Friends and family know that I have been visiting Atlantic City for decades and they often ask me for advice about various aspects of a visit to the city. When they inquire about a place to enjoy a great meal, perhaps for a special occasion, I generally suggest that they leave the confines of the casino and visit one of the local family owned spots.
The following are some favorites:
Dock’s Oyster House
2405 Atlantic Ave
+1 (609) 345-0092
Dock’s Oyster House is the best place for seafood in AC. Established in 1897, yes that says 1897, not 1997, the restaurant underwent a total renovation and expansion in 2015. This is a busy restaurant and a reservation is a must, especially on weekends. The seafood is ocean fresh, and prepared to perfection. The raw bar has a large selection of oysters, ranging from local Cape May Salts to imports from Long Island Massachusetts and Virginia. I recommend leaving it up to your server to bring a selection of different oysters so you can determine your favorite. Be sure to order the Tuna Tartar as an appetizer. It is served with crispy wontons and is my personal favorite. Steak and lamb are available for those that do not care for seafood
They have a great wait staff and if you are lucky, you will get an Atlantic City history lesson with your meal. This restaurant has a liquor license and a full bar with great cocktails. Desserts are not an afterthought here, save room. There is free valet parking alongside the restaurant.
111 S. Albion Place
+1 (609) 345-2022
The restaurant was established in 1921 by Pina Vola, to serve meals to the guests of her rooming house. It has been owned and operated by the Esposito family since 1982. The restaurant is located on a residential street near the Tropicana. The restaurant’s telephone number is unlisted and in the days before the internet, was only available to regular patrons and their friends. Diners are seated in a somewhat cramped, 1970’s era, wood veneer paneled basement with a low ceiling. Males and females share a single restroom, which is accessed from the nearby prep kitchen. The quirkiness of Chef Vola is part of its charm. The dining room is filled to capacity on most nights because the attraction is the food.
Most guests start with the house salad, brimming with olives, peppers and Pecorino Romano cheese. It is served family style in a large wooden bowl. Their signature dish is the bone-in veal chop parmigiana, which covers an entire dinner plate. Consider ordering the crab cake for the table to share.
My tip is to save room for the amazing restaurant made desserts. My favorite is the Banana Cream Pie.
Getting a reservation is very difficult, especially in the summer high season. Prospective patrons leave a voice message and they will be contacted by the maître d’hôtel, Louis Esposito. Even if there is no reservation available, you will receive a courtesy callback. Longtime customers are given priority.
There is no liquor license. Diners may bring their own alcohol or the wait staff will contact a nearby liquor store for tableside delivery. This is CASH ONLY, no Credit Cards.
2825 Atlantic Avenue
+1 (609) 344-6913
Café 2825 was declared the best Italian restaurant in New Jersey in 2016 by NJ.Com. The restaurant dining room is relatively small with sleek Italian décor. Reservations are difficult to obtain. Diners are required to leave a voice message, up to 14 days before the desired date. The trick is to call the restaurant exactly 14 days from the day you want to dine, as the tables are filled on a first come basis. You will only receive a callback if the time and date requested is available. Unfortunately, the policy may leave you wondering if you have a reservation or not.
Joe the owner, greets all patrons and works hard to ensure the atmosphere is conducive to a great dining experience. Fresh mozzarella, which is made tableside, as the process is explained, is a must for first time visitors. It is pricey but well worth it. Pasta lovers should try the “Cacio e Pepe,” (Cheese and Pepper) which is also prepared tableside. Simple ingredients come together to make a delectable creamy pasta. I highly recommend considering one of the specials of the night, which are prepared with ingredients that are in season. There is a small bar that provides beer, wine and cocktails.
Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern
2300 Fairmount Avenue
+1 (609) 344-2439
Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern is a more casual dining experience than the others on this list. It is also more of a family friendly location than the others, which are primarily adult oriented. Portions are large and the prices are reasonable. A dinner tab here will likely be considerably less expensive than the other restaurants I have mentioned. The food gets mixed reviews. Some people love it and some feel that the restaurant’s best days have come and gone. Highly recommended by fans of the restaurant is the lobster ravioli. A full bar service is available.
Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern is the only restaurant on this list that is open for lunch. There is an adjacent parking lot and an upstairs room is available for larger dining parties.