Little Town NJ seeks the best of the Garden State

A few weeks ago – we told you the exciting news about Little Town New Jersey – which will replace Quay’s along the Hudson waterfront at 310 Sinatra Drive this fall (probably before Thanksgiving).

Little Town is a group of restaurants which strive to source as much as possible from the state in which they’re located.

But what we didn’t tell you about was the fact that a lot of inspiration is behind Little Town New Jersey.

So much so – that the owners, partners, designers and everyone involved with this new entity went on a whirlwind three-day hunt around New Jersey to find business owners, farmers, wineries and breweries to supply the new restaurant. Hoboken411 participated in this great adventure to find the best of what the Garden State has to offer.

Chris Manzo (who also lives in Hoboken) is friends with the owners, and tagged along for the first two days. In case you don’t watch TV like me – he’s of Real Housewives of New Jersey fame.

We had a rather aggressive itinerary before we left from the Village Pourhouse downtown on an early August morning – and were thrown quite a few curve balls and course changes along the way.

Today, we’ll tell you about this first day, which led us down to the southern most tip of NJ: Cape May.

First Stop: Atlantic Capes Fisheries – Cape May, NJ

We figured it’d make sense to get the longest leg of the journey out of the way first – and took the 150+ mile ride down to Cape May – where several of our stops were located.

The owners wanted to find a local NJ supplier for seafood (scallops, oysters), so we met up with Atlantic Capes Fisheries.

Atlantic Capes is an amazing operation – one of the larger harvesters in the country, and they also have the largest floating upweller on the east coast. An upweller is how they “grow” oysters – and sort them so that they can achieve maximum yield. It was fascinating to learn the inside-out of a business like this – especially the high-level of government regulations they need to contend with. From GPS monitoring to harvesting limits, it seemed like a very difficult business to succeed in. But the company boasts a very sustainable model – has 20 vessels, and works with Rutgers university to develop ways to benefit the aquatic environment.

They specialize in 3-inch oysters – which are of the saltier variety. Everyone that took a taste test enjoyed them. But since I don’t eat oysters – I found out that there are also larger (~5 inch) and sweeter kinds, and it comes down to personal preference.

Little Town NJ hopes to do business with Atlantic Capes – provided logistical measures can be worked out.

After leaving Atlantic Capes – we headed over to downtown Cape May for bite to eat, since we were all ravenous after the long drive.

While searching for a restaurant that would accommodate a large group like ours (I think we had around 12 in the group at this time), I spotted one of the rarest sights in New Jersey: A Chevy Volt!

One of the most beautiful spots in New Jersey: Cape May

We finally decided we’d try and eat at the Mad Batter – a Cape May restaurant perennially voted near the top of all favorite lists. Luckily, they were able to handle our group, and we enjoyed a phenomenal breakfast (they even changed my meal to make it low-carb!)

We highly recommend this award-winning restaurant if you’re able to get a seat!

The rest of Cape May was also quite pleasant, and is on our list of a place to visit again soon. Oh – and they allow dogs on the beach during the fall and winter!

Cape May Winery

Next on the itinerary – was a fantastic Garden State vineyard called Cape May Winery.

Apparently – wines from New Jersey are getting some serious recognition around the country recently – even surpassing California in some cases. We got the usual tour, along with some “biz to biz” talk as the owners had a lot more to discuss than just the wine itself. All the varieties we sampled were quite nice (I plan on picked up a case of their 2012 Cabernet when it’s available in September.)

The owners of Cape May Winery were smart – they comped the entire group the wine tasting (normally $6 per person), knowing that a potential business deal is on the line. Again, there are always legal and logistical issues that have to be worked out in order for a viable relationship to survive. Damn government makes it so hard to do anything these days!

So you might get to taste wine from Cape May Winery at Little Town NJ when they open this fall!

Not everything went well – some wineries are ridiculous in NJ

I mentioned “curve-balls” earlier, and after leaving Cape May in search of other potential NJ wineries is when our first two hiccups of the trip took place.

Next on the list was Renault Winery in Egg Harbor – which apparently is well known in the state. But there were signs that this wasn’t going to be OK. The place kind of creeped us out, smelled awful inside. And the cheap fake grapes hanging up everywhere added a cheesy element to the facility. We found out right away that they cannot distribute – and that this operation is more of a money making golf resort and roadside attraction than it is a pure winery.

But the final nail in the coffin here was that we were OBLIGATED to sit through this god-awful presentation, history lesson and tour of the facility before we could sample the wines. The woman tour guide was painfully over-dramatic and difficult to listen to, and we were treated quite rudely when we asked the bartender in the serving room if we could skip the show. So we skipped out the place entirely and had to find another winery to visit.

The closest winery was Tomasello Winery in Hammonton, which took us 45 minutes out of our way.

And this spot was a very peculiar FAIL. For one, it was located on a highway full of strip-malls, and directly next door to a fleet of garbage trucks! Not a pretty sight to say the least, and I’m unsure how anyone could have confidence in their products after visiting the vineyard.

But the craziest thing happened. As we parked our bus – the owner came running out (as if we looked like a gang of escaped convicts), and said we could not go inside. The reason? His “cash register was malfunctioning.”

Talk about BS – we said we’d pay exact change, and he still refused. We had two possible explanations for this: One, there was dead body inside that they were trying to figure out what to do with, or two, they thought were were trouble makers. As we said our not so pleasant “goodbyes,” the man made a rude comment to one of the Little Town NJ owners (who had a beer in his hand), that “people who drink Bud Light don’t appreciate wine anyway…”

Little did he know the amount of potential business he chased away from a group that owned nine restaurants and growing. Oh well, his loss!

After a long day – fun at Martell’s Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant

The consecutive winery fails and trip diversions exhausted the group – and we decided to make our way north.

We first stopped at the Atlantic City Boardwalk for a couple hours, checked out the new Revel Resort, and cooled off with some frozen cocktails.

Day one of the trip concluded by finding a hotel in Point Pleasant, and enjoying one of most famous spots at the Jersey Shore: Martell’s Tiki Bar.

You know, sometimes NJ gets stereotyped as being filled with dopes from moronic shows like Jersey Shore – but the people having fun at the Tiki Bar were from all walks of life, young and old – even a pouring thunderstorm didn’t stop the dancing and good times.

Check back tomorrow to see where our travels took us on Day 2 of this great trip (hint – awesome breweries and incredible “Jersey Fresh” farms!)