A.C. Now: Dining

We’ve tackled serious steakhouses, explored tucked-away noodle bars, waited in lines at down-home joints, and sunk into booths at posh casino eateries.

We’ve tackled serious steakhouses, explored tucked-away noodle bars, waited in lines at down-home neighborhood joints, and sunk into booths at posh casino eateries—all so that you can enjoy your meal with a minimum of confusion and a maximum of chocolate soufflés. Looking for a buffet? Look elsewhere. Wanna great tip on a Vietnamese BYOB, dockside trattoria or white-tableclothed bistro? You’ve come to the right place.

Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern
2300 Fairmount Avenue (at Arctic Avenue), 609-344-2439; angelosfairmounttavern.com
Announced by a neon sign and, in summertime, a line out the door, this three-generation Ducktown staple is as casual as a pizza shop. This place is pure classic. The bar has a tile trough around it (don’t ask what for), and the back dining rooms are swathed in athletes’ photos—which are organized by sport. No fancy prosecco here, but the Bud and the white zin are cold, and regular guests of the Mancuso family swear the red chile-bright fra diavlo cures a sunburn, and would trade their nonnas for the oceanic linguine with clams, straightforward ricotta-stuffed rigatoni, or ziti with meatballs. $$

Angeloni’s II
2400 Arctic Avenue (at Georgia Avenue), 609-344-7875; angelonis.com
This corner spot is a testament to pre- and post-casino Ducktown. Dress-up-for-dinner formal and leisure-suit casual, wood paneled and classy wine listed, it’s simultaneously Batali and Boyardee. Though locals tend to hang out at the front bar, couples still shed their frequent player status for Chianti-fueled dinners beneath wine cork displays, getting reacquainted over crusty Italian bread, Americanized antipasti, airy homemade ravioli, classical, filling chicken parm, grass-bitter broccoli rabe, pungent aglio and oil, and garlicky meatballs. $$

Bally’s Atlantic City, Park Place and Boardwalk, 609-340-2000; harrahs.com
This Italian restaurant is a breath of fresh air compared to Bally’s Freemont Street-y gaming floor. Tile mosaics decorate the walls and run up a sculpture in the center of the dining room. The menu itself is nothing revelatory—renditions of clams casino are over-breadcrumbed; crab-topped flounder francese is straightforward; veal saltimbocca is a little bland—but it’s cheaper than most casino restaurants and has a decent wine list, lovely baskets of still-warm bread, an Italian Market-ish soundtrack and a stunning view up the Boardwalk. $$$$

Asian Spice
Resorts Atlantic City, 1133 Boardwalk, 800-336-6378; resortsac.com
Surprisingly sleek and minimalist, this generally Asian (but mostly Mandarin) corner stop channels a Shanghai bistro, but with a Boardwalk view. The menu here is straightforward; the delivery, fast; the fare, simple. There’s not a bad seat in the house: The communal table is fun, but so are the red-covered chairs and the character-printed fabric booths that face the ocean. Go for basics, like wonton soup: pork-filled pasta floating alongside delicate baby shrimp in a savory broth, a sublimely hearty hot and sour soup filled with threads of egg and tofu, or steamed dumplings in a bamboo basket. General Tso’s chicken balances fried and sauced bits with bright green broccoli. Vietnamese filet arrives in tender cubes made sweet with onions. Asian Spice’s best-kept secret: Its elegant one-party private dining room with an ocean view. $$$

Atlantic City Bar & Grill
1219 Pacific Avenue (at South Carolina Avenue), 609-348-8080; acbarandgrill.com
This, quite simply, is where the locals go when they want to escape the kind of people who read guides to know where to go (us). Chefs come here at 3 a.m. for garlicky-good white crab pizza. Casino workers, cops, college kids and conventioneers come to get messy on whole lobsters, polish off pitchers of Coors Light, sink into roast pork sandwiches, and play Bon Jovi on the jukebox. They don’t want to be bothered. But then again, they kind of do. Because the A.C. Bar & Grill—whose claim to fame includes a visit from Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie—sells draft Budweiser in commemorative pint glasses, offers an impressive selection of promotional tank tops and polo shirts, and decorates with plasma-screen TVs advertising specials on Alaskan king crab legs. $$

The Bacchanal
Caesars Atlantic City, 2100 Pacific Avenue, 800-223-7277; caesars.com
Totally kitsch—and totally fun—Caesars’ version of a Roman feast includes gold-plated flatware, velvet booths, string serenades, dizzying portions, unlimited wine poured from on high, and neck massages from folks in togas. The food presentations are as flashy as the atmosphere—antipasto arrives on dry ice, and bananas Foster is flambéed tableside—but the prix-fixe fare is quality. Among the generous courses: rich lobster bisque with lobster cream cheese, peppery arugula salad, filet mignon, stuffed veal and lobster tail. Augustus himself never had it so good. $$$$

