Along the eastern shores of the United States is a jewel by the name of Atlantic City. And this jewel has, in some ways, started to show her age a little, even though many interested parties are looking to restore her shine.
Still, the food in the city is still as great today as it ever was. In some ways, the food in Atlantic City is even better.
Of course, being that so much money is concentrated along the coastline, the boardwalk, and in the boardwalk casinos, it’s safe to say some of the best eats can be found there. However, that’s not the full story of Atlantic City.
There are plenty of places you need to try in Atlantic City that don’t take up residence along the boardwalk. They’re delicious and can be easier on the wallet while they’re pleasing the taste buds. It was hard to narrow the list down to 10, but here’s our list.
How We Defined “off the Boardwalk”
As a quick note, it’s important to define “off the Boardwalk,” especially when considering restaurants in Atlantic City. For all its popularity, Atlantic City isn’t exactly huge. It’s kind of a long, vague crab-shaped city that doesn’t pack a bunch of room between ocean and western border.
With that in mind, I did try to find locations that were at least a long city block away from the coast. I figure that most of the places along the coast are getting all the press, especially since they tend to be attached to casinos, so I picked places that would require the heart to pump a little bit if you walked there.
10 – Bobby Flay Steak
That place won’t be Bobby Flay Steak, but I had to include it, anyway. More than likely, you’ve heard of celebrity chef/TV star Bobby Flay from his work on Entourage or the Food Network. You’ve probably heard that he has a few restaurants, too.
Flay’s restaurants don’t always receive the highest marks, but Bobby Flay Steak in the Borgata Hotel and Casino (which is off the Boardwalk) breaks the mold and offers modern, luxurious dining in Atlantic City. When you go, get a steak and try the tuna tartare and mashed potatoes. These items get high marks.
9 – White House Sub Shop
Part of the joy of this list is finding places to eat outside the glitz of the casino. Thus, I present to you White House Sub Shop, an unassuming diner on Arctic Avenue that serves sandwiches as long as your arm, and it’s so tasty that you have to go back.
Or maybe you’ll be so full that you never leave? Get a footlong when you go so that you have leftovers and definitely try the cheesesteak when you’re there.
8 – Yardy Real Jamaican Food
While there may not be an association between Jamaican food and New Jersey in the popular imagination, Yardy Real Jamaican Food offers delicious cuisine to visitors at decent prices.
When you go, try the curried chicken, jerk chicken, and their different choices of soups. Or you can decide you’re not messing around and go straight for the oxtails. If that doesn’t sound good, this eatery also offers a variety of fresh seafood for those wanting something lighter.
7 – Gilchrist Restaurant
Located in Gardner’s Basin, near the Atlantic City Aquarium, Gilchrist is a breakfast and lunch spot adored by locals. Their menu includes eggs, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, and even scrapple, a divisive meat dish much loved by its fans.
The pancakes are a clear favorite. Also, Gilchrist features vegetarian options for those wanting to stay healthy on vacation. Ask your server for more details.
6 – Lillie’s Asian Cuisine
Lillie’s Asian Cuisine is located in the Golden Nugget Casino, Hotel, and Marina a little over a mile and a half from the Boardwalk. They offer a pan-Asian menu that seamlessly blends Chinese and Japanese cuisines with other Asian influences (notably Thai since, well, you just HAVE to try the pad thai).
Locals love the noodle and stir fry dishes. However, the thing that gets the highest marks from visitors to Lilllie’s is the sushi. It’s no wonder being that close to the ocean that Lillie’s can get some good fish and then turn that into various different sushi rolls.
In addition to it’s pan-Asian food, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine serves a number of Asian-inspired cocktails and has quite a collection of sake. If that weren’t enough, Lillie’s will also serve you dessert in case you weren’t full enough.
5 – Pancho’s Mexican Taqueria
Pancho’s is woefully unpretentious and looks like any other neighborhood eatery. It’s not some flashy restaurant inside of a casino or operated by a celebrity chef.
Fortunately, we don’t let that stop us from grubbing on some genuinely delicious food. This establishment is exactly what you want it to be, a friendly, unassuming food spot that you know is going to serve absolutely amazing dishes from the moment you enter. The tortillas are housemade, the menu’s quite large for a taqueria in New Jersey, and the ingredients are wholesome.
What’s even better is that everything is made from scratch. This can cause the food preparation to be slow, but ultimately, it’s worth it in the end.
When you go, try the al pastor tacos with some extra tortillas on the side!
4 – The Iron Room
Of all the places on the list, the Iron Room comes the closest to breaking the “off the Boardwalk rule.” It’s not on the boardwalk, but it’s definitely not very far. Still, it’s worth trying after its grand re-opening in October 2019.
Once reopened, the Iron Room will serve breakfast from 7 AM to 4 PM so that I can get my avocado toast fix or salmon bagel until just about dinner time.
Even better, on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and some Tuesdays, after 4PM, the Iron Room becomes the place to go for wine, charcuterie, and small plates in Atlantic City. I can’t wait to order the steak tartare, guanciale, and maybe a few types of cheese to go with it.
3 – Café 2825
One of the highest-rated restaurants in Atlantic City, Café 2825 is everything that’s right about Italian dining. This “transplant from Brooklyn” serves up plates that are pleasing to the eyes and delightful to the palate, and the service is exceptional.
The restaurant is charming, small (only 14 tables, so make reservations), but highly authentic. So authentic, in fact, they even go back to Brooklyn every week to get ingredients.
When you go, try the calamari or whole stuffed artichoke to start, 2825 Salad for your salad, and the carbonara pasta for your meal. All are sure to please.
2 – Dock’s Oyster House
When you’re in a coastal town, you have to eat seafood even if you’re off the Boardwalk, right? That’s where Dock’s Oyster House comes into play. Dock’s manages to mix upscale dining with a homey, inviting feel that welcomes whoever walks through the door.
The mirrored bar is long and filled with enough types of liquor that you probably can’t stump the bartenders too easily. Most importantly, though, they serve fresh oysters, lobsters, ceviche, snapper crudo, and cooked fish, too.
For those who want something a little more landlocked, there’s also filet, New York sirloin, and rack of lamb.
In other words, if you want to eat it, they probably have it, and it’s going to be really, really good.
1 – Kelsey’s
Kelsey’s is a soul food restaurant in Atlantic City that has just built a reputation for delivering exceptional cuisine. A finalist for the best buffets in all of Atlantic City because of its Sunday brunch, there’s really never any bad time to eat at Kelsey’s.
Among the favorites are Kelsey’s shrimp and grits, chicken, and mac and cheese. Oh, the mac and cheese is always on point and is the type of dish you dream about forever after you’ve had it.
If you can, go for brunch. If not, stop in at off-peak times to avoid the AC crowd. Or go whenever! You may have to wait, but you won’t be sorry.
One thing’s for sure, Atlantic City is full of fantastic places to eat. Many of these places are along the water, or in casinos on the water, but that doesn’t tell the full story of Atlantic City food.
Whether you’re looking for classic Italian, steak, fresh seafood, or something a little different, fried snacks or huge sandwiches, there’s a place in Atlantic City for you. All you need to do is be willing to walk a little. Atlantic City is not that large, so the emphasis is on “a little.”
You can also get on a rideshare or catch a cab. Next thing you know, you will be feasting on food unlike anywhere else and loving every single bite.