For all that Cape May offers within its vast culinary landscape, there is still a gap that needs to be filled… where can you get a cheap, quick bite to eat that won’t leave you feeling disappointed?
As wonderful as Cape May’s fine dining is, let’s face it: you can’t drop $100 per person and sit for 3 hours every time you eat in town. Oh, there are a few fast-food chains along the outskirts of town, and some quickie casual options along the Washington Street Mall, but they have always left us incredibly disappointed (and yes, we’re including a certain cheap, well-known, and crowded local institution on this sad list). But recently we stumbled onto a cute little place off the beaten path, recommended by a local chef who has ‘seen their kitchen” and likes the simple things they do.
Nestled between the train station and a bike rental, The Depot Market Cafe is not a big place. In the summer, there is a little tented patio, but if you happen to stop in at this year-round establishment during the off-season, you’ll find they have only a handful of tables. They seem to do an amazing takeout business, however, and also often cater small local events. And even though they tend to serve up simple, homespun meals here, you won’t find much of the pre-fab restaurant fodder.
Their April 1st post of “Today’s Specials” on Facebook will give you an idea of their attitude: “Cream of parsley and Celery bisque soups….Peanut butter and jelly, Fish stix and tater tots, Blackened bologna and cheese, warm iceberg salad w thousand island…..April Fools!” Their actual menu consists of easy staples like quiches, meatloaf, honey-dipped fried chicken, chicken pot pie, and crab cakes. However, you never know what they will cook up from day to day with an endless variety of specials including Indonesian Chicken salad, chilled stuffed pepper soup, smoked sausage gumbo, Caribbean conch chowder, a grilled chicken Panini w arugula, portabella mushrooms and Boursin cheese, or maybe a simple Jersey heirloom tomato salad (when in season).
When John and I happened to stop in, it was still a rainy, chilly Spring afternoon, so I immediately went for some soup. Happily, their cream of tomato was filled with more juicy fresh tomato than cream, laced with fresh basil. It was simply delicious, even if it wasn’t yet a Jersey tomato soup. John had the grilled skirt steak sandwich with avocado, red onion shoots, and tomato jalapeno mayo; a somewhat simple sandwich with complex flavors. The meat had been marinated and grilled slightly underdone so it was juicy and tender, and melded perfectly with the other yummy components. I hadn’t seen chicken croquettes on a menu in years, so I had to see what that was about. It was simple, traditional and straightforward, served up with fries and gravy. What’s not to like about little fried balls of meat and panko, crispy, golden brown, and tasty?
All in all, we dropped less than $30 for a hearty meal, soft drinks included, for the two of us. They’re also open for breakfast, if you’re looking for a place to show up in your swimsuit coverup and flip-flops on the way to the beach. They regularly bake their own muffins (raspberry or caramel apple, anyone?),and offer breakfast sandwiches and locally roasted coffee. But whenever you go, hit the ATM before stopping by, because they are a cash-only joint.
The Depot Market Cafe – 409 Elmira Street (next to Welcome Station and The Bike Rental Shop), Cape May. (609) 884-8030.