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The following articles originally appeared in our sister publication, Cape May Magazine. You can subscribe for $24.00 a year (6 issues) at capemaymag.com or by calling 609-898-4500.

Then and Now: The Impact of Urban Renewal

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The Hedges, a private home. The Hedges later became Arnold’s Green Terrace Restaurant and Bar.

Even for people who have been in Cape May for generations, the Cape May of just 50 years ago is a real juxtaposition with today’s town, where houses are generally well-maintained and have median appraisal values exceeding half a million dollars. Who can even remember the invariably white-painted, poorly-maintained, old fashioned houses of the 1960s or Washington Street before it became a mall? Even pictures don’t totally tell the story of how houses fell into – and out of – disrepair.

One story of how Cape May became blighted went like this (as told by a city employee in 1969 Senate testimony). First, large houses were built by wealthy out-of-town families who needed space for their families and servants. Then, various events occurred such as the 1929 depression which resulted in these properties being taken over by people with more moderate incomes who could not afford to maintain them. New owners divided once single family properties into multiple rooms and apartments for summer rental. Hard use by renters contributed to ongoing deterioration right up until the 1960s when summer visitors were drawn to new, modern motel rooms. Cape May’s rooming house era had ended. Once-elegant homes were now viewed as undesirable “white elephants.” Cape May was ripe for change.

So many American communities had fallen into this same disrepair that Lyndon Johnson made the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) a central component of the War on Poverty. With it came funds to eliminate slums and create opportunities for economic development. While Cape May residents wanted to improve their town, not everyone was enamored with accepting federal funds, especially those from Democrats. The townspeople – or at least some of them – were beginning to think about how Cape May could be changed. Some wanted to highlight the Victorian homes. Others wanted to create ratables. Enormous destruction from the 1962 storm forced people to consider state and federal programs to assist in rebuilding the town.

tides

The Tides Condominium complex was built where the Baltimore Inn once stood. The Baltimore Inn was demolished as part of urban renewal.

The first recommendation to pursue federal funds came in 1963 from the Planning Board with recommendations to give the go-ahead to Blair and Stein Associates to prepare an application for an urban renewal project. The application came with a $1000 fee. City officials sold the project by informing citizens that this would be the only taxpayer cost. Even the required city contribution would use previously awarded state funds used to build the promenade following the 1962 storm. Then as now, Cape May residents were conservative about spending taxpayer funds. Blair and Stein were to determine project boundaries, estimate costs, and shape ideas to match renewal fund requirements. The Planning Board suggested a focus on three geographical areas. The Elmira/Bank Street area was destined for complete renewal and for public housing. The Washington Street business center required some demolition and reconfiguring to become a viable commercial center, and the area between the business center and the beach would become an historic area. As part of preliminary planning steps, architectural historian Carolyn Pitts completed a 1964 survey of Victorian properties within what was expected to be the urban renewal district. The survey identified properties for renewal or demolition but, then as now, city decisions about demolition were not necessarily based on the survey. Many historic properties were demolished to accommodate new and non-historic projects.

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The landscape of Atlantic Terrace has changed. The gardens have been replaced by small kiosks. The Seven Sisters in the background still remain.

By 1965, the city approved the $3.2 million 77-acre HUD-designated Victorian Village Urban Renewal Project. In the end, there were more than 100 demolished properties, three “new” streets and several large parking lots in the center of town, low income housing projects, beachfront changes, and the massive Victorian Towers to house elderly residents. Then as now, nothing was accomplished without the fights, legal suits, and government changes through which groups express their opinions.