Brighton Steakhouse
Sands Hotel and Casino, Indiana Avenue and Brighton Park, 609-441-4259; sandsac.com
Inlaid wood floors, tall booths with triangular backs, and servers who make a flourish of pulling out chairs and unfurling napkins make this corner of Sands feel like Biedermeier-meets-Art-Deco-meets-Twenty-One-meets-Morton’s. Handsome and then some, this steakhouse has been an A.C. haunt since before the casinos came to town, when Sands was the Brighton Hotel. Some of the patrons have been coming back since its first days, too, charmed into loyalty by manager Fernando DaSilva and fed into compliance with super-rich fare. Seafood cocktail salads come heavily, lusciously dressed. Sweet French onion soup is topped with cheese-blanketed French bread. Buttery mashed potatoes accompany double-wide lamb chops and fork-tender filet mignon, and the garlic- and herb-laden rib eye gets steak fries that are nearly muscular. For dessert, no question: The crème brûlée. $$$$

Cafe 2825
2825 Atlantic Avenue; 609-344-6913; cafe2825.com
Tack a happy ending onto Big Night, and you’ve got this one-room, one-bar Italian bistro with a do-right menu. For 20 years, owner Joe Lautato has taken care of the well-dressed families seated at the white paper-topped tables. The wine list is rich. The kitchen relies on the basics—olive oil, salt and pepper—to turn out exemplar everything. Don’t miss the whole artichoke stuffed with breadcrumbs and chopped egg, veal Milanese made salad-like with balsamic-dressed tomatoes and basil, decadently straightforward clams oreganata, tender, tomato-soaked bracciole on the “Sunday gravy” plate or house-made manicotti as delicate as crepes. Reservations are tricky: Leave a message—if they don’t call you back then you have your table (maybe). $$$

Resorts Atlantic City, 1133 Boardwalk, 800-336-6378; resortsac.com
There is something a step lighter, a level classier about Resorts’ airy, chandelier-bedecked Italian restaurant. It’s not just the sweeping ocean view or the tuxedoed servers. The difference here lies within the subtle Marsala vinaigrette on the soft spinach and pear salad, the delicate tuft of greens atop the tuna carpaccio, the plum-supplied sweetness on the lamb chops. The presence of chef Robert Irvine—onetime chef to Charles and Diana—can be felt, even at Sunday’s buffet brunch, where there’s caviar for your omelet, cinnamon butter for your Belgian waffle, caramel for your homemade bread pudding, and fresh peach in your bellini. $$$

The Quarter at the Tropicana, South Brighton Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-572-9300; carminesnyc.com
If you like Buca di Beppo or Maggiano’s, you’ll like this place, too. The idea here: Oversize “family-style” portions of Italian-American basics, from towering antipasti to sloppy-sweet tiramisu. The dishes are far from delicate, but if your group is famished—and not exactly flush—grab a seat, and plan to share. Best bets: A basic salad of mixed greens, tomatoes and fresh mushrooms in a simple balsamic vinaigrette; savory eggplant parm; and a side of mild-flavored meatballs. $$

Chef Vola’s
111 South Albion Place; 609-345-2022
Vola’s both encapsulates and thoroughly contradicts the essence of Atlantic City. It’s just off the Boardwalk; Sinatra used to dine here, and it feels vaguely clandestine. On the other hand, it’s subterranean, unpretentious (vinyl tablecloths, pink linen placemats, 65 seats, drop ceilings), and one of the toughest reservations on the East Coast. In order to score a table, you have to get a regular customer—Jay-Z will do—to leave a message on your behalf. Then—and only then—are you granted access to the Esposito family’s cuisine, which includes intensely garlicky clams over linguine, bright marinara enveloping a massive veal chop, saucer-sized crab cakes radiant with olive oil, and slices of homemade ricotta cheesecake and banana cream and limoncello pies so heavenly, they practically erase every memory of all food that came before. $$$

Cuba Libre
The Quarter at the Tropicana, 2801 Pacific Avenue, 609-348-6700; cubalibrerestaurant.com
We don’t say this lightly about casino dining, but there is something refreshingly authentic about reservations-recommended Cuba Libre A.C., and it isn’t just the sublime caparinhas and mojitos (which are also refreshingly authentic—and strong). It could, however, be the professional salsa dancers. Or the menu, which is almost overwhelmingly long and delicioso, what with its sweet and smoky fufu (sweet plantains mashed with bacon), malaga (a Latin American root vegetable), crab fritters, conch-filled tamales and ropa vieja, Cuban brisket. By the way, even though this place belongs to Philly restaurateur Barry Gutin—as does the adjacent dessert bar/club Brûlée/32 Degrees—you won’t feel like you’re in Old City, or Vegas, for that matter. More like little Havana. $$$

Dock’s Oyster House
2405 Atlantic Avenue, 609-345-0092; docksoysterhouse.com
Think of Dock’s as A.C.’s own Bookbinder’s. It’s more than 100 years old (109, to be precise), it has belonged to the same family for four generations, and although the decor and menu have been through multiple renovations, Dock’s relies on the same classic dishes that made it good a century ago to make it great today. Stay in front at the black-and-white tile-floored piano bar for a chilly martini and just-shucked Cape May salt oysters. Or crowd into the elegantly packed dining room (reservations recommended) for the basics: oyster stew, Maine-flashback lobster pot pie, garlic-laden steamed clams, sweet and light French-fried beets, and plainly good crabmeat sauté. Sure, there are newer-fangled ahi tuna steaks and lobster spring rolls on the menu, but why mess with a century of success? $$$

