by Josh Ozersky - 149 Reviews - 48 List
Sure. There was a time when Atlantic City's dining choices were limited to cheese steaks, taffy and buffet food that would go uneaten in an army barracks. But times have changed. The city has gone upscale (at least here and there) and part of the change has been the introduction of a few restaurants that would be sought-after in Philadelphia or New York--even if there wasn't a blackjack table calling your name from around the corner. (Photo: Fornelletto)
Updated: September 15, 2009
Michael Schulson had a pan-Asian hit when he opened Buddakan in New York, but his work at Izakaya in Atlantic City is both sharper and more easygoing. The big room is a little dark, but it brings together a number of superb Japanese traditions, including robata (grill), sushi and a big menu of Japanese specialties tweaked by the chef's American sensibility. The Kobe Carpaccio, uni risotto and grilled king crab are really eye-opening, but the truth is that you would do well (and save money) with a carafe of sake and some white tuna sashimi.
The Borgata's newest restaurant, simply put, blows every Italian restaurant in the area out of the water. From the burrata bar that begins the meal to a brilliant wood-oven pizza program to artisanal pastas that inspire equal parts awe and gluttony, this is the place to go for a big meal on the marina side of the city. The agnolotti del plin (with veal, marrow, stock and mascarpone) are especially not to be missed; the richness of the filling and the overall lightness of the pasta make the dish confoundingly good.
The division between casino restaurants and local ones has always been pretty dramatic, with the latter sticking to veal parmigiana and mussels, and ceding fine dining to the high-rollers. The one exception has always been the Knife and Fork Inn, the city's one special occasion restaurant, which was recently upgraded and is now producing lighter, more contemporary versions of 19th century classics like Veal Oscar and lobster thermidor. The food is interesting and the service warm, but the main thing is that you actually have to leave the casino to get to it.
A handful of old-time Italian restaurants have managed to survive the casino era in Atlantic City. Most are just shells of their former selves, but Angelo's has managed somehow to flourish and even expand. Though it is flanked by new wings on both sides, try to get into the small original dining room, lined with framed 8-by-10 photographs of forgotten baseball players. The house specialty, a thick veal parmigiana served with a rustic local red wine, is far more of a true Atlantic City meal than any sub sandwich could ever be.
If you're in Atlantic City and have some extra cash, you might want to go for the most over-the-top experience possible--which would surely include a big dinner at Red Square at the Tropicana. The decor is over the top and the menu more than measures up, with caviar tastings, beef stroganoff, enormous cocktails, vodka bottle service and, of course, caviar tastings. If you want to have the true casino dining experience at its most enjoyably rococo, this is the place to do it.