A city-distributed urban renewal progress report outlined Cape May goals “to rehabilitate a complete center-city area into a reborn Victorian showplace designed to attract hundreds of thousands of American and foreign tourists; to revitalize downtown shopping areas; provide scores of improvements through new construction and renovation; and most important, to provide new bases of economic security for all its citizens.” Staff were hired to run the project and an office was established in the 300 block of Washington Street. The first project to be completed was the Victorian Village Plaza. Dedicated in 1966 and described as providing “the major nucleus of a revitalized merchant community,” the project required relocating a train station and demolishing a train depot and a number of other properties to create a 200-car parking lot and six retail stores including the Acme grocery store. Right across Washington Street, a whole block of businesses and a hotel were leveled to provide the large parcel of land needed for Victorian Towers. Additional properties were demolished to extend Ocean Street further north to Lafayette Street. A whole area of Cape May had been reconfigured.

victowers

Many buildings were demolished in order to build Victorian Towers.

Most of the urban renewal work was centered in the middle of the town. Creating a new business district and clearing out areas around Lafayette Street were primary targets. Three blocks of Washington Street were selected to be closed off into a walking mall, an action that city fathers stated will “engender more life in the main shopping area particularly in the fall and winter.” Numerous properties were demolished on the mall blocks to be replaced by modern “Victorian-like” stores, a trend that has continued right up to the present. On the eastern end, the Liberty Theater was demolished and replaced with a series of small stores lining a newly-created Liberty Walk. A modern two-story building, built as Charles Sandman’s offices, eventually becomes a shopping mall complete with an escalator; another newly constructed building was a mid-century modern building with a front façade of vertical wood boards. Other properties were demolished to create three walkways paralleling Ocean, Decatur, Jackson, and Perry streets named for Cape May heroes, Edwin Draper, MD, Henry Sawyer, and Edwin Hill.

The mall was anchored on the eastern end by the Victorian Village Plaza. The western end, along Perry Street and Congress Place, included Congress Hall’s parking garages and three historic properties – the Pink House, Moon’s Drug Store, and the small hotel/boarding house called the Elberon. One idea was for the Pink House to be moved and turned around so that it faced the end of the mall. But, properties were taken by eminent domain and suddenly seven properties were being demolished to create land space for the modern Victorian Motel, destined to provide city ratables that the Victorian properties may not. Before the wreckers got to the Pink House, it was purchased by Tom Hand and moved across the street to a lot on Perry Street next to his Cape May Star and Wave offices where today it looks as though it has been there forever.

The Washington Street Mall as it appeared in the 1950s. In this photograph you can also see the buildings that were demolished to make way for the Victorian Towers.

The Washington Street Mall as it appeared in the 1950s. In this photograph you can also see the buildings that were demolished to make way for the Victorian Towers.

Creating the pedestrian mall eliminated street parking and store access thereby requiring redesign of the area around the mall to recreate parking and give delivery access. The solution was to carve out two new wide streets on either side behind the mall by demolishing still more existing properties to create roadways with diagonal parking. Although little accommodation was made for trash or storage, most stores had back doors for deliveries and many stores actually fronted on these new streets. Lyle Lane was created on the north from Mansion Street and renamed Lyle Lane in honor of a local Cape May family. A section of Layle Lane was renamed back to Mansion Street when Perry Collier opened the Mansion House restaurant and discovered the street’s original name. Carpenters Alley already existed south of Washington between Decatur and Ocean and was extended over to Ocean Street demolishing four more houses, renamed Carpenters Lane, and continued behind the other two blocks over to Perry Street resulting in another 20 demolitions. In fact, the massive number of demolitions created another problem for the city – how to dispose of the buildings once they were torn down.

The mall may have been the cornerstone project, but large tracts of land in the center city area were cleared of businesses and houses to create parking. Many properties were identified as Victorian in the survey, but they were torn down anyway. Tiny Chestnut Street, running parallel to Perry between Mansion and Broad Street, was virtually obliterated by demolishing all 14 structures on the street to create a city parking lot. Additional properties across from the parking lot and from the corner of Lafayette to Broad were destroyed including the long popular Opera House. Another 10 houses were torn down along Lafayette between Jackson and Decatur to create another parking lot, which at the last minute became Rotary Park, an eventual location for city-sponsored concerts. This area was cleared by destroying businesses and homes of the African American community. Even more African American-owned properties were demolished along Broad Street and further east on Lafayette and replaced with affordable housing units. City fathers created a “War on Blight” in the center of town that physically demolished houses and businesses while simultaneously almost eliminating 60 African-American businesses and simultaneously contributing to the reduction of the town’s African American population from about 800 to the 200 present day residents.

