If you’ve ever been to Cape May — and I mean ever — then you have most likely heard of Elaine’s. A veritable Cape May landmark, Elaine’s seems to have been around forever, its name synonymous with dinner theatre.
Housed in a grand white Victorian on Lafayette Street, Elaine’s has enjoyed a reputation as the preeminent — and only — dinner theatre around, running shows four times per week. However, times are changing. And Elaine’s, like any establishment worth its salt, is changing with them.
Rather than relying on its reputation as a dinner theatre, Elaine’s is adapting, concentrating less on being the place to have fun watching a show, and more on being the place to have fun. Period.
And no one seems more intent on bringing fun to Elaine’s than General Manager Karin Rickard.
Rickard is no stranger to re-invention. Previously with the Saint Thomas Restaurant Group and Martini Beach, Rickard thrives on bringing new ideas and new branding to life. While Rickard strives to incorporate a bevy of changes, her biggest challenge may just be letting the public know that Elaine’s is so much more than dinner theatre.
Step onto the porch of Elaine’s, and you’ll feel transported. Though just a few blocks from the hustle and bustle of Washington Square, the porch at Elaine’s is tranquil, idyllic. From the green planked floor to the bright yellow napkins to the ceiling fans and wind chimes, the porch is worth visiting if only for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. But take a look at the menu, and you may decide to stay.
The Porch at Elaine’s serves a complimentary breakfast daily to its bed & breakfast patrons, but — lucky us — the restaurant is also open to the public. From fresh-squeezed grapefruit and orange juices ($3.50 to $6), made-to-order omelettes ($8.79), and the mouthwatering Bananas Foster French Toast ($9.49), to a selection of breakfast cocktails that includes a Citronge Lime Cooler ($9) and a Mango Moscato ($8), breakfast is just one reason to visit The Porch.
Reason No. 2? Dinner. With a new dinner menu specifically designed for The Porch (as opposed to the dinner options available during dinner theatre shows), The Porch has a wide variety of options. From basics such as burgers ($12 to $16) and cheese plates ($12), to more refined dishes such as the Chicken Pappardelle Gratinee, which is ribbon pasta tossed in a brandy cream with mushrooms and baked with pecorino romano cheese ($25) and house favorite Veal Oscar ($29), the new menu perfectly complements the ambience of the wrap-around porch.
So you know already Elaine’s has dinner theatre. In fact, it has been touted one of the Top 5 dinner theatres in America by the Food Network. The current show is “The Mostly Dead: A Comedy with Bite.” The evening includes the show with a full-course meal chosen from a special menu that includes items such as chicken parmesan, boneless beef short ribs and roasted pork loin. Reservations are strongly suggested.
However, did you know they have live music every night outside on The Porch at 5 p.m.? Seven days a week through Labor Day, local musicians and bands perform for the dinner-and-drinks crowd outside at Elaine’s. Musicians include Bill Caterini, Radio Neon Duo and Rose Kelly, among others.
In addition, Elaine’s hosts monthly “parking lot parties,” complete with an outside bar, entertainment and a theme. September’s theme — scheduled for Sept. 26 — is a Parkin’ Lot Party Pig Roast, and will include the country band Ashville, games such as cornhole, ring toss and pin-up girl arm wrestling, as well as food and drinks. The cost is $20 for the pig roast, which includes a Sailor Jerry cocktail.
Then there’s the inside entertainment. In addition to dinner theatre, Elaine’s will often host special events. Magician Anthony Salazar performed several times to thrilled crowds over the summer, and the fall will include a few Murder Mystery Weekends for B&B guests, as well as a Tour de France Wine Dinner scheduled for November.
A long-time bed & breakfast, Elaine’s is home to 13 guest rooms, all completely different, but each complete with individual climate control, hand-tiled bathrooms and Wi-Fi. With access to a second story sunroom and outside veranda, each room could be a vacationer’s paradise.
While all of the rooms have recently been renovated, three of the rooms are brand new. A 14th guest room is in the works. Prices for the rooms vary seasonally and range from $125 to $320.
Elaine’s has a bar — a great one. Located on the first floor of Elaine’s is Phinney’s Pub, a dark paneled room with an exquisitely hand carved bar taking center stage. Phinney’s is open until midnight through the summer and is a great bet for an off-the-beaten-track cocktail.
In addition to the hidden gem that is Phinney’s Pub, Elaine’s provides a daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m., complete with $2 beer specials and $2 off wines by the glass and specialty cocktails. Those specialty cocktails include drinks such as the Milagro Melon Margarita ($12) and the Grape Gatsby ($12) — Hendrick’s Gin shaken with citrus and grape juice. Drinks on that porch have never sounded better.
On top of the varied entertainment and dining options that Elaine’s offers, they continue to take advantage of a Cape May specialty — ghosts. Elaine’s offers walking ghost tours nightly in-season, providing guests with a guided tour of Cape May’s “haunted” houses and superstitions.
Ghost tours are by reservation and offered at 8, 9 and 10:30 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for kids.