Foundation Room
House of Blues, Showboat Atlantic City, 801 Boardwalk, 609-236-BLUE; hob.com/atlanticcity
Officially and for the record, the internationally opulent, multi-chambered wing of the House of Blues is members-only. But this is Showboat. If you’re recently bathed, reasonably groomed, and relatively well-dressed, you can most likely get by the entryway sentries. Once you’re in, prepare to be duly impressed by the private and lounge-y “prayer rooms,” the antique Buddhas, the Indian wall coverings, the luxuriously laid-back service—and young Andre Jacquet’s world cuisine. Chef stuffs veal chops with leeks and brie, dresses sea bass with caper berries and lemon brown butter, and delivers delightful nibbles in the form of truffled gnocchi, delicate beef carpaccio, and crab spring rolls. No wonder this is where Erykah Badu and B.B. King hang out post-performance. (By the way, an annual membership—a portion of which goes to the HOB’s music education charity—costs around $2,500.) $$$

Gallagher’s Steak House
Resorts Atlantic City, 1133 Boardwalk, 609-340-6555; arkrestaurants.com
The latest of the casinos’ upscale steak restaurants provides a contemporary foil to Resorts’ elegant, century-old Ocean Tower. Gallagher’s formula is, well, formulaic: A glassed-in front locker displays massive cuts of meat, deep brown leather booths are backed by black-and-white celebrity photos, and the cocktail shrimp are as large as bananas. But the steaks and chops are generous and sublime—so tender there’s no need for heavy-duty cutlery—and the traditional sides—verdant asparagus with golden Hollandaise, irresistibly rich creamed spinach, earthy sautéed crimini mushrooms and the “colossal” onion rings—are on target. The Napa-heavy wine list is one of the city’s most up-and-coming. $$$$

Gilchrist Restaurant
465 North Maryland Avenue; 609-345-8278
Off the beaten path, but worth the search, this flip-flop-casual, amiably cramped dockside luncheonette gives its diners a glimpse of the real A.C. Fishermen, policemen, surfers and families sit elbow to elbow at Gilchrist’s (pronounced “Gil-crest”) timeworn turquoise booths and stools. Breakfast and lunch staples—blueberry pancakes, chicken salad on wheat toast, Taylor pork roll sandwiches, and slices of homemade pie—are listed on the chalkboard sign above the short-order kitchen. Definitely cash only. $

3108 Pacific Avenue, 609-345-5554; girasoleac.com
Tucked beneath the Ocean Club condos—and between the Hilton and the Trop—this sunflower-bright, reservations-recommended restaurant and lounge is both a welcome escape from casino gimmickry—and excuse enough to visit A.C. Girasole gets its name from the Italian word for sunflower, its décor from Versace, and its menu from the Mediterranean. The restaurant’s whitewashed brick hearth oven turns out crisp personal pizzas and gently warms paper-thin beef filet carpaccio topped with mushrooms, tomatoes or artichokes. Also impressive are nicely proportioned homemade pastas, fresh fish, a well-rounded wine list, and genuine, friendly staff. $$$

Harbor View
Trump Marina, Huron Avenue and Brigantine Boulevard, 800-777-8477; trumpmarina.com
A glass catwalk leads from the cacophonous casino floor to the long, narrow dining room of Harbor View, designed so that each diner has a view of the yachts docked in the nearby marina. In this quieter space, families and happy groups of gamblers feast on a menu of mostly seafood options, saving room for a taste of the sculptural spun-sugar desserts on display in the lobby. $$$

House of Blues Restaurant
Showboat Atlantic City, 801 Boardwalk, 609-236-BLUE; hob.com/atlanticcity
You wouldn’t expect this restaurant to be as good as it is. You’d think it’d be like a Hard Rock Cafe or a Planet Hollywood. It’s not. It’s better. The folk art on the walls is for real. The music is nearly… soft. Most of all, the Cajun and soul food isn’t fooling around. Jambalaya is amply spicy, shrimp- and Andouille-chocked, and moist. Mild catfish nuggets go great with sweet potato fries, served together in cardboard, alongside cayenne-spiked tartar sauce. There are basic burgers, skillet cornbread with maple butter and plenty of beers. The one downside: It tends to get packed with slot players from the, um, Showboat. $$

House of Blues Sunday Gospel Brunch
Showboat Atlantic City, 801 Boardwalk, 609-236-BLUE; hob.com/atlanticcity
Follow a host to a table covered in a red-and-white checked cloth. Load a plate with rosemary cornbread muffins, hickory-smoked bacon, just-sliced prime rib, fried chicken legs, cheddar-cheese grits, and pecan sticky buns. And wait. Gospel singers appear onstage, rocking and rolling and shouting for you to drop your waffles and raise your hands and say “Amen,” which you do, because it’s before noon on a Sunday and you’re too dazed not to comply. The HOB’s rollicking brunch is a nationwide occurrence. It always takes place in the dimly-lit main music venue. It always ends shortly after the performance does. It always costs $33 a head. And, most of all, it’s always booked. Prix fixe: $33

