Shore-era restaurants missed even during the ongoing dining renaissance in the Atlantic City region.
ATLANTIC CITY — Penning last week’s “Then & Now” dining feature "Hunger for History?"— about some of our region’s most tenured existing eateries — got me to thinking. Specifically, about some fine establishments, which, for one reason or another no longer exist.
While I won’t wax nostalgic on most topics, bygone restaurants are a notable exception. Probably because many of our fondest memories, epic summers spent at the shore, always seemed to have a common element: food. And while Atlantic City, really our entire region, has never experienced a culinary blooming the likes of which we currently enjoy, there are still places we lament losing.
Start in midtown Atlantic City, at good ole Abe’s Oyster House. Situated at 2031 Atlantic Ave., Abe’s was the tonal counterpoint to nearby Dock’s. With a long, narrow, white dining space lined by wooden benches, it afforded casual, inexpensive meals. Unlike Dock’s, Abe’s was strictly seasonal, with serpentine lines on weekends. It opened at another location in town during the 1920s but moved in 1935. Although not exactly certain just when it closed — Internet searches offered no definitive answers — I can remember walking to working lunches here as late as summer 1987.
On the other side of the monument, heading toward Downbeach, you couldn’t miss The Great Josh’s at 3709 Ventnor Ave. Ironically, the site of this prototypical New York-style (read: Jewish) deli/ice cream parlor has now become a popular halal meat outlet: Urban redevelopment of the new millennium. What Abe’s was to Dock’s, Josh’s might have been to the legendary White House Subs.
Larger in both seating size and menu, Josh’s served all the standard grilled items and cold subs, plus juicy, heaping piles of pastrami and corned beef. You just gotta love a place whose signature sandwich was labeled “The Bellyfiller.”
On Margate’s border with Longport, Melissa Lavin, formerly a fashion executive, opened what became the seminal Jersey shore storefront BYOB, Melissa’s Bistro, in 1989. The funky dining space was dramatic and Parisian, banquettes running the length of one entire wall, multiple skylights above. Lavin’s fare, culled from her globetrotting career, proved a marvel of eclecticism. We can still recall our very first app here: a timbale of perfectly blanched spinach with sundried tomatoes, marinated artichokes and goat cheese topped by a softly poached quail egg.
Lavin’s entrees, like rosemary-crusted rack of lamb and some of the best crab cakes ever, were always accompanied by a cornucopia of vegetables, grains and fruits. Cuisine and plating both well ahead of their time.
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“Bally’s has a lot of different historic parts to it, so we thought ‘the history’s here, we have the room to do this, and it just seems so right and legitimate to do it at Bally’s.'"
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Two and half decades prior to the Atlantic City depicted in Boardwalk Empire, our region’s original dining dynasty began. Harry “Dock” Dougherty opened the doors of his eponymous seafood house, Dock’s Oyster House, at 2405 Atlantic Ave., in 1897.
A tiny, mid-central Cape May County community, Ocean View — situated on the mainland side of Sea Isle City — has never exactly been known as a hotbed of culinary innovation and creativity.
Got a finicky food fanatic on your holiday shopping list? If so, please allow us to suggest a few local spots to pick up a culinary treat or cooking implement that’s certain to impress.