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best restaurants in atlantic city
Photograph: Courtesy Kelsey & Kim’s Southern Cafe

The best restaurants in Atlantic City

The best restaurants in Atlantic City aren’t only in resorts—check out historic eateries and waterfront faves, too

Written by
Frank Gabriel
&
Alyssa Ammirato
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Once known for its top-notch Italian restaurants, Atlantic City is now home to a wildly eclectic menu of restaurant options, from well-known chain eateries to celebrity-chef destinations powered by the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Marc Forgione and Geoffrey Zakarian. The big Atlantic City hotels and standalone restaurants that are loved by locals offer up everything from the best tacos and burgers to prime rib and lobster. Chow down at the best restaurants in Atlantic City so you have the energy to spend the whole night partying at A.C.’s best clubs.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Atlantic City, NJ

Best restaurants in Atlantic City

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Classic Italian food meets white-linen elegance at this Trump Taj Mahal eatery, located just off the boardwalk and turning any night out on the town into a fine dining. Open for dinner Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday with traditional favorites like spaghetti alla carbonara and sophisticated plates like salmone alla griglia, Il Mulino expertly brings New York Italian style to the Atlantic coast.

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Located in the Italian district once known as “Ducktown” because of the livestock-keeping practices of its residents, this clubby haven serves prodigious portions of peasant food to local bigwigs. Founded in 1935, the institution has consistently offered quality marinara, clam and meat sauces. Also popular is the Steak Angelo, an homage to the late family patriarch who held court here for decades; it’s a Sicilian-style pan-seared 16-ounce New York sirloin, served with roasted peppers, black olives and artichoke hearts in balsamic sauce.

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Dock's Oyster House
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Founded in 1897 by Harry “Dock” Dougherty, this classic regional seafood house is still family-owned and -operated. As the name makes clear, this is the place for oysters, with upwards of ten varietals featured daily on the chalkboard. Other highlights include the restaurant’s trio of chowders (Maine clam, crab and corn, or Manhattan), jumbo lump crab au gratin and gargantuan lobsters that weigh up to six pounds.

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For weekend brunch or dinner during the week, Kelsey & Kim's Southern Cafe is the Atlantic City spot for comfort food and music from a pair of New Jersey's own. Featuring jazz bands and soul singers alongside entrees like Southern fried chicken and waffles, catfish and slow smoked ribs, plus one of the best happy hours to be found in town, Kelsey & Kim's will make you feel right at home wherever you hail from.

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Formerly a “restricted” club in the 1930s, which denied entry to nonwhites and women, this zaftig eatery sprawls across multiple rooms and features two fireplaces. Owner Cookie Till is the grande dame of A.C.-area food, and her cuisine honors southern Jersey Shore heritage while staying current. Kick off your meal with the best lobster mac and cheese we’ve ever tasted, then move on to an aromatic bouillabaisse or a luscious meat loaf in onion gravy with mushrooms, peas, carrots and smashed potatoes.

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For nearly a decade, Buddakan has been bringing fine (and delicious) Asian cuisine to tourists and locals alike. Restaurateur Stephen Starr, known for over a dozen other hot spots from New York City to Philadelphia, nestled this spot in the Pier at Caesars and adorned it with intricate decor, open and private dining areas, and lunch, dinner and dessert menus brought to life by executive chef Kristpher Neff.

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The Continental describes its cuisine as eclectic global, another fine experience brought to the Atlantic coast by Stephen Starr. The Caesars Pier establishment is open for brunch, lunch, happy hour ($5 cocktails Sunday through Friday evenings) and dinner, and the menu runs the gamut: Brunch on buttermilk pancakes or treat your taste buds to a dinner of Cantonese ribs, French onion soup dumplings or Teriyaki filet mignon.

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Though this hidden dining room in a private home has become accessible to the public, it’s tough to score a reservation without a referral (ask your concierge). Be prepared for long waits and tight quarters, but the fish, pastas and luminous sauces render these inconveniences trivial. You’ll need to bring your own wine, and no matter how much you consume, don’t miss house-made desserts like ricotta cheesecake so light, it practically levitates.

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Standing at the intersection of Albany, Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, this 100-year-old whitewashed Flemish-style eatery screams landmark. Originally a private club frequented by the likes of Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, the real-life prohibition boss who inspired Boardwalk Empire’s Nucky Thompson, the Knife and Fork is owned by the same clan behind Dock’s Oyster House. The culinary focus here is divided between steak and seafood, with standouts like lobster Thermidor.

Fornelletto
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Situated in an underground space in the Borgata, this is chef Stephen Kalt’s diverse spin on the enoteca concept. There’s plenty of hearty fare suited for cold weather, like any one of a baker’s dozen pastas—try the ravioli del plin, stuffed with an unorthodox mix of artichoke, peas and arugula, and plated with a poppy-seed-and-montasio-cheese sauce. It’s also worth noting that among its 12 restaurants, the Borgata houses the closest Wolfgang Puck restaurant to NYC.

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