Cape May's former train station was located at Ocean and Washington Streets. After the train station was torn down, a parking lot remained there until the Washington Commons shopping area was built.

Cape May’s former train station was located at Ocean and Washington Streets. After the train station was torn down, a parking lot remained there until the Washington Commons shopping area was built.

Little of the beachfront was included in the renewal project district, to the great relief of developers who were anxious to start building those new motels that line today’s beachfront. Like today, owners of existing hotels within the Victorian Village district wanted to offer tourists better accommodations by becoming more modern and up-to-date. Carl McIntyre, a minister from Collingswood, New Jersey, purchased and moved a number of historic properties so that beachfront land became available for the Colonial and other existing hotels got to build adjacent motels with parking. The saved historic houses became dormitories for Dr. McIntyre’s newly opened Sheldon College and, as the college declined, these same properties took on new life as condominiums and a bed and breakfast inn. Other historic properties did not fare so well. The Baltimore Inn on Jackson Street was demolished by the city to create land for a new motel that eventually failed and was reconfigured into the Tides Condominium. Right next door, on the corner of Jackson and Beach, the Hedges, a private home that had already been converted into the then-popular Arnold’s restaurant, was replaced by miniature golf. The very-Victorian Colton Court hotel was torn down to allow a modern motel, also named Colton Court, to rise in its place. The Lafayette Hotel, one of the oldest and most prominent of the remaining Victorian hotels, became another demolition statistic, torn down and replaced on the same site by a new hotel with in-front parking.

The 68 demolitions achieved in the first half of the urban renewal project were listed in the city’s published progress report as an accomplishment. One can only guess at the percent of Cape May properties that were ultimately razed and be grateful that in the Cape May way, a new administration was voted in to stop the widespread destruction before there was little left of the original Victorian properties.

Where Arnold's once stood, you can now find Carney's Restaurant and Bar and a mini golf course.

Where Arnold’s once stood, you can now find Carney’s Restaurant and Bar and a mini golf course.

A lot might be said looking backward almost 50 years to the onset of urban renewal. The goal of creating a stable year-round economic base for all residents did not materialize. If anything, Cape May’s economy is more dependent on tourism than ever before in its history. Then as now, few elected or employed city officials have provided knowledgeable leadership to guide meaningful historic preservation efforts although nobody has avoided talking the historic preservation talk when useful. Perhaps urban renewal funds were just the ticket to mobilize Cape May residents and provide a base from which newcomers would create the bed and breakfast, restaurant, and cultural changes to come. In hindsight, we do not, after all, look like other New Jersey shore towns where almost anything historic (or not) is gone. On the other hand, there may be more “Victorians” in Cape May now than in the 1960s if we are willing to count all the newly constructed sort-of Victorians that have been added since the real Victorian period ended. historic-endmark

Editor’s Note: This article is based on a Then and Now picture exhibit put together by Harry Bellangy, president, Greater Cape May Historical Association and exhibited at the Association’s Colonial House during the summer of 2011.

It should be noted that Mickie Blomkvest served on Cape May City Council from 1968-1972 during Urban Renewal. Mr. Blomkvest later went on to serve as mayor of Cape May from 1976-1988.


The Bread Lady

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Her name is Elizabeth Degener. Her father calls her Biz. Her friends call her Liz. But to all who queue up on a Saturday or Sunday morning along Sunset Boulevard, waiting for her arrival – she is simply known as The Bread lady.

