New Jersey Restaurant Review
Lucky Bones Backwater Grille
1200 Route 109
Cape May, Cape May County, New Jersey
The Artful Diner
July 10, 2006
Lucky Bones may be the new kid on the block (opening its doors
just around tax time), but it is already making significant waves in a
community that is certainly not bereft of diverse dining possibilities. When I
arrived for my initial visit -- the final Thursday of April at 5:30 p.m. -- the
bar and dining room were in full swing. Proof, once again, that if you build
it, they will come.
This already wildly popular restaurant represents a long overdue
restructuring of the Cape May culinary scene: A shift away from outlandishly
pricey innovative American establishments to less expensive, family-friendly,
ethnically-driven casual eateries. Harry Gleason made the much heralded switch
last season, closing Daniel's on Broadway and opening the Island Grill, which
majors in a delicious variety of tropical treasures. And now Michael and David
Craig, owners of the former Pelican Club and also proprietors of the Washington
Inn, have made their informal debut with Lucky Bones Backwater Grill.
Fortunately for all concerned, the Brothers Craig had the considerable
foresight to install Walter J. Jurusz, the former power behind the stove at the
Pelican Club, as their chef. Equally fortuitous is the fact that several of his
signature dishes have come along for the ride.
Indeed, it only takes one bite of his sumptuously grilled Cuban-spiced pork
chop with whipped sweet potatoes and red wine jus ($22.00) to realize
that this is one chef who has just the proper touch with seasonings. Two other
old favorites worth sampling are the delightful crab and shrimp cakes ($22.00)
and Prince Edward Island mussels awash in a superlative, soul-satisfying
Gorgonzola/basil/tomato sauce ($16.00).
But there are other exciting culinary happenings here as well... Continuing
on with the Cuban theme, the mojo-marinated pork morsels make a fabulous
starter. The nuggets are slightly on the chewy side, but the marinade (olive
oil, lime juice, cumin, and a variety of other spices) renders them totally
irresistible, as does the zesty tequila/lime/cilantro sauce and accompanying
And a big ditto for the super nachos, hand-cut corn tortillas, tomatoes,
black beans, sour cream, onions, salsa verde, and jack cheese ($9.75; add
pulled pork, grilled chicken, house-made guacamole, each $2.00). Utterly
addictive. But if you really want to blow the diet, have a go at "Lil's
Last Stop Fries" ($8.00), fresh-cut potatoes smothered with jack cheese,
smoked bacon, scallions, jalpeños, and then crowned with a creamy ranch dressing.
Among the entrées, the Cape May flatfish ($19.00) is always worth trying.
The species may vary from week to week, but the filet is always impeccably
prepared. My halibut, for example, was beautifully sautéed and set on a bed of
herb polenta garnished with crisp asparagus spears. A delicate lemon beurre
blanc provided the perfect consummating touch. The pan-seared Atlantic
salmon ($17.00) is similarly adorned.
For those more carnivorously inclined, you can't go wrong with the grilled
filet mignon embellished with a luscious blue cheese butter ($25.00; topped
with crabmeat, add $7.00) or the sensuously succulent slow-roasted prime rib au
But a brick oven is also in attendance; and it is put to good use, turning
out some of the best thin-crust pizza it has ever been my pleasure to ingest.
My wife and I ordered the "Margherita" ($8.50) -- tomatoes, basil,
and fresh mozzarella -- and it was nothing short of spectacular. On a return
trip, I look forward to sampling the "Skip Jack" ($12.50) -- arugula,
prosciutto, tomato, and mozzarella -- and the "Tuscan" ($12.00),
dressed with olive oil, sliced garlic, and mozzarella.
However, if you're more inclined to stop by for lunch, or would care to
indulge in somewhat lighter fare, Lucky Bones features a variety of burgers
and sanwiches (grilled chicken BLT, $6.50; grilled veggie burger with herb
mayonnaise, $7.50) as well as a number of tasty salads. Particularly enjoyed
during a recent visit was the special herbed chicken salad sandwich spiked with
Asian spices ($7.50).
Tariffs, as you have undoubtedly noticed, are quite reasonable. And there
are a number of bargains that will make the bottom line infinitely easier to
bear. All side dishes, for example, are priced at a paltry $3.00. The
restaurant also features daily early bird specials -- sautéed scallops, grilled
8-ounce NY strip steak, grilled salmon, and sautéed chicken breast -- which
include salad and dessert, all weighing in at $15.00. And all items on the
compact wine list go for a mere $20.00 per bottle.
Just be forewarned: The restaurant does not take reservations; and, as noted
above, it is already extremely popular and tends to fill up early. Also keep in
mind that this is a casual, family-friendly eatery; children are both seen and
heard, and the noise level can be formidable.
But this should not dissuade you from paying a call, as the food at Lucky
Bones Backwater Grill is first-rate and the strain on your wallet minimal.
Your best bet, especially at the height of the summer season, is to drop in for
either a late lunch or early dinner. Or, better still, plan to visit Cape May
in the fall or spring when the tourist traffic is significantly less
Hours: Lunch: Served daily from 11:30 a.m.; Dinner: Served daily from
4:40 p.m.; Happy Hour: Mon - Fri, 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.; Entertainment: 9:00
p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Credit Cards: All major
Reservations: Not accepted
Alcohol: License; bustling bar scene
Handicapped Accessible: Yes