Spotlight On… Lucky Bones
The craft beer scene in Cape May County has taken off over the past few years, with a few of our local bars at the forefront, leading the charge. Lucky Bones, just off the actual Devil’s Reach on Cape May Harbor, is one of them.
We sat down last week with Erik Delinski, who’s been the Craft Beverage Program Manager at Lucky Bones in Cape May for about three years.
Lucky Bones recently celebrated their tenth anniversary. Owned by the Craig family, they’ve also got Cape May Winery and Vineyard, Love the Cook, Cape May Roasters, and the storied Washington Inn under the family’s umbrella.
Named for the lucky bone — the hook-like claw of the male horseshoe crab — that fishermen would wear as a talisman before they set sail, Lucky Bones has become synonymous with family-friendly dining and an extraordinary beer selection just over the bridge in Cape May.
Erik gives a lot of credit to the bars in the area for carrying the mantle of the craft beer revolution, yet his intent is to give a slightly different experience, essentially going deeper into the craft beer rabbit hole.
“I give a lot of credit to Goodnight Irene’s,” he says. “I think they’ve got a great beer program, but when I took over the craft program here, I wanted to give more of a focus on variety, not necessarily the big-name beers.”
At the same time, Erik gives beer drinkers more than one destination in the area. And a smart beer manager knows that the only way you achieve that is by not mimicking what everyone else is doing.
Now, Erik has built the tap list to an enviable twenty-nine taps, mostly featuring New Jersey breweries.
“We take pride in the fact that we carry something from every brewery in Cape May County,” Erik says. “Right now, we have seven New Jersey beers on tap, which I think is pretty cool. It gives everybody a variety, and gives everyone a one-stop shop.”
And the out-of-town visitors to Lucky Bones respect that. Generally, vacationers like to experience the local culture of wherever they visit. And CMBC always seems to be the best seller.
“We’ve seen our sales of Cape May go up tremendously,” he says. “We started with the Honey Porter, but we’ve brought a second tap for Cape May IPA. I was reluctant to put the IPA on tap — you can get it anywhere. But I’m glad I did. It put the sword through Dogfish.”
They’ve been carrying Honey Porter “since day one,” Erik says, and IPA is currently on draft. They carry our bottles as well.
“I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it right –”
“– Demisemiseptcentennial?–” we ask.
“–yes, yes,” Erik laughs. “Or as my bartenders like to say, ‘The Villanova Beer’.”
He also really enjoyed our collaboration with Weyerbacher, Paradise 160. Lucky Bones had a tap dedicated to Weyerbacher, and the collaboration allowed them to kill two birds with one stone.
“To see the craft beer explosion, not just in Cape May County, but in New Jersey,” he tells us, “it’s insane.”
Erik says the menu “changes dramatically.” They bring in locally-caught fish and seafood — which in Cape May, is fresh — as well as smoking and curing their own pastrami.
“It’s a four-day process, a labor of love,” he says, regarding the pastrami. “We’re not just buying pastrami and slicing it up, we’re curing our own beef, we’re seasoning it, we’re smoking it. It’s a labor of love, and the guys in the back really put their all into it.”
One of their “big hits” right now is their Seafood Garganelli Pasta.
“It’s got everything,” Erik says. “It comes with scallops, it comes with crabmeat, it comes with shrimp, in a light cream sauce in a garganelli pasta.”
“The menu has something for everyone,” he says, “and on any type of budget. That’s why a lot of people seek us out. We’re middle-of-the-road price-wise, and we offer a diverse menu at a reasonable price.”
As we sat, the aroma wafting from the traditional brick oven pizza was intoxicating. We’re pretty sure Erik situated our interview strategically next to the ovens with forethought and planning. We were hungry, even though we’d eaten lunch less than an hour earlier.
“The pizza, I’ll just say, will remain a secret,” he says. “We use only the best flour — obviously I’m not going to tell you what we use — but only the freshest ingredients.”
They’re planning to expand their pizza operations over the next few months.
“If Lucky Bones is a body,” Erik says, “the pizza oven is the heart, and the kitchen the brains and lungs.”
The chefs are continually coming up with new creations at Lucky Bones. On Wednesday nights, they see an oyster night, with buck-a-shucks and specialty oysters.
On the week we visited, they had “oysters Rockefeller,” Erik says, “and a Wellfleet oyster with salmon roe and creme fraiche,” but the chef takes great pride on mixing it up.
The kitchen is open until 10pm on Fridays and Saturday nights, and last call at the bar is around 11:30. Being off the main drag, there’s not much of a party atmosphere at Lucky Bones, but they do see the crowd fluctuate depending on what’s happening in town.
“It’s a good mix of both,” Erik says. “It depends on the time of year, but you do see a decent number of families coming in, but in the wintertime, we see a big party crowd. And we love that. But we do love our families.”
Lucky Bones has a loyalty program for frequent customers, entitling them to premium reservations and an incentive program. For every $1 loyal customers spend at Lucky Bones, they earn one point. When you accumulate 350 points, you get a $35 discount. It also allows reservations at any time: non-cardholders can reserve a spot for eight to fourteen people, but cardholders can reserve a spot for any number up to fourteen, up to 3pm the day of the reservation.
“Lucky Bones is only as good as the people who come in,” Erik says. “We pride ourselves on making everyone happy. Without our guests and without their loyalty, we couldn’t be Lucky Bones.”