Il Verdi
Tropicana, South Brighton Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-340-4050; tropicana.net
Guess what color Il Verdi is? You’re right. Guess which country is represented on 100 percent of this ristorante italiano’s wine list? Right again. Boy, you’re smart. There are things to like about Il Verdi. There are ricotta-filled crespelles, fresh papparadelle with woodsy mushrooms, and seared tenderloin—none amazing, but all quite solid. There are things not to like so much: The walk across a slot parlor to reach the women’s restroom, for example. Then, there are things to love: The mirror and statue-laden décor, the fact that you feel like you’re the only two people in the restaurant even though you could stick your fork in the lasagna of the woman the next table over, and, most of all, Il Verdi’s back-of-the-house chef’s table, where very VIP customers dine near the line. $$$$

Jonathan’s on West End
West End and Trenton avenues, 609-441-1800
On your way into the city and just can’t wait to get there to eat? This just-off-Albany Avenue, before-you-cross-the-bridge spot will do the trick. It’s not fancy: peach walls, framed prints, Rod Stewart standards, and drop ceilings. But the tables have white cloths, the rack of lamb is generous, there are strawberries on the salmon and raspberry on the filet mignon—and the burgers ain’t bad, either. $$

Knife & Fork Inn
Atlantic and Pacific avenues, 609-344-1133; knifeandforkinn.com
The Knife and Fork isn’t what it used to be. It used to be a men’s club. It used to be dilapidated (albeit charmingly so), gender-segregated, and, in more recent years hit-or-miss, kitchen-wise. Today, thanks to new-in-2005 owner Frank Dougherty (of Dock’s Oyster House), the 90-something-year-old, four-story, Flemish-inspired, get-dressed-up-for-dinner landmark is nearly sleek, with its centerpiece wraparound bar, its plasma TVs and, most of all, its menu. Delicate crab cakes are amped up with Jersey corn and lobster vinaigrette. Sesame seeds and wasabi crème fraiche dress rare tuna steaks. Filet mignon stands alone, as do chevre-enhanced potatoes gratin, rosemary-warmed carrots, and beer-battered string beans. The wine list—10,000 bottles and 1,000 vintages strong—offers both the best of Napa’s high-end and creative international by-the-glass picks for less than $10 a pop. $$$

Little Saigon
2801 Arctic Avenue; 609-347-9119
As small as a minute, this modest corner BYOB bursts at its lil’ seams practically every meal it’s open. If such busy-ness is a sign of a local dearth of pho and bun, it’s also an indication of chef-owner Lien Pham’s dexterity with familiar Vietnamese fare. Savory charbroiled beef wrapped in grape leaves, aromatic noodle soups, rich broken rice platters, oyster-sauced greens, savory scallion pancakes, sugarcane-skewered grilled shrimp, and fiery vegetarian hot pots are the just the ticket. $

Los Amigos
1926 Atlantic Avenue, 609-344-2293; losamigosrest.com
You’ve done the Walk. You need a margarita. Just a few steps away is this Tex-Mexified townhouse, signaled by its colorfully painted exterior and known for its Cuervo-spiked, citrus-infused, salt-or-sugar-rimmed libations. The drinks are just the thing to wash down spicy staples: blackened chicken nachos, smothered beef burritos, or even fancier filet mignon rubbed with red chile peppers, and jumbo shrimp fired up with cilantro, garlic, tequila and Tabasco. $$

Mama Motts
151 South New York Avenue, 609-345-8218; mamamotts.com
Mama Motts is misplaced on this beach block of New York Avenue, a small storefront between Sands and Resorts. The family-owned red sauce spot, with its decor of signed celebrity shots and family photos, belongs in South Philly. A.C. locals eat up the convivial atmosphere and abundant dinners from the olive oil-happy kitchen. Apps are to be expected: fried mozzarella, clams casino, escarole soup and scungilli salad. Entrees, like the chicken parm with mild-mannered marinara, come on foot-long plates. $$

Max’s Steakhouse
Trump Plaza, Mississippi Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-441-6000; trumpplaza.com
With low ceilings and merlot walls, the Plaza’s windowless steakhouse feels like a chateau’s salle à manger—in Texas. Max’s may not be the edgiest house of beef in town, but it’s holding its own, thanks to a steady diet of 16-ounce filet mignons, baked potatoes, big red wines—and the Godiva chocolate lava cake. $$$$

Sands Hotel and Casino, Indiana Avenue and Brighton Park, 609-441-4259 and 609-441-5259; sandsac.com
You gotta hand it to Sands. A.C.’s smallest casino is up against some serious competition—and the place is still going strong, dining-wise. Medici, the white-tablecloth trattoria tucked away at the top of the escalator recently introduced a worldlier, less expensive menu. Stir-fried beef and Chinese broccoli now reside alongside rustic pasta e fagioli soup, down-home chicken cacciatore and somehow delicate pork chops stuffed with mozzarella, broccoli rabe and red peppers. The fare here isn’t quite Melograno, but the rigatoni Bolognese could go head-to-head with Ralph’s pastas. The black-clad waiters are solicitous, appearing from behind faux marble busts to present a dessert tray with all the panache of a modern-day Willy Loman. $$