This is her third summer selling bread from a roadside stand located at the foot of the family’s Enfin Farms property. As one waiting customer observed, the bread stand looks like the one Lucy uses in the Peanuts cartoon. Lucy’s stand has a sign which reads “Doctor is in.” At 8:50 a.m. on a Saturday morning, nearly one hour before Showtime, The Bread Lady’s stand is unadorned.

I start to walk up the long driveway toward the farmhouse when I hear my name being called. It is The Bread Lady’s father, Rich Degener. He is tugging at some tree roots over on the far side of the selling area. He tells me he is clearing more land so she has room to expand. I ask him if he likes the attention his daughter is getting, and he looks up into the sky as though pondering the question, smiles and answers very proudly, “I don’t mind being referred to as The Bread Lady’s father. I like that. Just walk up the driveway, Biz is expecting you.”

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It is getting onto 9 a.m. and I am anxious to meet The Bread Lady so, even though I would like to stay and chat longer, I begin the walk up the long driveway.

When the farmhouse comes into view, I don’t see Elizabeth about, but I do eye the wood-fired clay oven which was shipped in from California in one piece. I call her name and she pops out from behind a bush near the farmhouse and greets me. She is wearing a simple white shift and she has a kerchief about her head which keeps her thick, curly hair in abeyance. Elizabeth introduces me to Wesley Laudeman, who runs the farming portion of the business, and then offers me some freshly made ginger tea. It is still warm, garnished with a slice of cucumber and mint, has quite a bite to it.

I bake myself, although not bread. Pies and cakes are me specialty, and I am anxious to investigate the clay oven which sits atop a concrete stand, which I estimate to be about four feet high and four feet wide.. Elizabeth opens the oven for me so that I might get a first-hand look at its inners and slips a lone loaf of bread, which did not seem to be quite done, back into the oven. Then we go into The Bread Lady’s inner sanctum – a commercial kitchen where all the bread has been readied in lovely cloth-lined baskets. Rounds with baguettes. Classic French bread mixed with Pumpernickels. Rosemary & Thyme loaves mixed with Raisin and Spice loaves, and all the assorted breads which will be offered on this already very warm Saturday morning. At the appropriate time, the baskets will be loaded onto the back of her father’s pickup truck and he will back it down the driveway. Within minutes, the empty Charlie Brown bread stand and adjacent vegetable market will be transformed into a slice of Europe.

But how did it all come about is my question.

It actually began in Ireland. Elizabeth studied International Business at the American College of Dublin. “On my summer holidays I would bounce around through Europe and go to farms through the WWOOFing program.” WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. “They give you,” she explained, “housing in exchange for maintenance on the farm. You learn about farm production, agriculture, in some cases baking, and anything that has to do with primitive living, really.”

Her travels took her to Germany for the summer proceeding her senior year and six months more after graduation. At that point, she became the cook for the community which included baking with a clay oven. After Germany, Elizabeth went off to India and also was the community cook there. In February 2010, she returned home.

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“I didn’t have anything started yet,” she said, “but I knew I wanted to so something with farming and baking. So we [she and her dad) ordered the clay oven. I didn’t know what to expect. I took a big chance ordering it. The first summer was really slow. This is the third season and it is catching on, especially with [adding] the vegetables.”

Wesley, who is in charge of farming, is a childhood friend of Elizabeth’s and also had experience in the WOOF program in Mexico and Canada. Otherwise, it is a family affair, which Elizabeth would like to encourage. “My brother [Rick] just put in a big raspberry patch,” she said. “And he’s hoping to have a big yield within the year. He has big plans. We thought about planting blueberries, but we wanted something with high yield that you can sustain a small livelihood from and raspberries are very lucrative. We can get a substantial production out of them in one year. Blueberries take five years.” Her hope is that her other brother, Geoff, currently living in Baltimore, will return home and join the operation in some capacity.

So, I am wondering, what is a typical bread baking week like?

