This is my first entry in what I hope to be a semi-regular blog series highlighting my experiences at area based vegan restaurants and regions. I plan to aim more for restaurant reviews moving forward, but this first entry is to get me used to writing and highlight a surprisingly vegan friendly region in South Jersey. I’ll start by introducing myself. My name’s Kris and I’m married to the founder of Vegan in NJ, Cherise. Because of this I’m often exposed to some of the best things our state (and surrounding states) has to offer in the vegan world. I figured throwing down some of our experiences for others to read would give people a sneak peak at some great vegan and vegan friendly businesses who deserve our attention. This first entry is from our recent much needed three day escape from responsibility in Cape May, and highlights some of the amazing food and experiences we were able to enjoy!
Our first stop on the drive down was Molino’s, located in Middle Twp., NJ. This was an easy stop off the parkway and was about 20 minutes north of where we stayed in Cape May. You can’t miss it, as it sits right on the corner of an intersection and has “vegan options” printed boldly on their sign. It’s a very small interior with only space for four people to sit, but it’s a great option if you’re looking for some quick take out. We opted to hang out, as there was no one else dining in, which gave us a chance to tinker with the menu. With more and more local restaurants and pizzerias starting the carry vegan cheese, this one carrying Daiya, it’s always awesome to learn a place has various vegan protein options, too. Molino’s didn’t disappoint by offering tempeh and seitan for all of their pies. We ended up ordering a custom pizza with seitan, jalapeños, onions and buffalo sauce. The guys in the kitchen got excited by the order, nodding in approval, and told us they love when people get creative with the toppings they offer. So don’t be shy! Ultimately the pizza came out quick and we were able to continue our journey with a full stomach.
Once you arrive in Cape May you’ll quickly notice there’s small shops everywhere you look, which is great for walking off the whole pizza you just devoured. We spent a good amount of time in the area of Washington St., which was surrounded by amazing Victorian homes and shops, and is in view of the ocean. For people into home cooking there were the Cape May Peanut Butter Co. and. Cape May Olive Oil Co. Both had tons of unique ingredients from nut butters and jelly’s to spices and oil/vinegar blends. All available to sample in store. Just double check the ingredients as we found a few that weren’t vegan friendly! We grabbed some hot pepper and beer based jelly’s and a scorpion pepper/salt grinder. You’ll start to notice a trend in all the spicy things we eat.
If you find yourself in the area for breakfast/lunch you’ve absolutely gotta check out The Mad Batter. Open breakfast-dinner with a full bar and dining room. Breakfast sandwiches, tofu scramble and Bloody Mary’s or nachos, Beyond Burgers and craft beer. Regardless of what you order you’ll be happy. Cherise ordered the breakfast sandwich, loaded with tempeh bacon and vegan cream cheese, but as a wrap. I got the Beyond Burger covered in fresh jalapeños and we split the nachos. Admittedly, it was too much food, but we did our best. The nachos were fantastic and loaded with toppings, enough to be a whole meal. I washed it down with their house Bloody Mary made with jalapeño infused Gin.
A block away is the Magic Brain Coffee, a small coffee place with multiple non dairy options if you’ve still got room. I was able to load us up on caffeine to get the day started. Cherise had a coconut milk iced matcha latte and I grabbed a dark roast coffee with a shot of espresso. They’ve also got vegan chocolate chip scones.
Feeling thirsty yet? I’m a huge fan of craft beer and am determined to try as many as I can. One of the first things I do when we travel is see what small breweries are in the area so I can try a flight or two I can’t normally have at home. Cape May and the surrounding area didn’t disappoint. The first we checked out was MudHen Brewing Co. in Wildwood, NJ. It was 15 minutes away from our hotel. Aside from having 10 of their own beers on tap, and a full service bar which is rare for a brewery in my experience, they had some vegan options on the menu. We ordered the pretzel twists (minus the multiple non vegan sauces that we asked them to skip) that came with a strong nose clearing horseradish mustard. They also have a vegetarian chili (made vegan by skipping the dairy items) loaded with beans and seitan, which was so good we both were still talking about it the next day, and an Impossible Burger.
Still thirsty? A quick trip to my trusted search engine showed there were 10+ breweries within 20 miles of our hotel. Most only keep weekend and evening hours, so depending on when you’re in the area you may be out of luck. We made a point to also hit up the CoHo Brewing Co. This is co-owned by a retired law enforcement officer turned brewer. Quality stuff. We also stopped at Cape May Brewing Co. A lot of their stuff I’ve had, since they ship to Monmouth County where we live, but I wasn’t disappointed. Several beers were available only in the tap room. If you’re in the area during the summer season there’s a taco place next door that has vegan options, but they were closed while we were there so we couldn’t partake.
Not everything we ate on the trip was worth it. We ran into an issue where there wasn’t much open late one of the nights, so we decided to try Louie’s Pizza since they offer gluten free pies and have vegan cheese (Daiya). I’m not going to go into detail about our experience, I’d just recommend you spend your hard earned money elsewhere. We were very disappointed with food quality and staff.
On our way out of town we hit Bella Vida Garden Cafe for breakfast. They’ve got several vegan options on the menu, but it’s mixed in with all their other food, so it took some time to find it all and figure out what we wanted. Ultimately we ended up with pancakes, tempeh scramble, spicy home fries and sides of vegan sausage. It was a big breakfast that filled us up for the drive home and it all tasted great! If you get there around lunch time there were plenty of non breakfast vegan items on the menu as well.
Some non food stuff that’s definitely worth your time are the Cape May lighthouse and Sunset Beach. Both are self explanatory by name. The lighthouse offers amazing views and if you go during business hours you’re able to climb up to the top and enjoy some of the history of the building and area. Sunset Beach is a western facing beach, so it’s one of the rare places in our state where you can watch the sun set over the ocean. There’s a small parking lot and plenty of seating in the area, but it quickly filled up within 30 minutes of sunset, so get there early. This is by no means a complete list of vegan friendly food, beer, etc. It’s also not even close to a complete list of things to do while down there, but we had a great experience with everything mentioned and it’s all worth checking out. I hope you get something out of this list and enjoyed my write up of our experience. I’ll try and make the posts a bit shorter moving forward, this was just tough to shorten considering it was multiple days of great food and activities.