Just about 20 years ago, I dined for the first time at 410 Bank Street, the quaint and cozy spot located at (guess where) in Cape May. It was then that I had my first taste of their Bayou Oyster Stew, a memorable moment, and those flavors stayed with me. Since then, whenever my friends and I talk about food (which is easily 90% of the time), I give a combo sigh/eye-roll at the mention of the humble oyster. And then I daydream about that stew.
I was excited to go back to 410 Bank, accompanied by my pal Anne Marie, an astute and ardent foodie with an educated palate and sense of adventure. We arrived for our 6:00 reservation ahead of an impending deluge and were safely inside just moments before torrential rains, thunder, and lightning arrived. It was exciting to say the very least. Rest assured, all of 410’s seating is inside so there is no chance of having to endure any discomfort when rain threatens.
We were seated in the front dining room as requested, but other options are available in the main dining room and in the enclosed covered garden seating. The front dining room is slightly more intimate and cozier, so for groups larger than four, the other options would be most appropriate.
Our waiter, Shane, was delightful and knowledgeable with a sharp and easy sense of humor. It was obvious by his welcome and descriptions of the menu that he was just as jazzed as we were to be there. He went through the specials, all delicious sounding. We assured Shane that we had already viewed Chef Ron Panczner’s menu online and were more than ready to order.
For my appetizer/soup course, there was no question about ordering the Bayou Oyster Stew. My dining companion ordered the 410 Oysters Rockefeller. With an extra fork. With waters filled and a nice selection of warm buns delivered to the table with butter and chicken liver pâté, we tucked into these morsels anticipating what was to come.
The stew was everything I had hoped for and imagined. Creamy with a roux base, oyster rich, and with all the flavors I had remembered. Thyme, just the right amount, is the loveliest note in this dish, but not the only one of the traditional Louisiana spices. I relished and savored it as I had decades before. The Oysters Rockefeller were supremely delicious and generously portioned. These featured whole oysters with other discernible and identifiable ingredients topped with fresh spinach, a touch of Pernod liquor and finished with Fontina cheese. Hot, melty, and delicious, they were unlike some I’ve had where the presentation has been a mound of a mush in an oyster shell. These were not those.
For my entrée, I chose the Slow Roasted Pork Chops, atop a Port wine demi-glace and a lovely pool of Apple-Calvados cream sauce. These came served with sautéed asparagus and a short statue of mashed potatoes. The serving was more than generous, the two-inch-thick chops inhabiting much of the plate. I knew I would be taking home at least one of those chops, perfectly roasted and tender, and the demi-glace and cream sauce exquisite complements.
Anne Marie’s entrée was one of the specials that Shane had described earlier: the Blackened Grouper served over a tasty chunky sauce, what my friends in New Orleans call Creole Tomato Gravy. This dish is a winner, so if you go and it’s one of the specials, we highly recommend it. I tend to avoid blackened fish because for some reason, blackened just tastes burnt to my palate. This grouper was white and flaky and the blackening spice nicely balanced. I was very happy to be gifted with a chunk of the fish to add to my pork chop takeaway.
At this point in the meal, neither of us could eat one more bite. Not one. That is until Shane came over to the table to tell us about 410’s desserts. Of the four or so selections, two made our ears perk up the most. The Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée and the New Orleans style Bread Pudding with Bourbon whiskey sauce. Served warm. We ordered both, shared both, and both were superb. The Grand Mariner element, that beautifully bitter orange concoction of a cognac is my new favorite way to enjoy Crème Brûlée. And the warm bread pudding. Off the charts. The sauce was custardy, smooth, and wonderful. Not a morsel left on the plate.
There are endless charms about 410 Bank, a restored 1840 carriage house, which make for an enjoyable and hassle-free dinner. There is plenty of parking in the immediate area, the menu is varied and interesting, you can dine in or pick up curbside, and best of all it is a BYOB establishment. They’re open from Tuesday through Sunday beginning at 5:30pm so if you go, be sure to visit the restaurant’s website to make reservations through their RESY portal! You’ll be happy you did!