Atlantic City Dining

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Atlantic City Dining
Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to food in Atlantic City. There is excellent seafood, an abundance of steakhouses, and an array of old-fashioned boardwalk treats such as foot-long hotdogs, fried Oreos, and, of course, saltwater taffy.
By Martin Fritz Huber, AFAR Contributor
Photo by Martin Fritz Huber
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    Saltwater Taffy
    Atlantic City is the birthplace of saltwater taffy. As the legend goes, a boardwalk merchant in the late 19th century had his entire taffy stock doused by an errant ocean wave. He told the next customer that he only had “saltwater taffy,” but said customer wasn’t put off, and the rest is history. Two rival companies, Fralinger’s and James, competed for decades to lay claim to the title of boardwalk taffy king, though now they share the same owner. For nostalgia-lovers, a box of this sticky confectionery is undoubtedly the most classic Atlantic City souvenir.
    Photo by Martin Fritz Huber
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    Steakhouse Bliss
    It feels like there are few places in the country with more steakhouses per capita than Atlantic City, with at least one restaurant in every casino-hotel dedicated to sating carnivorous desires. Many of these belong to well-known American franchises such as Morton’s, Gallagher’s, and The Palm. Bobby Flay opened his first steakhouse here in 2006, and the Old Homestead, a Manhattan institution, has a sister restaurant in AC's Borgata Hotel. Atlantic City may have endless options for choice cuts, but be scrupulous when picking your table if you are hoping for a quiet evening out. If you’re not careful, you could end up next to a bachelor party in full swing.
    Photo by Martin Fritz Huber
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    Celebrated Seafood
    After spending hours lost inside the casinos, it's easy to forget that Atlantic City is a coastal town with stellar seafood that is celebrated throughout New Jersey and down the shore. Treat yourself to a dozen Cape May Salts in the century-old Dock’s Oyster House on Atlantic Avenue. Experience fabulous seafood and soul food with a side of live music at Kelsey's. You'll find some of the best seafood on the boardwalk at the Golden Nugget's Chart House, where you can also take in stunning views of the marina and skyline. And if you’re inspired to catch your own dinner, you can try one of the local piers; amateur anglers don’t need a license for saltwater fishing in New Jersey.
    Photo by J. M. Horrillo/age fotostock
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    Buffet Madness
    From pyramids of profiteroles to heaps of shrimp, the hotel buffet is one of the more decadent culinary experiences for visitors to Atlantic City's casino resorts. While the quality of the food is extremely varied, the buffets at Harrah’s and Borgata are generally regarded as two of the best—Harrah’s in particular if you are looking for seafood. If you are unsure about what you may be letting yourself in for, try to charm your host into allowing you to check out the goods before you make a decision. One rule of thumb: If a white-hatted chef is slicing roast beef, it’s usually a good sign.
    Photo courtesy of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
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    Viva Italia!
    For a taste of contemporary Italian American culture, sample some famous Garden State Italian cuisine. If you plan your trip well in advance, a reservation at Chef Vola’s will guarantee a divine home-style meal with old-school flair. The restaurant is especially commendable for proving that a small, family restaurant can thrive in a town dominated by massive entertainment complexes. That being said, it’s a lot easier to score a table (with more elbow room) at Carmine’s in the Tropicana, an offshoot of the New York City family-style restaurant. At Café 2825, the mozzarella is always made on premises, so you’d be hard-pressed to find a tastier caprese salad.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    From Mega-Clubs to Mellow Margaritas
    Other cities have tried to take the title, but Atlantic City is the original “America’s Playground,” and today’s AC still has enough going for it to justify its century-old moniker. From mega-clubs proffering bottle service to laid-back beach bars with salt-rimmed margaritas, Atlantic City is never lacking in places to wet your whistle. For maximum hedonism, dive into the Pool After Dark for cocktails served poolside under a giant glass dome.The newly-opened Playground complex features seven bars that run the gamut from laid-back to old-school classy, many of which feature live music. More traditional venues include the Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar inside the Tropicana, and the Tun Tavern, AC’s only brewery.
    Photo courtesy of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority
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    Romantic Dining
    With so many dining options, visitors to Atlantic City may feel somewhat overwhelmed when trying to choose a spot for a romantic dinner. While there are plenty of recommended locales among the casinos and resorts, don’t discount the quieter neighboring towns for a special-occasion meal. A short trip inland can be very rewarding, as both the Ram’s Head Inn in Galloway or the historic Smithville Inn (open since 1787) in Absecon will prove. Upscale establishments in Atlantic City will usually be less quaint, but the dreamlike opulence of behemoths such as the pan-Asian Buddakan provide an experience that cannot easily be replicated.
    Photo courtesy of Buddakan