You’d be forgiven for thinking that a roadside curry/burger joint with a working gas station and Cape May-themed gift shop is an odd combination. But it’s exactly that eclectic mix that makes the newly-opened Exit Zero Filling Station such a draw for the culinarily curious in South Jersey.
“It sounds crazy,” owner Jack Wright admits.
“I wanted to take some of the aspects of a 50’s roadhouse diner and a gas station and mix it with Indian and Thai cuisine. It sounded so crazy that I wanted to try it.”
The idea came about by happenstance. Wright owned the former Exit Zero Cookhouse, which used to stand across the street from the filling station. When the property and vacant gas station across the street from the cookhouse became available Wright jumped at the chance—both out of a sense of adventure and necessity.
“The old restaurant was very limited, all electric cooking. We’d taken over a tea room with no gas [line],” Wright said. “We did a bunch of curries which proved to be very popular. When we moved to the purpose-built new building we kept the curries but we added a bunch of new burgers—we wanted to do great burgers.”
The burgers range from the classic American cheeseburger to offerings topped with fried eggs and Asian spices. The meat is a blend of short rib beef and chuck sandwiched between brioche buns from the Philadelphia-based LeBus Bakery.
“It’s the most expensive bread we came across and I was reluctant to do it, but it’s the best.”
While the new addition of burgers broadened Exit Zero’s horizons, Wright held on to the curries for “selfish” reasons.
“I love curry, I’m from Scotland,” Wright said. “In Scotland and the UK, people eat curry like Americans eat pizza.”
The unusual mix of flavors doesn’t stop with burgers and curry; Exit Zero also offers a unique twist on breakfast, starting with a gourmet toast bar with toppings like avocado, fresh fruit, edamame, cheese and more.
Additionally, Wright was enthusiastic about the introduction of the Lobster Sunrise, a breakfast sandwich made with wild-caught lobster, topped with a fried egg, melted fontina cheese, avocado, all on a toasted brioche bun.
“We want to do a breakfast that no one else can do on this island,” Wright said.
Exit Zero is a BYO, so guests can bring their favorite wine or beer to complement their meals—but naturally, Wright wasn’t satisfied leaving the aspect of libations untouched by his varied tastes.
The restaurant features a wide selection of non-alcoholic mocktails. This gives Exit Zero “the vibe of a bar without the $500,000 liquor license,” Wright said.
The mocktails use Seedlip, a brand of distilled non-alcoholic spirit blended with a number of flavors. Some of the specialties are the espresso martini, watermelon sour and a recipe for pineapple shrub that Wright said dates back to 17th century Britain.
The mix of cultures, adjacent to a gas station, is an unusual find anywhere, let alone South Jersey. But consistent with Wright’s vision, the idea was for Exit Zero to never be easily labelled—other than as fun.
“We do not claim to be authentic,” Wright said. “We just want to make fun curries we love.”
Exit Zero Filling Station is located at 110 Sunset Boulevard in Cape May. Call 609-600-2201 for more information.
All Photos: © Jack Wright