Old Atlantic City is sometimes unappreciated amid the drama of casinos and the planting of hipster flags. Some are surprised to learn of the robust beach culture in this enduring seaside resort. Stop in to One Stop Bait & Tackle to talk fishing, then follow the rest of our recommendations for the best of what’s old and new in A.C.
Shore Bets: Old-school Atlantic City still charms
Beaches in Atlantic City are refreshingly free of beach-tag requirements. They also attract an eclectic crowd and are conveniently dotted with places to get alcohol, like Bungalow Beach Bar and casino beach bars. The Boardwalk Biergarten above Tropicana has become a beachy gathering spot, with American craft and German beers, a raw bar, excellent food, and lots of Jenga.
Old A.C. stalwarts rarely disappoint. Happy hour at the Knife & Fork with half-price appetizers is any local’s best tip, and the century-old Dock’s Oyster House now sports an expanded bar. The regional Italian fare at Cafe 2825 always impresses. Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern simmers its gravy old-school.
Kelsey’s, a soul-food supper club on Pacific Avenue with live jazz, draws large crowds of regulars with some of the city’s best cooking, as does sister restaurant Kelsey & Kim’s Southern Cafe on Melrose Avenue.
The extended Boardwalk only gets better with every bike ride (peak beauty at sunrise), and it will now take you nearly to Gardner’s Basin, where the best breakfast (Gilchrist), pub with a sunset view (Back Bay Ale House), and food truck (Fish Heads) await.
The VÜE rooftop bar at the Claridge offers big A.C. views, both actual and reflected off the glass of Bally’s. Ask favorite bartender Mortimer to make you something special.
Is there a better place to have a drink than on the water at sunset? In addition to Back Bay and Wonder Bar, there’s Sirens Bar & Grill at Kammerman’s Marina in Bungalow Park. It’s easier to find by boat than car, but worth the effort. “If you’re lost, you found us,” is Sirens’ slogan. You’ll think you’re in St. Thomas.
What’s new this summer
The casinos now offer lavish lounges for sports betting, and there’s a new team in Atlantic City, the Blackjacks, part of the Arena Football League of the Philadelphia Soul. The team will play at Boardwalk Hall through mid-July, with a Bud Light-themed end zone.
Beer-garden mania has spread to Tennessee Avenue, where the Beer Hall will have its first full summer. The new Rhythm & Spirits, curated by cocktail master Lee Sanchez and chef Kevin Cronin of the Iron Room, is down the street. Hayday Coffee and the sui generis MADE chocolate bar, which stocks artisanal chocolates, cheeses, and a bar with chocolate cocktails, also have added to the unlikely transformation of this beach block.
The New Orleans-themed Bourré, a restaurant from Asbury Park’s Pat Fasano, will have its first summer on New York Avenue. Fasano and his partners also are bringing outposts of two of their Asbury Park restaurants to Atlantic City: Loteria is headed for the Boardwalk, and Bond Street Bar should debut by Labor Day on Atlantic Avenue.
Little Water Distillery on Baltic Avenue turns out quality spirits and creative cocktails, including its Prosperity Rum. Take a tour. Play bocce.
Locals swear by the Dominican-inspired Lenox Cafe on Atlantic Avenue, recently reopened after a fire.
On Sovereign Avenue on the bay, Fifth Pocket Skate Park and Skate AC unveiled a skate park, which artists from Studio 130 made edgily beautiful.
Finally, Stockton University is offering beachfront dorms for students who enroll in classes. This summer, those options include Barbecue Culture and the History of Cooking Shows. Sounds like a plan.
Down the Shore with ... Yolanda Melville
It takes a local to home in on just the right spots. Atlantic City attorney and civil rights advocate Yolanda Melville shared her list of go-to establishments — and it’s a good one.
VÜE, the Claridge’s rooftop bar. Melville suggests an Atlantic City Mule: vodka, ginger beer, simple syrup, lime juice, and mint.
Kelsey’s. “Everything is good!” Melville said. Other Kelsey’s fans include celebrity A.C. real estate scouting trio D.J. Envy, LeSean McCoy, and Killer Mike.
Fish Heads food truck at Gardner’s Basin, by the inlet, where Melville also walks the Boardwalk.
Noyes Arts Garage, especially the African American Heritage Museum.
A presentation at Stockton University’s new Fannie Lou Hamer Room, named for the civil rights icon of the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.
Knife and Fork for the lobster bisque.