Mexico Restaurant & Bar
3810 Ventnor Avenue; 609-344-0366
Just south of the casino strip, this modest, two-room tacqueria is a local favorite. You’ll see parties of five sucking down Cokes and digging into nachos grandes and chimichangas. But you’ll notice the in-the-know eaters going for the more authentic pleasures of Mexican cuisine. Among them: corn tortillas swaddling grilled steak or chorizo and dressed with diced onion, fresh cilantro and lime wedges; soft Portuguese rolls sandwiching beef milanesa or mole-dipped chicken, layered with avocado and refried beans; crunchy sopes; crisp salads; citrusy ceviches—and plenty of cold Coronas. $

Caesars Atlantic City, 2100 Pacific Avenue, 609-441-2345; caesars.com
Mia, with its soaring columns and “outdoor” courtyard beneath the blue-painted sky, is not Le Bec-Fin. And it’s not supposed to be, Georges Perrier will tell you. Perrier and chef-partner Chris Scarduzio are taking a break from formal French to experiment with Italian classics at this lively, gauze-draped, casino-sheltered bistro. Decor highlights are dinner highlights: a bottle from the two-story wine tower, shaved prosciutto sliced on an antique hand-cranked machine and Caesar salad tossed tableside. Late night, gourmet pizzas are the thing. $$$

The Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, 609-371-1000; theborgata.com
Its location—up a curtained ramp at the back of the gaming floor—and its identity as a banging dance club may make Mixx the last place you think of when trolling the Borgata pre-gambling eats, but the nightclub is, indeed, open for a manageably sized menu of stellar Latin-Asian fusion fare and sushi before it gets the party started. Dinners here are just edgy enough to be interesting: green tomato jam bedecks a rich duck breast and tamarind gives a warm kick to barbecued baby-back ribs. The signature dish is spicy-tart sea bass ceviche, but Mixx also does right by shrimp and scallop dumplings seasoned with ginger, ponzu and Mr. Pibb, and an impressive, Serrano-spiked “macho” sirloin. Stay after 10—when the dance club opens—and watch the tables disappear. $$

Morton’s, The Steakhouse
Caesars Atlantic City, 2100 Pacific Avenue, 609-449-1044; mortons.com
This national chain has the classic steakhouse formula mastered: dark wood, crisp linens, substantial cuts of Prime beef. But the biggest bonus: Where most casino restaurants hide behind slot parlors, Morton’s has an easy-to-find, street-level location—with windows that peek into the clubby front bar where beer-drinkers watching the plasma-screen TVs rub elbows with serious carnivores sipping red wine in anticipation of that super-size steak. $$$$

Nero’s Grill
Caesars, 2100 Pacific Avenue, 800-223-7277; caesars.com
If it’s the reality of A.C. a few years ago you’re after, you’ll find it at the top of Caesars’ red staircase. Nero’s competing decor—busy carpeting, busy wallpaper—contributes to its dated vibe. The service couldn’t be more accommodating. The steakhouse-inspired dishes—grilled asparagus, crabmeat-stuffed everything, massive fries, and heavily sauced veal chops—are respectable. Still, the chairs on wheels gotta go—and, with places like Gallagher’s, the Palm and Morton’s nearby, you’ll want to check around before settling. $$

The Oaks Steakhouse
Hilton Atlantic City, Boston Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-340-7400; hiltonac.com
The Oaks’ shiny, stained-glass-adorned room may be casino kitsch, and its crowd may include partying college kids and leisure-suited seniors, but its kitchen is first-class. This is the place to roll up your sleeves and loosen your belt. The rich lobster bisque, flavorful sea bass, or any one of the classic steaks are worth the calories. One word of warning: Oversize portions practically mandate doggie bags—even if you’re splitting the filet. $$$

Old Homestead
The Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, 609-317-1000; theborgata.com
Everything is big at the Old Homestead: the super-tender, 20-ounce Kobe-style burger, the bracelet-size onion rings, the 36-ounce Gotham rib steak, the crisp wedge salads, the stack of frizzled onions atop the Kansas City strip, the monstrous shrimp on the mightily tiered towers of raw shellfish, the dictionary-thick wedges of chocolate cake, the Julian Schnabel cow portrait overlooking the dining room—and the line to get a table. This is yet another first-in-New York City establishment, but the Borgata’s version definitely channels Jersey casino-ness. Girls wearing camisoles and low-rise jeans traipse through the dining room with bottles of Miller Lite in hands; wine-addled birthday parties sing too loudly; and the later the hour, the more the dining room resembles the party scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s—standing in for Holly Golightly is co-founder Marc Sherry, wearing pinstripes and a smile. $$$$

The Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, 609-317-1000; theborgata.com
Rustic Italian may be the theme of this basement-level, stone-walled, wine cave-like restaurant, but chef Luke Palladino’s cuisine is anything but countrified. Cheese (50 varieties) and wines (Italian only) star on the menu, as do melt-in-your-mouth gnocchetti and a Sicilian mixed seafood grill which is redolent of oregano-rich salmoriglio and meant for two to share. $$$

OPA Bar & Grille
1743 Boardwalk, 609-344-0094; opa1.com
If only there were more restaurants on the Boardwalk like this one… Opa’s modest but clean design shows off its surroundings. Glass windows open during fair weather, a counter faces the beach, and tile floors make it okay to track sand in. The kitchen respectably renders Greece’s greatest hits: Greek romaine salads with kalamata olives and feta triangles, rich and fragrant tzatziki for warm pita, cure-what-ails-ya avgolemono soup, succulent lamb chops, cinnamon-tinged moussaka, plus decent crabcakes and burgers at lunchtime. $$

