Lucas Manteca at The Ebbitt Room: A Game Changer for Cape May Restaurants?

When I first saw the news posted on Chowhound, I didn’t believe it. Or maybe I just didn’t want to believe it.

Lucas Manteca, one of the best chefs going here in South Jersey, was abandoning his own Sea Salt restaurant in Stone Harbor to become the executive chef at The Ebbitt Room in Cape May.

Why would Manteca do this? Well, he gives a little bit of a hint as to the reason in this recent article written by James Clark at The Press of Atlantic City. Now I’ve talked to some folks who know about the shore dining scene pretty well, and they have said how shore towns like Stone Harbor can be pretty tough for restaurant owners – that outside of the few busy summer months, there aren’t enough locals around to support them the rest of the year. Cape May, on the other hand, does attract enough of an off-season crowd that places like The Ebbitt Room can still make a go of it.

So now Manteca still gets to be creative with his menus, and he can do so for one of the most well-known restaurants in the region. And, with Curtis Bashaw’s Cape Resorts Group running the business end of things, Manteca can really focus his efforts on the food, which is where his passion lies.

How significant of a move is this for the Cape May restaurant scene? I think it’s a pretty big one. There have been some rumblings, from diners and restaurants critics, that some of the well-known restaurants in Cape May may have been living on their reputations over the last number of years. I know that the last time Lisa and I ate at The Ebbitt Room, which was a few years ago, the food was well-prepared but not very exciting.

That’s about to change with Lucas Manteca running the kitchen at The Ebbitt Room. I look forward to see what he does for that place, and what it may do for the restaurant scene in Cape May as a whole.

– John


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