Over the last 30 years, the restaurant scene in and around Atlantic City has worked its way up from being a laughing stock full of cheap buffets and cheesy lounges to becoming one of the premier dining destinations in the region. Everything from high-end celebrity chef-branded restaurants to superb wine bars and gastropubs all share the Monopoly board, and things are only getting better each year.
That’s why the annual Atlantic City Restaurant Week event has become one of the most highly anticipated events of the year. From March 8-13 (no Saturday this year), three-course meals can be had at a myriad of the city’s best restaurants at the incredible prices of $15.20 for lunch and $35.20 for dinner. Over 80 restaurants are participating, but reservations will fill up fast, so you should probably grab yours before they fill up. For the full list of participating restaurants, go to ACRestaurantWeek.com.
Your editor’s picks
This year I’m going through all six days of the event, giving you my picks for where I would choose to dine (and what I would order) if all reservations were available. Agree with me? Great. Disagree? Feel free to book elsewhere. Truth is, with a list like this, it’s hard to go wrong.
Sunday, March 8
Lunch: Wingcraft Kitchen and Beer Bar
I’m kicking things off with a strong start at a favorite of mine, Wingcraft Kitchen and Beer Bar. With a massive wall of taps, Wingcraft is a great spot to grab a craft beer to pair with your meal. Speaking of my meal, let’s dig in. The smoked gouda mac & cheese sets the tone right with a creamy and universally loved treat. For my entree, I’m doubling down on my cheese intake and going with the eight-hour short rib grilled cheese (eight hours to make, eight seconds to wolf down) and finishing things up with a boardwalk classic, the double stuffed fried Oreos. (Mic drop.)
Monday, March 9
Dinner: Gordon Ramsay Steak
While it’s a bit disappointing that a restaurant with the word “steak” in its name is not offering a steak as one of its Restaurant Week options, the food at Gordon Ramsey Steak at Harrah’s Resort is so good, I’m going to let it slide. I’ll begin my meal with the honeynut squash soup, a creamy temptress of a starter made with roasted squash and whipped honey mascarpone. For my main entree, I’ll pretend that steak doesn’t exist for a minute and go with the Scottish salmon, which is served with warm English mustard and bacon potato salad. And for the absolute no-brainer of the night, I will carefully select what is perhaps the greatest dessert in all of Atlantic City, the sticky toffee pudding, which gets paired with brown butter ice cream and sticky toffee sauce for an utterly perfect finale.
Tuesday, March 10
I make no secret of my love for all things New Orleans, so Bourre — Atlantic City’s only Cajun-themed bar/restaurant — was an easy choice for me. And while it may not be Fat Tuesday, it’s a Tuesday nonetheless, and the dinner options sound fantastic. I will start with the ever popular Gator bites, an alligator sausage app that will make you wish you lived in the bayou. For my main entree, I’m keeping with the Louisiana theme and going for the blackened red snapper. Finally for dessert, the house-made bourbon bread pudding seems like a can’t-fail, and I’m certain that it won’t.
Wednesday, March 11
Dinner: Chelsea Five Gastropub
If you are looking for an absolutely stunning view in a restaurant that is glamorous but not stuffy, Chelsea Five is your spot. The food here is consistently delicious and for my dinner I am going to begin with their Caesar salad and follow that up with the star of the show, their buttermilk fried chicken, which comes honey glazed and served with a side of jalapeno corn bread and grilled asparagus. For my final course, I’m going straight for the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Creme Brulee, which seems to have somehow found a way to improve upon both creme brulee and whiskey — no easy task.
Thursday, March 12
Looking to add an Asian flair to my week, Buddakan makes for a great lunch option. A visually stunning restaurant, checking out the vibe here commands my full attention, until the food comes of course, and then it’s time to get down to business. For my first course, I’m selecting an old reliable, the Szechuan pork dumplings. They may not be the most obscure dish on the menu, but they are a fan favorite for a reason. My main entree pick goes to the Asian barbecued pork, a tenderloin grilled to perfection and served with Chinese broccoli and a panko-crusted onion ring. Dessert makes for an easy choice, as there is only one option, but it is a good one, the zen-ful doughnuts, served with sweet cream, banana and chocolate sauces.
Friday, March 13
Lunch: Dock’s Oyster House
For my final meal of Restaurant Week I choose an absolute Atlantic City legend, Dock’s Oyster House. A staple in this town since 1897, when it comes to fresh seafood, Dock’s simply does not disappoint. For my appetizer, I choose the Champagne leek broiled oysters, a favorite of mine that I first discovered when they were featured on A.C. Weekly’s 50 Bites promotion several years ago. From there, the decisions get harder, but I’m going to keep it classic with the fried jumbo shrimp, a can’t-miss entree paired with cocktail sauce and mixed veggies. And I’ll ask for some tartar sauce just to give myself another dipping option. For my last dessert of the week, I have to give the nod to one of my absolute favorites, the key lime pie. And just like that, a great week of eating comes to a close. Am I sad? Yes. Am I satisfied? Thoroughly.