Prior to its rebirth as a foodie destination, Mayer’s Tavern was known for two things according to owner/chef Alex Laudeman: bar fights and scallops. When Alex and her father Keith bought the old fisherman hangout in 2016, they knew they wanted to honor the history of the place, so they kept the spirit of the old fisherman’s haunt while updating it for a contemporary clientele.
“I grew up here,” says Alex, “but I moved away for about a decade and when I would come home, I always thought Cape May needed something in between the fine dining and the barefoot bars. A fun, casual place to eat and drink.”
When the property became available for sale, Alex and her father jumped at the chance to reinvent it. Throughout its storied history Mayer’s was known for its scallops, and the same holds true today. They are literally fresh off the boat from across the street, supplied by her father’s fishing fleet. The scallops are flash fried, then served with house-made fries and a wonderfully tangy, citric coleslaw. The combination of sweet, salty, and zesty tang is a perfect combination for a summer evening. Satisfying, but not too heavy. Visitors to Cape May travel great distances just to get their hands on a plate of these little jewels and many believe them to be the best scallops you can find anywhere.
Laudeman says that they intended to keep scallops on the menu from the very start but admits that she was surprised how quickly their popularity blew up. People say they think about them all winter long while they are away and look forward to getting back to Cape May just to get a plate of scallops and piping hot fries from Mayers.
While the technique is straightforward, Laudeman explains that the real difference is that she has access to the best, and freshest, scallops in the world. They don’t need much, but a quick sear, a cold drink, and some good company.
While Cape May may not be known for scallops in the same way that Baltimore is known for Blue Claw crabs, if you’re eating scallops on the east coast, there is a good chance they came from one of the fisheries in Cape May. The Laudemans, in addition to owning a fleet of scallop boats, own The Cold Spring Fish & Supply Company, one of the largest on the Eastern seaboard, a thriving fish market, and The Lobster House, a Cape May institution.
It’s fair to say that when it comes to quality scallops, they know what they’re talking about. ■