Some bright spots in the region during a year many can't wait to end
Most of you will probably be more than happy to bid adieu to 2010. And with good reason, since the nation’s economy disproportionately affects a primarily seasonal market like Atlantic City and its environs.
What remains equally undeniable to anyone paying attention is that the southern New Jersey shore continues to be one of the most dynamic, relevant restaurant regions in the nation. The year 2010 was headlined by a trio of openings from celebrated chefs with national reputations, albeit in dissimilar formats.
Luke Palladino — the wunderkind behind original Borgata entities Specchio and Ombra — set up shop in a tiny, landlocked strip mall space near Tilton and Route 9 in Northfield in early spring. Serving handcrafted, authentic Italian fare from a boutique, BYOB environment, Palladino’s focus and energetic persona shone brightly.
A few miles east, in midtown Atlantic City, New York-based Carl Redding commenced operations late summer. Specializing in authentic southern cuisine, Redding’s recipes run the gamut from low and slow cookery like ribs, mac-n-cheese and greens to spectacular fried chicken. Redding’s venture is easily the most ambitious private restaurant to open locally in several years. This also marks a return to the big stage for its larger-than-life chef, a dude chock full of star quality.
From the casino side of the ledger, Fin at the Tropicana bucked the current trend of outsourcing dining venues. Featuring seafood in an aquatic, ocean-fronting environment, chef Demetrious Haronis’ bill of fare extensively pays homage to locally sourced product. Starting with Cape May salt oysters and including Jersey littlenecks, flounder and day-boat scallops, Fin showcases the finest the mid-Atlantic region has to offer.
This admirable philosophy encompasses swordfish from Block Island, R.I., fisheries, Point Judith (also Rhode Island) calamari and, of course, Maine lobster.
Down Pacific Avenue at the Hilton, a trio of new eateries opened simultaneously on the second floor. Most notably, the third celeb chef to grace us with his presence was Kerry Simon at steak house Simon Prime. Serious carnivores will require a special trip here to sample the signature Tomahawk rib chop. Served up with a foot-long, Flintstonian bone, this 26-ounce monster instantly became the most outrageous, eye-catching cut of beef available in the region.
Across the hall, you’ll find Atlantic City’s first freestanding upscale burger emporium — yes, we know about Gallagher’s but consider that part of a larger entity — exactly as requested by this writer in an early 2010 “wish list” feature: Nick’s Burger Bar. Named in homage to Hilton honcho Nick Ribis, the menu allows a choice from a half-dozen different meats, including two beef options, lamb, turkey, veal and buffalo all crafted to order. Diners also select from among a half-dozen cheeses, five types of bacon (one is perennial shore favorite, pork roll) an equal number of veggie toppings and six sauces.
The final of Hilton’s upgraded restaurants is also its most diverse, Pan-Asian Ono. Their menu carves a broad swath across that massive continent, encompassing Japanese sashimi, sushi and miso, sticky Thai wings, grilled Szechuan pork ribs, Peking duck spring rolls and Korean-style beef short ribs.
On the subject of Asian fare, Showboat’s petite Oshi, headed by former Susanna Foo chef Tony Fok, dazzled with everything that emerged from the open-air kitchen during a late October repast. Of special interest are sashimi presentations, the product of world-class knife skills, and hearty noodle dishes like the chef’s signature item, seafood udon soup.
Well-established local southern food/barbecue providers Kelsey & Kim’s opened their second location this summer in A.C.’s inlet section.
After more than a decade successfully managing a well-respected Pleasantville soul food outlet, K&K’s now looks to compete with Redding’s in what is suddenly a competitive Absecon Island market for America’s original indigenous cuisine.
Other notable moves in the last 12 months include the debut of 800 Bay in Somers Point. That historic Victorian property provides some of the region’s most dramatic, sweeping water views.
Perhaps the biggest non-story of 2010 was the closing of a100-plus year old landmark, Busch’s Seafood in Sea Isle City. Reported extensively in mainstream media sources as all but a done deal, ownership’s planned sale to developers was scuttled by a common conundrum — inability to obtain financing. A recent expedition to the closed eatery revealed that neither signage nor equipment had yet been removed.
Star chef Luke Palladino recently opened his third Atlantic City eatery, Luke’s Kitchen & Marketplace at Revel.
Kelsey and Kim’s will expand to include a third location at the corner of Kentucky and Pacific avenues called A.C.’s Southern Touch.
When we last encountered Luke James Palladino, just after Labor Day in 2010, the dynamic chef seemed firmly ensconced in the cozy confines of his charming Northfield bistro near the intersection of Tilton Road and Route 9.
I've tasted IHop's new [chicken and waffles] dish and they're missing the key ingredient — soul! Eating chicken and waffles at IHOP is like eating a Philly cheesesteak in Montana. It's not even close." See photos and video...
Plus new DrewToonz cartoon, Sean Rowe and his Anti- label debut 'Magic,' and jazz series to debut at Redding's restaurant in Atlantic City in February.
As the final, precious weeks of summer ’10 wane, we thought it a splendid opportunity to reflect back upon a culinary season as hot as the Fahrenheit we’ve encountered.
There is no more telling indicator of spring’s arrival hereabouts than the opening of new businesses, especially in food service sectors. In spite of a still-moribund economy, the Atlantic City region continues to percolate with activity. Here are a few of the 2010 season’s most hotly anticipated arrivals.
The Atlantic City area had a year that had people looking so far forward, it was almost easy to forget what was actually happening right now. Mired in recession and reeling from new competition, Atlantic City and southern New Jersey seemed to just want to hunker down and wait for better times....
28 West Opens at Borgata
Congrats to the McCauley Clan
Strolling The DO AC Wine Promenade
Taste of Revel Revisited
Jose Garces Truckin’ at Revel
Tropicana Seafood Week Coming Soon