“All week I’m kneading the dough. It rises once. I shape it and I freeze it. Then [on Saturday] I get up at 4 a.m. I take the bread out of the deep freezer. It thaws and rises again. [Meanwhile], I fire up the oven. On the first day it will take two hours [to reach its appropriate temperature]. Tomorrow, only one hour.”

She makes, on average, about a 100 loaves a bead a day.

Before I know it, it is 9:45 and time to load the bread baskets, topped with linen towels or mesh domes to protect them from the bugs and insects, onto the truck. By the time we walk back down the driveway, making sure we say hello to the resident ducks, which Wesley says do a fine job of keeping the bugs off the vegetable and flower gardens, the bread line has begun and is growing. Seasoned customers come with friends and make a morning of it, chatting and catching up on the news. Others peek around while The Bread Lady and Wesley hang up the wooden signs which specify the choices. Within minutes, the stand and vegetable “market” have been transformed into a slice of Europe.

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I dutifully take my place at the end of the line and when it is my turn buy – at the Bread Lady’s suggestion – a large loaf of Toasted Millet with sunflower, flax and poppy seeds, plus Chocolate Muffins for breakfast on Sunday. Who am I kidding? I wasn’t half a block down the road when I was enjoying one of those.

It’s a beautiful thing to see young entrepreneurs coming home to make a difference and I am sure The Bread Lady, who still hand-kneads all the bread, will be investing in a mixer one of these days. Her summer days of operation are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As an postscript to my story, The Bread Lady ran out of bread the next day and felt so badly, she went back to kitchen and made more bread and hand delivered it to a few of the customers who were left wanting. Now that’s a success story. historic-endmark


Photo contest staff picks

In February, Cape May Magazine held its first photo contest, and the winners (who were chosen by the magazine’s Facebook fans) are published in the Spring 2013 issue. But we thought it would be fun to share our staff favorites with you here on CapeMay.com.

kingoftheworld

“I’m King of the World”

Photographer: Katrina W. Miller – November 8, 2012
Who liked this best: Jessica Keeler, web & social media manager

*****

sun

Photographer: Valerie Cancel – August 2011
Who liked this best: Susan Tischler, Editor

*****

yellowgull

Photographer: Mary Gentile – April 2012
Who liked this best: Bernie Haas, Publisher

*****

buoys

Photographer: Steve Haas – Spring 2011
Who liked this best: Stephanie Madsen, Art Director

*****

driftwood

Photographer: Lisa Ryan – July 4, 2010
Who liked this best: Michelle Bumm, staff photographer

*****

Do you have photos of Cape May you want to share with us? Post them on CapeMay.com’s Facebook page or tag your pics #lovecapemay on Tumblr and Twitter.


A trip to the zoo

daytripping-zoo

Did you know a peacock has a super loud mating call? It’s a scene, man. And that a lion’s roar can be heard really far away? How do I know this? No, I haven’t been to the African Savannah or wherever it is where peacocks live; just went to Exit 11 off the Garden State Parkway ̶ about a 15-minute drive from anywhere in Cape May.

Right there, about a mile off the main road, lies the Cape May County Park and Zoo, and wait till you see what’s inside. Lions and tigers and bears? Oh my!

Once school lets out, my kids and I crank Schools Out for Summer by Alice Cooper and roll the windows down ̶ a move that would be far more rebellious, say, if they weren’t only in preschool and my car was a cool ’57 Chevy and not a Honda minivan. We start looking for little trips to take for a morning or afternoon that gets us some culture, fun and sun. Our first trip of choice is usually the zoo.

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The Zoo and Park sit on 85 acres of land. The zoo has over 550 animals, representing 250 species. The best part? Even though this sounds like a lot to take in, the zoo is very manageable and can be walked through in an hour, or three, depending on the length of time your children will give you.

On our zoo day, we pack a lunch (there are picnic tables on the park grounds), and head out early. Crowds can build up quickly in summer mainly because the zoo has free admission. You heard that correctly. There is no charge to go to this zoo. They only ask for a donation. Be prepared to give one, it’s very hard to say no to the kind, retired man who hands you a map and holds a bucket out towards you as you pass through the entrance.

