On a chilly Friday in February, my dining companion Anne Marie joined me at Grana BYOB, at the corner of Broadway and West Perry in Cape May, the location formerly operating as Godmother’s Restaurant. As always, we’d already perused the menu, enthusiastic about tasting the dishes everyone’s been talking about—and posting all over social media. A lot!
We were met by Maître d’ Megan Messick, the wife of owner/chef Carl Messick, a local fella, and former chef for a decade at the acclaimed Peter Shields Inn and Restaurant on Beach Avenue. When we learned the news that Messick had realized his lifelong dream of owning his own restaurant in Cape May, we knew we would be treated to a magnificent menu. We have not been disappointed!
We were seated at a two-top near the front, one of two seating areas here, nicely spaced with rounds of eight, and the balance in two- four- and six-tops. White linen tablecloths and napkins, nice weighty silverware, and lovely glassware made the restaurant shine—comfortably shine.
Our server, Kit, friendly and knowledgeable, brought water and opened our nice Cabernet, and then introduced us to the menus. There are two: the main a la carte menu as well as the Chef’s Tasting Menu. Though the tasting menu was extremely tempting, we chose to order a la carte. There are First Course of salads, appetizers and stews, the Second Course with pasta dishes, and Third Course of entrées. There are sides too: Wild Mushrooms, Brussels and Bacon, Broccoli Rabe, and Broccolini and Carrots.
For my first course, I chose the Hudson Valley Foie Gras. This used to be a rare find on fine dining menus, so I was pleased that this would be one of my choices. Introduced in the United States by Hudson Valley in the early 80s, it quickly became the choice of fine restaurants across the country. This dish was exquisite, a perfectly wrought portion of the delicacy, served over warm barley salad, golden raisins, pine nut streusel, and a lovely tart cherry compote. The foie gras was melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a light outer crust.
Anne Marie spied the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare, with cucumber, mango, wasabi tobiko (a variety of tiny flying fish caviar), miso vinaigrette, and a little mound of micro cilantro. She remarked that tartares (which she adores), are so often accented with soy and the like. This was different, and the complement of the other elements made the tuna just sing. Messick loves the micro greens, all delicate and even a little spicy.
My second course was the Garganelli, with sautéed rock shrimp, haricot verts, andouille sausage, smoked olive oil, and pancetta breadcrumbs. It was a simple casserole, each of the flavors crisp and discernable. I would, in the future, ask for this dish as an entrée, as it was so satisfying. Filling, but not too filling.
For Anne Marie’s second course, she chose Fusilli with house sausage, wild mushrooms, and goat cheese with mushroom cream. After the first taste, my foodie friend didn’t speak until she became a member of the Clean Plate Club. Our server Kit, seeing the clean plate, noted that Anne Marie clearly didn’t like the dish, and asked if she’d like to send it back to the kitchen. We giggled like children. And that’s Kit. Capable, playful, and engaging.
Now for the entrées. There were nice options, including Black Sea Bass, Pork Tenderloin, Surf and Turf, Salmon, and a variety of steaks: teres major (a very tender cut), ribeye, strip and even a 40-ounce Porterhouse for two. Though the Teres Major was calling my name, I instead chose the Jumbo Gulf Shrimp and Day Boat Scallops. This was served on cauliflower mousseline (a favorite of mine) and also farro salad, Tasso ham, melted leeks, and finished with shellfish cream. Again, Chef Messick created a dish where every element was balanced, not one thing overpowered any other. That’s just pure genius. And I am quite sure, very much appreciated by each and every patron.
Anne Marie opted for the Pan-Roasted Long Island Duck Breast, served with a satiny parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes, apple-smoked bacon, and red wine. I am a huge fan of The Duck, so I insisted on a sample. Holy moly. There has never been a more tender morsel in the history of ever. I had a little Entrée Envy, but I vowed…next time!
For dessert, the final frontier, the only choice for me is always Creme Brûlée. The “crack” on this vanilla delight was audible, and the pairing of fresh berries atop this creamy goodness was excellent.
Grana BYOB should be on everyone’s restaurant “must-do” list. The location is prime, with parking close-by, and reservations can be easily made on the website. If you go (and you should), everything described above comes highly recommended!