When choosing a good place to eat I look for great food, of course. But I also give credence to the atmosphere, service, and the history of the restaurant that I am choosing.

Atlantic City is a wonderful place for enjoying restaurants that have a wide spectrum of cuisines, history, and exceptionally decent food. While I like to gamble occasionally, I would rather spend my money in Atlantic City in my favorite restaurants.

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With the large casinos in Atlantic City, they have signature big-name restaurants with big-name chef involvement that serve the gambling community and tourists. I like one or two of those restaurants but mostly I prefer the restaurants that are away from the casinos and make up the fabric of New Jersey’s most exciting city.

Please understand that this is my list and there may be a restaurant or two that you enjoy that is not on my list. It may be the fact that I did not get a chance to try it out or I am not a big fan. In turn, there may be a restaurant on my list that you have not tried but will make a trip to enjoy.

This is the list in no specific order:

Chef Vola’s

Anytime I go to Chef Vola’s I feel like Gulliver in Lilliput, it is small. The restaurant was originally a rooming house that was transformed into a restaurant in 1921. The food is outstanding, Chef Vola’s is not only one of my favorite restaurants in Atlantic City, it is one of my favorite restaurants in the state.

The restaurant is famous for their veal parmigiana and crab cakes which I really enjoy, plus I like the tomato and blue cheese appetizer, the desserts are impressive.

The list of celebrities that have graced Chef Vola’s reads like a who’s who of American history. If you want a reservation, I suggest you plan your visit months in advance and keep your party to six or under. The portions are huge, and this is a good occasion to share a taste of your dish with others at the table.

Just a reminder, Chef Vola’s has no sign and no liquor license so bring your favorite adult beverage.

White House Subs

White House Subs is an institution. You would not think that I would add this to my favorite list of restaurants, but it is. They opened in 1945 and have been a favorite of celebrities including Elvis and Frank Sinatra.

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There is a strict method on how White House Subs operate, you want take-out, go in the back, when you get a booth or sit at the counter, stay there because the wait staff will not take your order until everybody in your party is seated.

My favorite sub is the White House Special, I get half of sub when I go which is a good size sub. The bread is outstanding, the special has extra salami, provolone, ham and capicola. I add peppers and I am a happy man. I like sitting at the counter and watching the people and the grill experts go to work. It is a wonderful place for lunch.

There is a White House Sub at the Hard Rock Casino, but I frequent the original on Artic Avenue, it has an atmosphere that you cannot reproduce.

Morton’s The Steakhouse

This is one restaurant that is in the casinos that I enjoy. Prominent in Caesar’s, Morton’s is a great place for high end steaks.

Morton’s is one of the best high end steakhouse chain restaurants in the country. If there is a special occasion that you want to celebrate this is the restaurant. Come hungry because you will enjoy every item and every bite.

Dinner will start with a locally baked onion loaf bread that is addictive. I have a small piece and try to move it to the other side of the room! The shrimp cocktail is enjoyable, and I like the tomato, onion, and blue cheese appetizer. The bone in rib-eye steak cannot be beaten, the sides are traditional and particularly good.

They have an award-winning wine list and save room for dessert and have one of their souffle’s, you will not regret it.

I used to go to the original Morton’s in Chicago, and this is close to that experience. It is expensive but worth the cost.

Dock’s Oyster House

If you like fish, I have the place. Dock’s Oyster House was made into a 60-seat restaurant in 1897. Years of transformation including a big facelift and expansion in 2015 made this an extremely comfortable place for you to enjoy.

When I walk in, my favorite choices are many and I order different dishes because I am a fan. They have a Maine chowder that is like New England clam chowder and their corn and crab chowder is very good. Start out with the fried oysters and when I move on to the entrée’s I either get the Dock’s Seafood Fry, the flounder and crab meat in a cream sauce, or the crab meat au gratin.

The prices in my opinion are reasonable, and the food is good.

Café 2825

This award-winning restaurant is a must visit. Many call this one of the best Italian restaurants in the state.

It certainly is one of my favorites. Here is a piece of advice, bring your appetite to enjoy all the goodness that this restaurant serves up. For appetizers you cannot go wrong with Grandma’s meatballs, the baked clams and the sausage and pepper cacciatore.

For the pasta course I have had the roasted pork ragu, carbonara, the cacio e pepe in the wheel of truffle cheese and the wild mushroom pasta, they are all outstanding. The entrees are amazing, my favorites are the Chicken Parmigiana with Vodka Fra-DiAvolo, a spicy Bolognese on the chicken dish that makes it unique and incredibly good. The Chicken Clemente is good too, it has mozzarella, spinach, and ricotta cheese.

Café 2825 is a wonderful dining experience.

Pancho’s Mexican Taqueria

If you want simple very authentic and delicious Mexican cuisine Pancho’s is the place. You can watch them cook up your meal, sit at simple tables with dining room trays and enjoy some of the best Mexican food here in New Jersey. They have won many restaurant awards.

A good friend and I were in Atlantic City, and we made a trip to Pancho’s on his suggestion, am I glad he did. The burrito’s, enchilada supreme and the fajitas are a must try. They have homemade drinks which I did not try but my friend said that they were particularly good.

This is a simple, very enjoyable experience that will not cost you an arm and a leg. Make Pancho’s part of your visit to Atlantic City.

Atlantic City is more than just gambling and casinos, it also has some incredibly good restaurants. I would enjoy hearing about your favorite places. Special shout out to nj.com for the thought.

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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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