As we drive in, my boys completely forget we are going to see wild animals and beg me to go to the playground. The park and zoo have two really cool ones that sit adjacent to the front parking lots. They are busy with kids almost all year round. I say, “We’ll go after the zoo if you’re good,” and this usually settles down my beasts. Note: if you go on the smaller kid’s playground behind the big one, try the blue twirly cups. They are better than a ride at Great Adventure.

Once inside the zoo, you are treated to a snowy white owl. We call her Hedwig even though we don’t know if she’s a boy or girl. One day I’ll be able to read the signs that tell all about the animals… but it hasn’t happened yet. Right after you visit Hedwig, you’ll most likely meander toward the goats and chickens. There is food available for purchase (bring some quarters) and it’s fun to let the animals eat right out of your hand. My kids love this part. I can still imagine the goat’s big dark pink tongue sticking out and grabbing the food from my palm. The zoo has antibacterial soap dispensers right there. I love that part too.

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From the goat and chicken coop, you can head in a couple of directions. We usually keep on a straight course and watch the pair of bald eagles fly around or just look majestic up on their perch. This path also leads to the indoor bird exhibit. The one (and only) time we went through, my little one got startled by the two birds that often greet visitors as they pass through the vestibule. Use caution if you have someone who doesn’t like loud sounds. But if you do go in, it’s a pretty awesome experience to have birds flying around you with no cages and all freedom inside the room.

Outside of the bird exhibit and near the bald eagles, you can usually find a peacock or two strutting around. They mate in spring, around late March/early April, but if you’re lucky, you’ll see a male in full plumage. Just be aware that they make a loud sound with their call. There are also guinea hens walking around there.

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All paths at the zoo lead to something pretty awesome. My boys, Salem and Finn, like the African Savannah area the best. And I think I do too, though when I walk through the large gate and up the boards, I can’t help but think what would happen if I was left at the zoo with the animals all Jumanji style.

Through these forested lands, you’ll find signs telling which trees are which (these we read) and eventually you’ll come to the main attractions, though there is plenty to see and hear along the way. Once the forest clears, the savannah comes into view and (gasp!) there’s a giant giraffe just a few feet away. No cages, just separated by space. Awesome! There are also bison and ostrich in here, but they seem to play second and third fiddle to the spotted crew. Zebra and bongos also live in this area.

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The zoo is laid out so well that you never feel like there isn’t a place to pull off the main drag, give your baby a bottle, or your big girl a sippy cup. Food isn’t allowed in the actual zoo – but drinks are. You will get thirsty walking around if the weather is sunny and warm.

And the zoo knows this, which is why we have alligator and other various animal-shaped sport bottles in our kitchen glass cabinet. Every so often along the zoo paths, there is a cart selling lemonade in those cool cups. Cave in – the lemonade is on the verge of sickly sweet, but it’s relatively inexpensive for a souvenir and a drink. Plus you’ll have quiet kids for at least five minutes. Worth it!

If we have a red letter day at the zoo here is what happens: We see the lion roar a giant roar and pace back and forth. The alligators are out (though it’s debatable whether they are real – their stillness is unnerving). The cheetah is on the move. All the lemurs are playing with each other (Zooboomafoo!). The two bears are walking around their cool area. And, finally, we spot the capybara.

There are so many animals at the Cape May County Park and Zoo, you’ll leave a little smarter than you arrived, having added a few species to your knowledge. There’s both a cute factor (snow leopards), a scary one (Burmese python!), and a fun factor (train and carousel rides) – all in all, the zoo is a winner no matter the day or season.

The Cape May County Park and Zoo is open 364 days a year, closed on Christmas. For more information, visit www.capemaycountyzoo.org.


