)

Steven Spielberg’s 1975 thriller starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss. When a great white shark begins to terrorize the small island community of Amity, the local police chief seeks help from a marine biologist and a shark hunter.

JAWS is a popular event, so we recommend arriving well in advance of the movie.

August 16 – Trolls (2016; PG)

Starring the voice talents of voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden and Gwen Stefani. After the Bergens invade Troll Village, Poppy, the happiest Troll ever born, and the curmudgeonly Branch set off on a journey to rescue her friends.

August 23 – The Greatest Showman (2017; PG)

A musical inspired by P. T. Barnum and the talent of Barnum & Bailey Circus. The 105-minute film stars Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, and Michelle Williams.

August 30 – The Peanuts Movie (2015; G)

In this computer-animated comedy, Snoopy and his team take to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home to win the love of his life.


The Garden Club of Cape May Flower Show

Opening at noon on Friday, May 11th, the Garden Club of Cape May presented “Victorian Poetry in Bloom” the theme of  their annual flower show at Convention Hall. Attendees to the show were treated to four presentations by experts in flower judging, gardening design,Victorian literature and Victorian attire.  The reception hall was lined with donated baskets that were being auctioned off and plate after plate of sweets and light beverages. The annual show is the biggest fundraiser for the club during the year. It was widely attended this year after an introduction by Cape May City Major, Chuck Lear.

 


A look inside Secondo, the newest location for Panico’s Bistro

We have great news for all you Panico’s fans! The Italian bistro has opened their second location in Cape May, appropriately named Secondo, at 991 Ocean Drive just before the 2-mile bridge. The location was formerly Axelsson’s Blue Claw Restaurant.

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The people from Panico’s did a stellar job renovating the inside and outside of the restaurant.  There’s now a bright, spacious dining room with sleek furnishings, mosaic tile, and a waterfront view. And Secondo has an added bonus, besides all the delicious food–a fully stocked bar! 

At a glance, the menu looks similar to Panico’s and includes their specialty brick oven pizzas, but Secondo has added an oyster bar. We ate there opening night. The waitstaff was prompt and courteous, and seemed right at home despite it being their first night open. The food was delicious, as always, and we wish them great success.

Photos by Michelle Giorla


Mother’s Day brunch and dinner in Cape May

Cape May Mother's Day 2018

Celebrate Mother’s Day with brunch or dinner at the following Cape May restaurants. Reservations are strongly recommended where available.

Aleathea’s at the Inn of Cape May – Beachfront for Mother’s Day Serving dinner from 4-8pm. For reservations, call 609-884-5555.

Beach Plum Farm Brunch – Where better to usher in Mother’s Day than in this magical setting of the 62-acre Beach Plum Farm, where signs of spring are everywhere?!  Guests can enjoy a farm-to-table family brunch at the farm featuring farm-fresh eggs cooked several ways, their own sausage and bacon, and all the other classic favorites.  Chef Todd Phillips will be using ingredients harvested right from our farm for his buffet menu. Enjoy communal seating in the picnic grove and hoop house. A cash bar featuring festive Mimosas, wine, and Bloody Mary’s will also be available.  Seatings are at 10am, 11am, 12pm, and 1pm. $35 per adult, $15 for children ages 4-12. Seating is limited, visit www.beachplumfarmcapemay.com/whats-new/ to make reservations.  Beach Plum Farm is located at 140 Stevens Street, West Cape May, NJ 08204 and can be contacted by calling 609-602-0128.

Congress Hall Brunch — Guests can leave the cooking to the chefs at Congress Hall this Mother’s Day and take the special women in their lives out for a decadent brunch. The Grand Ballroom will host the popular annual buffet, featuring omelets made to order, carving stations, and delectable baked goods. Kids can enjoy a ride on the Congress Hall Express around the beautiful veranda and Grand Lawn. Brunch runs from 9am – 2pm and is $42 for adults and $16 for kids ages 4-12. Reservations can be made by calling 609-884-6542. Congress Hall is located at 200 Congress Place, Cape May 08204.

Grand Hotel (Hemingway’s)– Breakfast in the 5th floor oceanfront penthouse from 8am – 11am. $19.95 adults; $11.95 children 12 and under.  Brunch 11:30 -2 with additions available. $34.95 adults; $14.95 children 12 and under. Reservations are required. Call 609-884-5611 ext. 516.

The Merion Inn – Mother’s Day Sit-down brunch from $12; Supper from $19. Add $10 for appetizer and dessert. Not a buffet! Regular menu and Mother’s Day Specials served noon to 8pm (including a few brunch items ‘til 1:30)  For reservations, call 609-884-8363.

The Rusty Nail:  Chef Jimmy’s Fried Chicken – There’s nothing like Mom’s cooking, especially when your mom’s fried chicken recipe is famous. The Rusty Nail’s Executive Chef, James Burton, learned his way around the kitchen from his mom, Dot, and honors her legacy every Mother’s Day by cooking up her famous fried chicken. Guests can enjoy a half of a Southern Fried Chicken with a side of mac-and-cheese, collard greens and cornbread for $19.95, and to sweeten the deal, every lady who orders the special will receive a complimentary sweet tea or sweet tea cocktail.  The Rusty Nail is located at 205 Beach Ave, Cape May 08204 and can be contacted by calling 609-884-0017.