The Palm
The Quarter at the Tropicana, South Brighton Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-344-7256; thepalm.com
The Palm is an oasis in A.C. A separate entrance permits casino execs and similarly suited patrons to bypass the slot-parlor squeeze, affording them smooth entry into the gentlemanly territory of martinis, three-pound lobsters, 36-ounce New York strips, and caricatures of Elton John and Shaq. G.M. Jim Haney runs this tight ship: Service and steaks are squeakily consistent (which explains why the A.C. Palm had the most successful first year in company history). $$$

Hilton Casino Resort, Boston Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-340-7400, hiltonac.com
Dress up, slide into an oversize circular booth, heed recommendations from magician-like maitre d’ Giovanni Mancini and his tuxedoed servers, and join the delightfully old school. The house’s fancified, dome-covered specialties span classic—truffle-sauced Dover sole, order-ahead orange soufflé, $23 glasses of Barolo—and contemporary—citrusy crabmeat margarita, medallions of buffalo tenderloin with a vidalia onion tart and lingonberry sauce. Play along, and find out how good it feels to go back in time. (If you own a pinky ring, wear it here.) $$$$

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
The Quarter at the Tropicana, South Brighton Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-348-4600; tropicana.net
Only in A.C. can you stand up from the roulette table, take a short walk through Old Havana, and end up in the Orient at P.F. Chang’s—your local Chinese place gone extreme makeover. The timid will find old standbys refined—apparent in the perfect balance of flavors in Chang’s sweet and sour chicken—while the bold can opt for items on the new Sichuan menu, featuring spicy flaming wontons and a delicate Imperial black cod. (The indecisive can sample the entire Sichuan menu as a prix fixe, three-course meal.) Eat in or take out; best of all, they aren’t too cool for fortune cookies. $$

777 Harrah’s Boulevard, 609-441-5000; harrahs.com
There is no such thing as a light supper at this family-style Italian restaurant. Like Maggiano’s and Buca di Beppo, Polistina’s serves big everything. You want chicken? You gotta order the whole bird, cooked rotisserie-style, perfumed with lemon and rosemary. You want pasta? Plan on a doggie bag for your super-sized manicotti, all bulging with creamy ricotta and doused in a sunny marinara. Fried calamari, garlicky meatball sides, veal cutlet Calabrese are all so bountiful—and so surprisingly difficult to stop eating—that you’ll be tempted to snuggle into your circular booth for a post-meal nap. This would be a mistake, but not that big of one, as the predictable desserts are largely skip-able. $$

Trump Marina, Huron Avenue and Brigantine Boulevard, 800-777-8477; trumpmarina.com
Men in suit coats and women clutching Coach and Burberry mingle with denim-clad casino goers in the foyer of this popular formal Italian spot. Entrées arrive under silver cloches that rise to reveal herb-crusted roast lamb or rich osso bucco, but the star of the marble-pillared dining room is the three-tiered dessert cart. $$$$

Rainforest Cafe
Trump Plaza, Mississippi Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-345-5757; rainforestcafe.com
One does not come to Rainforest Cafe for delicate gourmet fare. One comes because one has one or more children, and because these children demand entertainment in the form of faux thunderstorms, roaring elephants, tropical fish, giant-winged butterflies, and plastic tree frogs with their mini burger trios and plastic cups of milk. It’s a fun spot, really, if you avoid the artificial-flavored cocktails with flashing lights and stick to the blue crab dip and Cajun-grilled chicken sandwiches. Don’t expect to leave without buying a stuffed, thumb-sucking gorilla for Junior. And don’t be surprised when the hostess refers to your dinner as an “adventure” and your family as a “safari of four.” $$

Red Square
The Quarter at the Tropicana, South Brighton Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-344-9100; tropicana.net
Enough about the nippy vodka room, with its $200 bottle charge, $2,000-plus annual locker fee, loaner sable coats and faux Soviet naval caps. Jeffrey Chodorow’s Red Square is more than a Disney-esque pit stop for high-rolling tipplers. It’s a genuine, high-falutin’ restaurant, with splurge-worthy caviar blinis and inspired interpretations of Eastern block faves like chicken Kiev and salmon kulebiaka. The best seats in the house are nestled away from the iced-down vodka bar and main dining room: They’re the red velvet-curtained booths stretching from the host stand. And, even though the world-fused fare—when was the last time you saw a Ukrainian eating wasabi mashed potatoes?—can get a little confounding, the servers will steer you right through the ample vodka list. Our favorite: a chocolate-y shot of chilled Van Gogh or a crystalline, straight-up and iced-down Zyr—from Russia, with love. $$$

