Dining Destination: Atlantic City

By Fabiana Santana

New Jersey’s city by the sea is famous for its boardwalks and casinos, but Atlantic City is quickly becoming a culinary getaway for foodies from around the country.

Gone is the stereotype of being a city where wheelchair bound chain smokers stop off to blow their last pension check. Instead, Atlantic City is now glittering with modern day glam accented with a bit of nostalgia inducing retro style chic that throws back to the city’s heyday years during the ’30s and ’40s. Back then, the Atlantic City Boardwalk was the place to be seen. But today, celebrity chefs are planting themselves inside casino kitchens and their loyal fans are following them.
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa paved the way for celeb chefs when it opened back in 2003. Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay and Michael Mina all brought their brand of culinary wonder to AC with restaurants like Bobby Flay Steak, Wolfgang Puck American Grille, Mina’s Seablue restaurant.

Harrah’s Entertainment’s has bumped up its culinary profile with restaurants including George Perrier and Chris Scarduzio’s Mia in Ceasars Atlantic City (a Harrah’s property) and McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant and the Viking Cooking School, both located in the  the Harrah’s  hotel. Mario Batali and Cat Cora have both made appearances at the hotel in “Iron Chef” style food events events and the Steakhouse at Harrah’s serves up steaks, chops and raw seafood options that give the Manhattan’s best steakhouses a run for their money at a fraction of the price.

Celebrity chef Kerry Simon calls the Atlantic City Hilton home for his steakhouse, Simon Prime. Even rock star Sammy Hagar is in on the action. He has partnered with Bally’s in a beach club reminiscent of his famous Mexico nightclub Cabo Wabo. His AC beach bar offers American fused Mexican food along with a variety of cocktails made with Hagar’s very own Cabo Wabo tequila.

With all these names, you’d think you were in Hollywood, not New Jersey. Atlantic City has certainly developed quite the culinary scene for itself.   So much so,  Food Network has decided to partner with Harrah’s and sponsor  the  Altantic City Food & Wine Festival this year. With high profile festivals in South Beach, New York and Aspen, the network’s decision to host an AC event says a lot about the future of food there.

Big names like Sandra Lee, Emeril Lagasse, Guy Fieri and Paula  Deen are all on the roster of events including culinary panel discussions, cooking classes and cocktail parties. The three day festival takes place July 28-July 31 and proceeds benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation and is expected to draw close to 20,000 guests.

Tickets for events like the Food Network Festival Kick-Off Party and   Guy Fieri’s Cheesesteak Battle are still available online. There is even an organic wine tasting event , a healthy food celebration called Sexy Women Eat – A Guide to Eating and Drinking Under 150 Calories,
and a clubby party event hosted by Sunny Anderson called Sweet and Stylish.

Now, those are tickets worth spending some of your paycheck on.