Atlantic City offers a lot to do outside of the casino. Las Vegas is in the middle of a desert so there’s not much to do besides gamble.
On the other hand, for those who just want to hang out at the beach, catch some rays, maybe ride an old-school boardwalk ride, Atlantic City has all of that. That’s one of the reasons why the casinos have to work a little extra hard to make sure you’re spending as many of your dollars in their establishments as possible.
That’s why there’s so much to do in the casinos (other than gamble.) There’s entertainment. There’s shopping. There are a bunch of places to eat without losing the sight, hearing, or smell of the gambling.
Of course, when you take advantage of casino eats, you pay casino prices. That’s why I want to make sure that where you eat is worth the price you pay. The advantage is that you get to eat close by to whatever Atlantic City gambling activity you’re partaking in, which means more time to gamble.
To that end, here are eight restaurants you can find in a casino that are absolutely worth staying in and enjoying.
8- Margaritaville (Resorts Hotel Casino)
In a lot of cases, when it comes to suggesting restaurants, I hate to recommend a chain. On the other hand, Margaritaville isn’t just any chain. It’s a Jimmy Buffet chain and that means it’s a little extra special.
Still, if you are hungry (and I suspect you are if you are reading this), then open the menu and start ordering. For an appetizer, the wings are spicy and juicy and the lava lava shrimp has a nice chili kick in the aioli. I like them a lot.
For your entrée, it’s hard not to order a cheeseburger (in paradise), but I suggest you fight the urge to follow the song and get the coconut shrimp because they are about as perfect a mix of sweet and savory as you’re going to find.
For dessert, they will probably push their signature key lime pie. Ignore and get the molten chocolate bundt cake because it’s so very, very good.
7- Carmine’s Italian Restaurant (The Quarter at Tropicana Hotel & Casino)
It appears that if you’re a good New York City restaurant, you make your way to Atlantic City and open shop. That’s clearly what happened at Carmine’s an Italian steakhouse that can put a big ol’ hunk of beef on your plate or let your stuff you face with pasta.
For the appetizer selection, start with the cold antipasto: cold Italian salads, crostini, prosciutto and other Italian goodies all served on one long plate. If pasta is on your mind, it’s a tie between the clam sauce (red is my favorite, but they have white) and the meaty ragu.
Still, you probably came to Carmine’s for a steak so order up the porterhouse and finish the night with a nice cheesecake for four.
6- Buddakan (Playground Pier next to Caesar’s)
It may be cheating to call Buddakan in Caesar’s, but’s really good so I am going to go ahead and cheat. Plus, you can get to Playground Pier by taking the doorway out of Caesar’s, so that counts, right?
With that said, my pick for appetizer is the wagyu beef satay because it’s wagyu, and the tuna spring rolls.
The dim sum is all amazing looking with the oxtail dumplings and lobster egg rolls staring in the show.
For your meal, the five spice duck breast and the grilled lamb chops are both excellent recommendations. Curried cauliflower is also a delicious side.
5- Palace Court Buffet (Near Caesar’s)
This couldn’t be a list of great places to eat at a casino without mentioning a buffet (or two.) When you rate the best buffets in Atlantic City, the Palace Court Buffet always gets high marks.
When you go the Palace Court Buffet, expect to get stone fired pizza, sushi, a lot of ice cream flavors, carved meats, chicken, salads, fruit and other goodies. There’s even prime rib on Saturdays and Sundays.
However, clearly, the piece de resistance is the self-serve wine bar. Which sounds dangerous, but oh-so-tempting.
4- Kuro (Hard Rock Hotel & Casino)
According to the Hard Rock’s website, Kuro is a “new style Japanese restaurant” specializing in “contemporary artisanal dishes.” Even better, Kuro mixes locally sourced ingredients (actually local ingredients seem to be a big push across all of Atlantic City) with authentic ingredients from Japan.
The result is one of the most beautiful places on this list.
To start, you can’t go wrong with any of the sushi options. There’s also a tuna crispy rice dish that looks great as a starter and a tuna tataki featuring avocado, lime soy and miso bagna cauda. The rest of the meal will feature your choice of small plates. My picks include the wagyu beef, beef shishito, halibut cartociio, tenderloin and some king crab nigiri.
Your choices may vary, but it doesn’t matter. They’re all extra luxurious.
3- Borgata Buffet (Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa)
Like I said, a buffet or two. Amongst the buffets in Atlantic City, the Borgata Buffet also can claim to be one of the best. It’s also reasonably priced and very convenient if you want to get in and out and get back to gambling since this establishment is located inside the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
The Borgata Buffet is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and brings you cuisines from all around the world. You can start in Italian with some killer meatballs then head to Japan for sushi before eating roasted eggplant, fried chicken, cornbread, hit the dessert bar, eat fresh seafood, get carved meats or tackle an assortment of other dishes.
Even better the décor is taken to the next level, making you feel like you’re at a five star eatery.
Brunch is also offered on Sundays.
2- Amada (Ocean Casino and Resort)
The first of two of Chef Jose Garces’ restaurants in Atlantic City, Amada is a down-to-earth (but still gourmet) take on Spanish tapas in a Mediterranean setting. Even better, because the food is created by an Iron Chef, you know it has to be good.
Still, being a tapas place, it’s hard to recommend just a few dishes.
To start, start with the jamon Iberico (Iberian ham.) This Spanish ham is slightly cured and tastes like best prosciutto you’ve ever had. Pair that with fresh queso do cabra (goat cheese.) For something a little more hardy, pick the costillas de ternera (short rib flat bread) before trying the spinach and cheese empanada (called the Amada’s empanada.)
Finally, finish with the filet mignon because you know Chef Garces will prepare it properly.
1- Olon (Tropicana Hotel & Casino)
Chef Garces rounds the list out with Olon, a seafood restaurant inspired by “the beach towns of Ecuador.” From these inauspicious beginnings comes some of the cleanest, freshest seafood that you’re likely to find even in Atlantic City.
To get things going, we’ll start slightly north of Olon, Ecuador with the mixed fish fry. This plate features fresh Rhode Island calamari, mahi mahi, Hokkaido scallops and shrimp. A few items of the raw bar would be nice, too.
For the meal, it’s hard to pass up the branzino (especially if you pair it with an empanada.)
If you still can’t decide what you want to eat, though, you can always ask for “La Mesa de Jose” and let the chef prepare a special menu for you. It’s not that expensive and will surely be a meal to remember.
Even better, for those who want something fast and more casual, there is also Bar Olon which serves more reasonably priced food. It’s also a good gateway into Chef Garces’ food.
If nothing else, the casinos know how to keep me within their confines. Even with the natural beauty of the beach and the boardwalk so close, with places to eat like those listed above, I’m not sure I’d ever need to leave. I’m not even sure I’d want to.
The good news is that casino restaurants offer something for every taste whether that’s steak, sushi, fresh seafood, raw items or the amazing do-it-yourself feeling you get at places like the Palace Court Buffet or the Borgata Buffet.
No matter what you like, hopefully this list will let you order with confidence during your trip to the many casinos of Atlantic City.