Thursday, September 8, 2011

Poor Service Spoils a Fine Getaway to Cabanas in Cape May

This Labor Day, we shot down to Wildwood for a family get-together. On one particularly rainy day, the little guy simply did not want to take a nap. So we decided to go for a ride and see if that would help him slip off into Dreamland. To our satisfaction, the ploy worked and a drive around Wildwood quickly turned into an excursion to Cape May. The farthest shore point has always been a favorite of ours and one place where we have had a couple good experiences is Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill. On this day, we decided to stop in and get an appetizer and a couple of drinks before a dinner later that night.

While the vibe of Cabanas may be a bit on the kitschy side, I have always enjoyed it. I like the Caribbean feel of the decor. The Bob Marley tunes blaring out of the speakers really add to a relaxing atmosphere. For our appetizer, we decided to try the Mexican Nachos Grande, a plate of tortilla chips with pulled pork, refried beans, jalapenos, pico de gallo, and other pleasing toppings. I thought the dish worked very well, although I can admit to being a person who prefers a wet salsa to a pico de gallo. I think it works better for dipping and ensuring that your chips are never naked. This slight lack of ingredients was the main complaint of Spicy, who felt there were times when more toppings, especially the pulled pork, could have been in order. For myself, I can say that I did not think this was a major violation on their part. The toppings were a little tough to get to, what with some of them being under the chips, but I did not feel Cabanas was delinquent in their topping distribution. It just required the breaking out of forks and knives at times.

As for drinks, Cabanas makes one hell of a Key Lime Martini. I tasted a bit of Spicy's and it was just the right amount of tart. There was also a creaminess to the drink that made it seem like an alcoholic dessert. The beer list was not incredibly diverse, but there were some very nice choices that we indulged in. I knocked back two ice-cold Dogfish Head 60 Minutes, and Spicy tried her hand at Victory's delectably dangerous Golden Monkey. Finally, since I was in the pseudo-tropics, I had a Cuban Mojito. It was good, but while I enjoy the taste of the drink, it is probably one that I have to stop ordering because I constantly find myself whining about the way the mint and the ice dominate the glass and the actual drink seems to amount to a thimble's worth of product. Cabanas' version was not really an exception. Note to self: Unless you find yourself in Miami, avoid this drink like the plague.

Now to the one aspect of the Cabanas experience that would have to drive me to suggest another destination: the service. It was not good on this day. Our waitress seemed like a nice gal, but she simply was not up to snuff when you consider that this was a weekend in September with weather that wasn't drawing the customers like moths to a flame. Despite the fact that we were one of maybe two tables she was working, she generally could not be found. I had to wait an interminable amount of time between my first drink and my second. I actually considered going up to the bar, but I didn't want to seem rude. Then (and this is probably more on the bartender although I would have hoped the waitress would have noticed) she brought Spicy a Golden Monkey in a glass that had a hole in it. Literally, the wife was probably a big gulp away from a torn intestine or something. That's not good. The final violation was when I asked for the check along with a closing beer. She gave me the check with the beer added to the lineup...only she never brought me the beer. We had to remind her about it, and when I finally got the second Dogfish Head 60, I had to chug it, which totally affected my enjoyment (OK, that isn't true; I still enjoyed the hell out of that thing). Maybe I am a tough person to wait on, but I can't stand it when I have to make repeated requests of the waitress. It works my nerves something fierce, and for this I need to downgrade Cabanas.

All in all, the nachos were tasty and the drinks were quality (when delivered sans shards of glass). Plus, they delivered a fun vibe without waking up our baby in the running stroller. For this, I give Cabanas props. But the service was straight-up wack and I'm hoping this enjoyable beach bar steps it up before the busy season arrives in 2012.


Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill
429 Beach Ave.

Cape May, NJ 08204
Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

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