Rí Rá
The Quarter at the Tropicana, South Brighton Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-348-8600; tropicana.net
Upstairs at the Quarter, the mahogany-covered Rí Rá relies on a formula we’ve grown to know and to love: A pub imported from Ireland (where are the Irish drinking now, we wonder) serving Guinness, boxties, and, um, nachos. The food here is far from transcendent, but it does the trick. Amply spiced pub wings aim to inspire Harp guzzling. Grilled cheese with havarti sticks to your ribs even if you’ve shot one too many Jamesons. The best time to visit—if you’re hungry, and need a little space—is during lunch, when families gather around wooden tables, parents explaining the meaning of “bangers and mash,” and then opting for bacon cheeseburgers, turkey-apple wraps, and low-carb signature salads with rasher, smoked salmon and crumbled blue cheese. $$

Trump Plaza, Mississippi Avenue and Boardwalk, 800-677-7378; trumpplaza.com
Personalized service is the hallmark of this classic casino restaurant, an immense pink-lit, white-linen space on the sixth floor of the Trump Plaza. The service tactic: gourmet carts. Gracious waiters glide between ample, half-circle booths, wheeling trays of wine (several notable vintages are available by the glass), cheeses, and desserts (extensive: don’t miss the apple-cinnamon crepe). The offerings of the Italian kitchen are enhanced by this attention: Freshly ground pepper on your arugula-topped beef carpaccio? Freshly grated cheese on your already excellent homemade potato gnocchi? Prego. $$$$

Royal Albert’s Palace
Trump Taj Mahal, Virginia Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-449-9200; trumptaj.com
When the Taj’s neon minarets kindle cravings for spicy-rich butter chicken and pea-and-potato-stuffed samosas, this is your only in-casino dining option. This narrow bistro borders the Boardwalk—and bears yet another replica of India’s best-known tomb (this one in the middle of a fountain). The glassed-in kitchen turns out a familiar selection of tandoori-baked kabobs, garlic-stuffed naan, mozzarella-like paneer casseroles, and tender, yogurt-marinated lamb chops. It’s fair-to-good, but definitely made for customers with comps. Chicken korma that would cost nine bucks elsewhere will set you back twice that here. $$

Ruth’s Chris
2020 Atlantic Avenue, 609-344-5833; ruthschris.com
Here’s what’s great about Ruth’s Chris: The steaks sizzle. Yes, yes, it’s a gimmick Chi-Chi’s perfected long ago with fajitas, but there’s something exciting about hearing your rib eye before you see it, and digging in as the plate’s buttery, 500-degree contents sputter and spit. This New Orleans-born steakhouse—immortalized by Fabolous and Ashanti and as ubiquitous as Bennigan’s—crowds early and fully with players and conventioneers. They come for the familiar: Long tables, giant portions, red and black checkerboard décor, generous pours of Mondavi cab, and servers’ friendly shpiels about the restaurant’s name. Menu highlights include those loquacious, juicy cuts of Midwestern beef, iceberg lettuce topped with blue cheese and fried onions, garlicky barbecued shrimp, cream-laden spinach, a half dozen takes on the potato, and whisky-spiked bread pudding—all of which ought to come with warnings from the Surgeon General. $$$

The Sound of Philadelphia
The Quarter at the Tropicana, South Brighton Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-344-9100; tropicana.net
If your idea of sophisticated live entertainment does not involve a Jenkintown bachelorette party’s rendition of “Livin’ on a Prayer,” TSOP is the best bet in A.C. As long as they don’t seat you too close to the Sound—TSOP has the tendency to run its amplifiers full-blast during live sets—this mood-lit restaurant, a collaboration between Kenny Gamble and Zanzibar Blue’s Bynam brothers, hits all its notes (ha!) flawlessly. The food is only slightly neo-soul—stars include sizzling shrimp with garlic-buttered grits, cheesesteak spring rolls and smoky short ribs with cheddar polenta—the wine list is tops, the service is solicitous, the talent is talented, and there’s lots of fun memorabilia from the glory days of the Philly Sound on the walls near the entrance, though we’ve rarely seen a line. $$$

The Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, 609-317-1000; theborgata.com
Two-tiered and Deco-decorated, the Borgata’s tribute to contemporary Italian cuisine turns dinner into theater. Patrons are treated to double-teamed, tableside performances of filleting and plating-up that befit the subtle flash of chef Luke Palladino’s maverick menu. Standouts here include delicate crepes enclosing earthy-rich tallegio, transcendently uncomplicated seasonal risotto, serious fillets and light-as-air gnocchi. There’s pretty much no going wrong—not even with the 14,000-bottle wine list. $$$$

Stage Deli of New York
Trump Taj Mahal, Virginia Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-449-6893; trumptaj.com
The Taj’s resident deli is half diner, half nosherie. The knishes are big. The matzoh ball soup is plain. The kishka is plainer. The blintzes are standard. The brisket and slaw-laden sandwiches are thick, the closest A.C. gets to Famous 4th Street. Pay close attention to the menu items named for celebrities, and let the mind wander. You can’t help but wonder: Does Allen Iverson really like tuna fish? Did Wilt the Stilt and the Yankee Clipper really chow liver and onions? Maybe not. But they probably signed one of the framed menus hanging by the entrance. And they may have taken a super-size slice of cheesecake home to their special ladies. By the way, this place has moved—or is moving—out of its corner upstairs to a new space downstairs. $