SeaSalt– Celebrate Mother’s Day at the beach. Brunch served 11am – 2pm . 3-course prix fixe with a specialty brunch cocktail. Live jazz music with the Herb Moore trio. $35 per person +tax and gratuity. Reservations suggested. 1035 Beach Avenue, 609-884-7000.

Tisha’s – Mother’s Day Brunch being served 10am to 2:30pm. For reservations, call 609-884-9119.

Union Park – Union Park is serving a 3-course fixed-price Mother’s Day menu from 2 – 8pm. $35 per person + tax and gratuities. For reservations, call 609-884-8811.

The Washington Inn – Mother’s Day Brunch from 10am to 2pm. A La Carte dining room will be open from 4-7pm with an a la carte menu. For reservations, call 609-884-5697.

Outside of Cape May

Coastal Blue at Hotel Icona – 3 course Mother’s Day Brunch includes morning entrees, a carving station, salads, lunch entrees, desserts and baked goods. $32 adults; $15 for children under 12. For reservations, call 609-224-1124. In Wildwood Crest at 9701 Atlantic Avenue.


A look inside the newly renovated Mayer’s Tavern

The restored exterior of the Mayer’s Tavern, with new roof and siding. The windows with sunburst detail above them were discovered during renovations. | Photo credit: Michelle Giorla

A couple weeks ago, we told you that Mayer’s Tavern—a longtime locals’ favorite that had closed in 2015—has reopened following the building’s restoration. We spoke with Alex Laudeman, who was gracious enough to give us a few minutes of her time, to get the details on the new menu and her plan for Mayer’s going forward.

What was involved in the renovation? Was it a big undertaking?

Alex: Yes! It was a very big undertaking. We first started working on it in early 2016, but really ramped up the renovation in 2017. Essentially, everything except the bar had to be pulled out of the first floor. The floors were rotted through to the outside in many places, the ceiling was falling in, and the back of house had to be completely gutted and redone. We discovered some gems while pulling everything apart—most notably the large windows with sunburst accents on the front of the building that had been boarded up for longer than anyone can remember. Additionally we replaced all the exterior siding and put on a new roof. Even though we had to replace so much, we tried to mostly put things back in a similar but refreshed way.

The tavern was known for its scallops. What will we find on your new menu?

We will have scallops, of course. Our menu will change here and there with seafood and produce availability but we strive to have something for everyone. We have a burger, salads, raw bar items, and some surprises.

Who’s the chef?

Me, but I shy away from that title! ;-)

Large windows with a sunburst accent (pictured right) were discovered boarded up during renovations. | Photo credit: Michelle Giorla

The restaurant had the reputation of being a locals-only establishment. Going forward, will you be appealing to tourists?

Everyone is welcome!  We’re a little off the beaten Cape May path, but if you can find us I think it will be worth it.

Will there be a sign for the restaurant on 109?

Yes, the incredible Brian DeMusz made us a new sign that will be on 109.

Will Mayer’s be open year-round?

Not sure. We are very much focused on the opening and the summer at the moment.

What would you recommend we order from the bar?

We’ll have a rotating cocktail list, but the staff favorite right now is the Spicer Creek Sunset. It’s an herbal, zippy, refreshing cocktail made with Stiegl Radler grapefruit.

The restored dining area | Photo credit: Michelle Giorla

Does Mayer’s have an affiliation with the Lobster House?

I’m a Laudeman so yes, there is a link, but we are operating independently.

Is there anything else you want to share with us?

We are humbled by the generosity and interest the community has show to this project. Restoring this old building has been such a fun adventure and we are so excited to share it!


Mayer’s Tavern is located at 894 3rd Ave. They’re currently open Thursday through Sunday, 5pm to 10pm.


First look inside the 2018 Cape May Designer Show House

Photo credit: John Armich

The 2018 Cape May Designer Show House, presented by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC), is nothing short of stunning. Built in 1911, the John P. Forsythe House was part of the East Cape May Project in the early 1900s, which had the goal of making Beach Avenue the most elegant street in Cape May. The home was recently purchased by Patrick and Kristen McGonigal and underwent a $2.5 million renovation. Crews took it down to studs, converting the 12-bedroom mansion to 8 bedrooms, 6 full baths, and 2 half baths—with all three floors accessible by an elevator. It’s appropriate that the Jurassic Park theme is playing as I type this, because what John Hammond says throughout the movie is true for this show house as well: “We spared no expense.”

We toured the home on a Thursday in early April. The weather had been cold and stormy since the beginning of the year, with regular weekend storms and temperatures hovering around freezing. Still, mulch had been put down in the garden beds that awaited plants, making the air around the house smell like springtime. Someone was affixing stone capping to the supporting wall as we made our way along the sidewalk and up the porch steps. Outdoor furniture wrapped in delivery plastic crowded each end of the wrap-around porch. We sidestepped it and went through the front door.