I’ve had some of my best Jersey Shore meals over the years at the Red Store, Deanna Ebner and Lucas Manteca’s dreamy update of a historic general store and cafe in Cape May Point. But with the complications of COVID-19 and lush coastal wetlands nearby assuring too many mosquitos for regular outdoor dining, this popular restaurant has resorted to takeout for survival. It’s a good thing that the Argentina-born Manteca’s vast repertoire of empanadas is destination-worthy.
There are at least eight varieties to consider, including breakfast empanadas stuffed with house chorizo. But I’m always a fan of the classic turnovers stuffed with ground beef piquant with raisins, hard-boiled eggs and cuminy onions. It made for a perfect post-beach snack along with the Green Goddess filled with wilted greens and ricotta, and another filled with sweet onions, oregano and provolone that’s inspired by a popular Argentine pizza combo called fugazetta.
Manteca, whose Quahog’s in Stone Harbor and Beachwood in Sea Isle City are open for alfresco meals, hasn’t given up completely on outdoor dining at the Red Store, based on the sold-out six-course Argentine grill pop-up he’s cohosting July 24-25 with Gauchonfire. (”Enough open fire to smoke out the mosquitos,” he said). But visiting the store to shop during regular hours (mask required) is also worthwhile to pick up some of Manteca’s unique pantry items. We always grab a jar of the savory-sweet tomato spread called Jersey Jam. But the yellow blend of his new Smart Seasoning is also intriguing. I didn’t notice any obvious “superfood” boost from its blend of turmeric, nutritional yeast and dulse seaweed. But it definitely added a colorful crunch of flavorful seasonings to everything from avocado toast to scrambled eggs and buttered corn.
— Craig LaBan