Suilan by Susanna Foo
The Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, 609-317-1000; theborgata.com
There is rarely a line to get into Suilan. This is not because Susanna Foo’s spa of a restaurant is not popular. Quite the contrary. Dinners are booked solid. It’s because chef Foo, an innovator in French-Chinese fusion cuisine, insists on tranquility. So, when you’re digging into an impossibly tender wok-shook filet mignon with diver scallops as you sit beneath a wall of teapots nestled into backlit cutouts, when you’re tucking into the chef’s famously sweet honey-glazed pork spareribs, when you’re wondering if it’s okay to use your fingers to eat your light-as-air tuna spring rolls as your dining companion sips a glass of soft Chateau Meyney, you’ll breathe a little easier. You should. You’ll also feel more comfortable asking your server about pairing your meal with a selection from the extensive wine list. There is, indeed, a $40,000 bottle of Chardonnay. But don’t let that bother you. Just relax. $$$

Tony’s Baltimore Grill
2800 Atlantic Avenue, 609-345-5766 and 609-345-9461; baltimoregrill.com
Don’t trust anyone that doesn’t love Tony’s. The place is McGlinchey’s gone Italian, The Greeks gone seedy, Marra’s after dark. There are two rooms: A 24-hour bar, and a 16-hour restaurant—both wood paneled, both with tableside jukeboxes, both served by a fleet of waitresses and bartenders that are as tough as nails and as gentle as your Aunt Judy or Uncle Sal. The thing here to drink is draft beer—Bud—which is available in a juice glass for $1.25 or a pint for $2.00. The thing to eat is pizza, which is slightly thick-crusted, swathed in as-good-as-it-gets tomato sauce, and available in a complicated assortment of half and whole toppings. There is other fare: fried seafood, respectable spaghetti and meatballs, interesting celery and olive “salads,” but really, people come for the ‘za. The crowd: young couples in sweat suits, waiters in uniform, and dear, old friends who known where it’s at. $

Tun Tavern
2 Miss America Way, 609-347-7800; tuntavern.com
The Tun is many things to many people. To shoppers at the Walk, it’s a place to sip apricot-infused microbrews and forget your impulse purchases at the Coach Outlet. To conventioneers, it’s a standard bacon-cheddar burgers with closest proximity to the boat/RV/air-conditioning show. To sports fans, it’s a place to catch the Phils and eat vinegar-tinged Buffalo wings. And to those of us who’d rather sip honey ale away from the Tun’s gold and blue walls, it’s the only place in town to pick up a growler of beer. $$

Tropicana, South Brighton Avenue and Boardwalk, 609-340-4050; tropicana.net
Named for the foie gras-smothered, pastry dough-covered filet of beef that could, if pressed, define fine dining in 1981, this Boardwalk-side restaurant may appear to epitomize the casino eateries of Atlantic City (the movie starring Susan Sarandon and Burt Lancaster). It’s got name-tagged servers, a pressed tin tile ceiling, a long and lean layout and white lights strung over its deck. Nonetheless, the menu is fresh and seafood-focused, with shrimp and scallops touched with cilantro-chipotle butter, grilled salmon over hearty crab hash, and a delicate lobster salad served on a Parmesan cracker. It’s good. And beats waiting two hours for a table at the Quarter. This is also the property’s sole purveyor of Sunday brunch, an internationally savvy affair with steamed buns, shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, made-to-order omelets, miniature French pastry and a sunny ocean view. $$$

White House Sub Shop
2301 Arctic Avenue (at Mississippi Avenue); 609-345-8599
What Tony Luke’s is to roast pork sandwiches and cheesesteaks, the White House is to Italian hoagies, meatball subs, and, um, cheesesteaks. The comfortably worn corner luncheonette—there since 1946—has become a compulsory stop on the way into or out of town. Regulars tend to phone in takeout orders, but the rest of us are happy to stand in line to dine at an orange vinyl booth. The wait is worthwhile. Traditional lunchmeats—Genoa salami, cappacolla ham—come in elegantly slices. Rolls—delivered throughout the day from nearby Formica Brothers—are still warm. The meatballs are perfectly yummy carniv-orbs. Even the sliced tomatoes are perfectly ripe. If you’re headed back home, order a whole sub. You’ll never eat it all—the second half is for tomorrow’s lunch. $

Wonder Bar and the Sunset Room
3701 Sunset Avenue, 609-344-8888; wonderbarac.com
This nifty find is tucked away at the lesser-traveled Albany Avenue/Black Horse Pike entry to the city, on the beach side of the bridge. Locals consider Wonder Bar one of A.C.’s best-kept secrets, and they’re right to keep their lips sealed. This dockside place is just what a seashore restaurant and bar ought to be: laid back. The bar’s full 24-7 with sports-watching Bud drinkers. The dining room—with a great bay view—hosts families and seniors. And, the tiki bar—on the deck, over the water—is the perfect spot for watching the sun go down while sipping a gin and tonic. Dinner reservations are a must during the summer, when beachgoers file in fresh from the boat dock for platefuls of marinara-dressed eggplant stuffed with spinach and ricotta, garlicky steamed clams, simple blackened chicken sandwiches, classic crab imperial, and the house specialty—a French-cut pork chop stuffed with apples and walnuts and served with the most delicious homemade mashed sweet potatoes. A wonderful fact about the Wonder’s bar: It's open 24 hours a day, everyday. $$