Cape May boasts an excellent, if pricey, collection of restaurants. The best casual seafood joint is the rollicking, indoor-outdoor Lobster House, Fisherman's Wharf, Route 109 (tel. 609/884-8296), where you dine on fresh steamed clams, crab cakes, or "port and starboard" (surf and turf) on a dock overlooking the harbor, and have cocktails on the restaurant's own schooner, the America.
If you're a seafood lover, drop your anchor at Axelsson's Blue Claw Restaurant, 991 Ocean Dr. (tel. 609/884-5878; www.blueclawrestaurant.com), with its sophisticated decor, nautical-style bar, and ocean views. The restaurant offers some great meat selections, but it's the fresh seafood (crab cakes, lobster tail) that draws diners. Start your meal off with one of the many martini options and cap it with one of the excellent desserts and specialty coffees.
Among Cape May's finest is the elegant Washington Inn, 801 Washington St., at Jefferson Street (tel. 609/884-5697; www.washingtoninn.com), whose winning New American Cuisine includes such classics as rack of lamb and filet mignon, complemented by faultless service and a super-romantic setting. Its 10,000-bottle wine list is the largest in the region.
For classics such as clams casino, shrimp cocktail, and thick-cut steaks, head to the Merion Inn, 106 Decatur St., at Columbia Avenue (tel. 609/884-8363; www.merioninn.com), somewhat less expensive than the Washington Inn but no less romantic. This dimly lit, old-world restaurant features several theme rooms (we like the porch ones best) and has an excellent mahogany bar with a jazz pianist in summer.
Island Grill, 311 Mansion St. (tel. 609/884-0200), is a great addition to the local dining scene. It's run by a mother-daughter team and has a beachy Key West feel, set in a pretty old house with a modern decor and great pastas (like chicken and penne in white-wine sauce) and just-caught fish; most entrees are under $22. It's a kid-friendly place (coloring on the white-paper tablecloths) and it's BYOB.
For more affordable eats, a yellow striped awning signals the Mad Batter, 19 Jackson St., just off Carpenters Lane (tel. 609/884-5970; www.madbatter.com), a comfortable, casual restaurant specializing in made-from-scratch breakfasts; fresh, leafy salads at lunch; and unfussy European-style entrees at dinner (Mediterranean shrimp pasta, for example). Several vegetarian options are always offered, and there's a sizeable selection of moderately priced wines (several available by the glass). On the Washington Mall, Jackson Mountain Café, 400 Washington Ave. (tel. 609/884-5648), is an easy place to grab a good Philly cheesesteak, a burger, or a nice salad, and they've also added some excellent raw bar selections such as jumbo shrimp.
If you want a quick, inexpensive lunch, your best bet is the Depot Market Cafe, 409 Elmira St., next to the Village Bike Shop on Ocean Street (tel. 609/884-8030), an ultracasual sandwich shop with homemade everything and a pleasing alfresco patio.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.