Oopa! for George’s Place

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You know you’ve found the right place when a stranger, waiting on the sidewalk for a table at a restaurant, tells you, “You know, this is the best place in town.” George’s Place is a small 10-table Greek restaurant in Cape May that looks like a diner during the day and feels like a taverna at night. “Oopa!”– Greek for “Cheers” – is spoken here.

George Tsiartsionis opened George’s Place in 1968, and has been serving breakfast and lunch for 34 years. He sold it in 2002, to his son-in-law, Yianni Karapanagiotis, who felt dinner service had potential and added it to the menu. Today, Yianni and his “kid” brother, Pete, own three restaurants – George’s Place, offering Greek food; YB (“Younger Brother”), specializing in New American cuisine; and Pano’s, a coffee shop on the Washington Street Mall they opened with their cousin.

A friend and I had dinner at George’s Place earlier this summer. We made reservations, which I strongly recommend. The restaurant takes same-day dinner reservations only, starting at 5 p.m. It caps reservations at 30 per night, so anyone hoping to eat there had better start speed dialing then or put their name on the list in person. To its credit, George’s is precise in setting reservation times, which minimizes waiting. Fair warning, though, late arrivals may need to search out another restaurant.

We arrived seven minutes early for our reservation. Yianni greeted us warmly at the door, welcomed us inside, and pointed to a clock on the wall, politely suggesting we return in seven minutes. Yianni is the big Greek personality who sets the tone for the restaurant. He is funny and irreverent and fond of saying to regulars, “Now don’t give me a hard time,” which they clearly delight in doing.

Our sidewalk enthusiast also gave a hot tip on an appetizer. “Get the flaming cheese,” he suggested. “It’s amazing, my wife and I get it all the time.” Sold, we ordered it. Saganaki is a popular Greek appetizer consisting of grilled kefalograviera cheese doused with ouzo, then set on fire. It’s served with grilled pita. The dish was wonderful, but the “fireworks” was the show-stopper. When the cheese is lit, the staff erupts in “Oopa!” and many of the diners from nearby tables, which is practically everyone in this smallish restaurant, join in. Ours was a five “Oopa!” night. It gets crazier, apparently.

“Once one is lit, the whole dining room says, “I want that,’” Yianni says, creating the potential for a 30- “Oopa!” night!

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I had the Roast Pork Tenderloin next, Sliced Medallions of Meat marinated in lemon and peppercorns, with Eggplant Orzo (a rice-shaped pasta) and Greek Salad. The pork was tender and flavorful, but, served over a bed of orzo and salad, suffered somewhat of an identity crisis. My friend chose the Lamb Chops, five “lollipop” lamb chops, served with Eggplant Orzo, Tzatziki, a cucumber yogurt sauce and Greek Salad. He loved it. It’s also George’s most popular dish.

We went back to the restaurant a week later for breakfast. There was a 15-minute wait for a table and there were more families with young children on this visit, but, otherwise, our food was just as enjoyable and the service was just as friendly as before. We ate well. I had the Homemade Chipped Beef on whole wheat toast with hash brown potatoes. (I actually search out restaurants for chipped beef, which is not a pastime many of my friends share.) My friend ordered the Breakfast Quesadilla, with two eggs, turkey sausage, peppers, onions, cheddar cheese and tomatoes and mildly spiced salsa on the side. Both dishes were excellent and meal enough for the day.

George’s only accepts cash, so come prepared. We hadn’t known, but were impressed when our waitress graciously told us we could eat first and pay later, and pointed us toward the ATM next door at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House.

Word of Cape May’s small corner of Greece spread to The Food Network in 2010, which featured the restaurant on the show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. The buzz has put even more people on the sidewalk.

“Instead of 40 people lined up at 4:45 each day, there were 100,” Yianni says. Just imagine a 100-“Oopa!” night.

#####

George’s Place is located at 301 Beach Avenue. It’s open year-round for breakfast and lunch from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. In season, it’s also open for dinner from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. In winter, it’s open for dinner on weekends. The restaurant is BYOB. Call (609) 884-6088 for reservations.