In our family, eating is a big part of any East Coast vacation. As a twenty-something in New York, I used to sit down with friends and plan road trips based on where we could get good pizza, big bagels, or – in season, of course – fresh lobster. We quite literally ate our way through trips. This is how I came to appreciate the locals’ dining scene in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Sure, the casino resorts have good restaurants, but most of them are chains (and those are fine, but not exceptional). Over the years, I have learned that for the most authentic local dish, submarine sandwiches are the way to go. Without question, the most famous local eatery is the White House Sub Shop on the corner of Arctic and Mississippi. This restaurant is nothing fancy – some might even refer to it as a dive – but hungry customers have been lining up here since 1946 for decades to chow down on sandwiches bulging with grilled meat or cold cuts.
Viewfinder Tip: Don’t be turned off by the exterior of Atlantic City restaurants; some of the best eateries are true dives.
Among the hot varieties are Philly cheesesteak (hey, AC is only about 90 minutes from Philadelphia), chicken cheesesteak (same as the Philly, but with chicken), meatball, and a breakfast sub with eggs, bacon, and potatoes. On the list of cold options: Italian (salami, ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, and pepperoncini), ham and cheese, and just about any other combination you can think up.
Another sub shop that locals love: Tony Baloney’s. “Baloney’s” (as locals call it) has only been around for a decade or so, and in that time it has become renowned for a more modern (and upscale) spin on sandwich-making; some of the subs include ingredients such as kale and arugula, and a special sandwich this summer included sliced sirloin steak, hand-grinded chimichurri, and fresh mozzarella. (As an aside, Baloney’s also offers an “erotic menu” with sandwiches that come in a variety of, um, creative shapes.)
Two other Atlantic City-area sub shops are worth mentioning: Dino’s Subs and Pizza (in Margate) and Sack O’ Subs (in nearby Ventnor City). Like the White House, these two also serve sandwiches the size of a small child’s head. The menus are similar, too.
Personally I don’t have an all-around fave. Everything at the White House comes with a side of kitsch. Dino’s usually wins my vote in the hot sandwiches category (yum…meatball sub), while Sack O’s usually kills it with the cold ones. Baloney’s is best for innovation. The truth is that you can’t really go wrong with a sandwich from any of them.
Finally, no visit to Atlantic City would be complete without at least one meal of Boardwalk food – that is, a meal full of snacks and goodies sold from vendors along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Some of the musts on this list include hot dogs, soft pretzels, funnel cake, and cotton candy. Among the less-obvious choices: fried Oreos and fried pickles from Vanina’s Ice Cream; as well as salt water taffy from the James Candy Company.
So many options, so little time. Next time you go to Atlantic City, be sure to go hungry.
What sorts of restaurants do you seek out when you’re traveling?