Bars, restaurants, culture and events… Dan Mather’s weekly guide to what’s going on in Cape May
Backstreet is a small restaurant along Park Boulevard in West Cape May with a red-gravel lot, a green awning and a handful of tables. Photos shot by owners Theresa McGlade and Tony Lombardi during off-season vacations decorate the interior – so does a poster of Kramer from Seinfeld. Half of the menu is written on a chalkboard and servers, wearing white T-shirts, shorts and sneakers, take turns passing through the single swinging door on their way to and from the kitchen.
If you haven’t eaten there, you wouldn’t guess that, according to TripAdvisor.com, it is the second-highest-rated restaurant in Cape May. Its four-and-a-half stars are a combination of many five-star reviews mixed with the occasional “the surroundings weren’t elegant.” But you don’t visit for an elegant atmosphere; you go because it’s “simply delicious.”
It’s the type of place that creates friends. You’ll hear tables making recommendations to one another like “the lambchops were to die for” or “you have to have the corn and crab chowder.” The proximity of the seating might be responsible for some of the overlap in conversations, but the quality of the food is what’s being discussed.
I usually take my time looking over a menu, and my wife usually has plenty of questions for me about what I’m going to get or what I think she should have. At Backstreet, we encountered none of those problems. We quickly decided on two bowls of corn and crab chowder and split the grilled asparagus topped with crab for an appetizer.
The grilled asparagus was grilled asparagus – delicious but nothing out of the ordinary. The chowder, however, was the best cup of soup I’ve ever had, and I don’t usually like soup. The rich and creamy base was brilliantly complemented with large chunks of crab and sweet corn kernels that popped in your mouth.
Tanya had the Chilean sea bass with a macadamia nut crust and tequila-lime drizzle. As usual, she summed up the dish in the simplest words possible: “It’s so juicy and a little sweet.” I patiently waited my turn for a taste as I watched large hunks of meat flake off on her fork. It was exactly as she’d described it.
I went with the “14oz Cowboy,” which was a massive, bone-in pork chop with a rich mushroom sauce. My mother is a fantastic cook but could never seem to produce a pork chop that was anything other than tough and dry – it was her Achilles heel. It was not until later in life that I realized how much I actually liked pork. So, knowing how difficult it is to produce a tasty chop, I was doubly impressed by the way this pork gave way beneath the knife – a truly fantastic accomplishment.