As soon as summer arrives, day-trippers and vacationers descend on the New Jersey shore. Seasonal shops and restaurants open all along the coast, happy to provide goods and services to the crowds strolling the boardwalk or the promenade, as the populations of these winter-sleepy towns explode. Seagulls screech through the sky and roam the beach looking to snatch a snack from the sun worshipers jockeying for towel space, juggling beach chairs, French fries, and ice cream cones.
Eager to join the masses relaxing “down the shore,” many Philadelphians merge into the parade of overloaded cars that stacks up on the Garden State Parkway. Mile by mile, they exit en route to their favorite destinations — Brigantine, Ocean City, Avalon, Wildwood — gradually emptying the southbound Parkway lanes until they end at Exit 0 in Cape May. Four miles further southwest, where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, lies a quiet oasis very different from its bustling beach town brethren: Cape May Point.
Cape May Point greets visitors with rich and lush greenery, flowers, and the occasional hummingbird. Wide open, uncrowded beaches provide the perfect spot for watching pods of dolphins play just a few hundred yards off shore. This town has its own lighthouse, lake, bird sanctuary, and is a stop-over for thousands of migrating monarch butterflies.
What’s more, it has the Red Store.
The Red Store is one of two restaurants in town, and offers intriguing and sophisticated fare based on market availability and seasonality. The menu, created by Chef and owner Lucas Manteca, is ever-changing. Crab can combine with corn, poblano peppers, and feta cheese to make your morning pancake; oysters may be paired with fresh horseradish and dill crema; and lobster is sometimes served with avocado and spicy strawberry vinaigrette.
“Eating should be social, fun, and healthy,” says Manteca. He and his wife, Deanna, run the Red Store with a focus on farm-to-table dining, which echoes the way Manteca grew up eating in Argentina.
While he has worked with local farmers since opening, this year the Red Store purchased its own farm, about ten acres in West Cape May according to Manteca. The spring harvest will bring cauliflower, broccoli, fava beans, and English peas to the table, and patrons can expect to see lettuces, zucchini blossoms, herbs, tomatoes, and farm fresh eggs on the menu this summer.
The Red Store also acts as Cape May Point’s general store, bakery, coffee stop, and gelato shop. For many, this is the first and last place they go each day, even if they don’t have a meal there — bookending sand and surf with a cup of coffee and cone of gelato. The pistachio gelato, one of the many rotating flavors, is rich and sweet with just a touch of salt, elevating this velvety frozen dessert from treat to luxury.
Manteca, who has lived and found culinary inspiration in Buenos Aires, New York, and Miami, thinks there is something very special about Cape May Point. “I walk around Lake Lilly every day,” says Manteca. “This place is magical.”
And so is that pistachio gelato.
The Red Store will open for breakfast five days and dinner one day per week Easter weekend (April 19), with full service resuming in the summer months.
Can’t wait until then? The Red Store holds a Supper Club twice a month, and with only forty spots available, it books up quickly. Guests are informed of the dinner’s ingredients, but little else, making the dinner a fun adventure. The cost is $65 per person, cash only, and be sure to bring your own bottle of wine.
The Red Store
500 Cape Avenue
Cape May Point, NJ 08212
Cash only, BYO