This Escape Plan for two nights in Atlantic City tells a tale as old as time: Beauty and the Beast. This itinerary will fit any and all occasions, however, we drew inspiration from my most recent birthday. I turned 38, when we were conducting our research for this escape, and spent some time thinking about the implications of such an awkward age. Not old yet, but no longer young. Well past 21 and not quite 40. How does one go about celebrating such a non-event? I came up with a weekend of contrasts that echoes my feelings about my most recent trip around the sun. Decadent dining rooms and dive bars. Cocktails and karaoke. Lounges and luncheonettes. You’ll visit old haunts you might have frequented in your early twenties, as well as timeless Atlantic City restaurants that will never go out of style. Like AC itself, this trip isn’t just one thing; it has many sides, and you’ll experience them all, in just two days.
Beginning with your stay at Ocean Casino Resort, you’ll already be experiencing the best of both worlds. You’ll enjoy luxurious accommodations, sip swanky cocktails, and also play and snack at an interactive gaming complex, while you’re here.
The first night of your escape will be indulgent and extravagant. Starting in your hotel, with happy hour at American Cut, you’ll enjoy bar bites, drinks, and stunning views of North Beach at sunset. The crab cake egg rolls have a crispy exterior, a nice contrast to the soft crab filling. One order is enough to share between two people and provides a nice base for a strong, but smooth cocktail. Vodka and gin cocktails “your way” are the drink specials during Cut Hour, but you’ll have no regrets about ordering full price specialty cocktails.
Woodford Reserve provides a rich, velvety base to the Smoke on the Water, and its cedar smoke will transport you to an earlier era, when the steakhouse lounge would be scented with the sweet, vanilla and leathery smoke of cigars and conversation. Slightly sweet, with crisp rose’, the delicate peach and orange blossom Valerie is a fun and flirty option that will get you in a celebratory mood.
Next, you’ll savor sparkling wine and succulent seafood in a sophisticated setting at Dock’s Oyster House. Walking into the dining room feels like taking a breath of salty, sea air: spacious, with high ceilings, subtle nautical accents, and vintage photographs adorning the walls, Dock’s is modern but pays homage to its long and storied history. The menu is as timeless as the interior, with some dishes dating back to the restaurant’s opening in 1897, including the crab meat au gratin. A variety of bubbling, gooey cheeses envelop the largest chunks of jumbo lump meat we’ve ever seen (aside from the crab cocktail on the chilled tower here), and the accompanying toast points are a great vessel to ensure you don’t leave behind a trace of your meal. The kitchen runs amazing specials, the absolute best being the pan fried soft shell crabs, when they’re in season. Don’t hesitate to place your order, if they’re being offered. They only serve them in the warmer months, and they sell out very quickly. We’ve visited Dock’s on countless occasions, and you can read about our other recommendations in some of our previous blogs.
You can’t end an evening on the town without dessert, or at least dessert cocktails. Bar32 excels at both. Pull up to the intimate bar and observe the actual chocolate factory in action, or claim a seat in the cozy lounge area, which feels like part art gallery, part hip boutique hotel lobby. It’s hard to choose from the unique confections here, but the chocolate sampler features all of their housemade bean-to-bar chocolate, as well as a taste of their signature brownie. The chocolate martinis are another crowd pleaser, which can only be described as extra creamy grown-up chocolate milk. Espresso martinis are
everywhere right now, and Bar32 stays ahead of the curve with the Stromfather 2.0, an amaretto and whiskey variation of the trend. The rocks glass is dipped in their signature melted chocolate, for a decadent conclusion to your day of indulgence.
Day two of your escape will be lowkey casual, but high energy. Have a quick breakfast of loaded omelets or waffles and tenders at Maria’s Luncheonette, and grab some to-go lattes from Hayday Coffee, to fuel yourself for an hour or two of excitement (and a little exercise) at Top Golf Swing Suites. In addition to swinging golf clubs, you can also try your hand at soccer, hockey, pitching baseballs, carnival games, and zombie dodgeball. There is a full bar and a kitchen, so you can keep your energy up with a giant soft pretzel and dipping sauces, which goes great with the birthday party shake that’s as photogenic as it is delicious. If you time your visit right, you can check out their happy hour items, including a specialty shot menu. You’ll feel a lot more competitive and confident after a Moscow mule or two, trust us.
You have a full night ahead of you, and this would be a good time to take a nap, enjoy the indoor/outdoor pool, park at a slot machine, or whatever you need to recharge.
You’re headed out of the casino for the first leg of your adventure this evening, but only about 4 blocks away. There is a lot happening on Baltic Avenue these days, beginning with a trip to Little Water Distillery. They offer tours, tastings, and have a full bar with a lengthy cocktail menu. If you haven’t taken a tour here before, we recommend starting your visit this way, followed by a sampling of their rum, whiskey, vodka, and gin. Tasting these spirits on their own lends to the appreciation of how the cocktails are built and balanced. Little Water is always conjuring up interesting,
new drink options, highlighting seasonal flavors and ingredients. There are some solid mainstays on the menu, like the Distinguished Gentleman, a maple old fashioned, and the Hot and Dirty, a jalapeno infused dirty martini. However, we look forward to trying their seasonal concoctions whenever we visit. Most recently, they were featuring two rum-based drinks: The Underachiever, borrowing inspiration from an upside down cake with cinnamon simple syrup and pineapple juice, and Front Porch Punch, which is sweet, citrusy, and a bit spicy from the ginger beer: reminiscent of a summer evening spent in a rocking chair on a wraparound porch.
Right next door, The Seed: A Living Beer Project is using locally sourced and unique ingredients to conduct carefully executed experiments. They are currently pouring a saison that was refermented with cabernet franc grapes and syrah must, to cite just one example. They aren’t your typical beers, and this isn’t your typical tasting room. The focus is solely on the beer. The minimalist space feels similar to a yoga studio, spa, or library (if any of those places also contained several, shiny fermentation tanks). It’s a calming, whimsical setting for beer enthusiasts to discover and savor something thoughtfully crafted and very special.
You’ll probably be craving a snack at this point in the evening, and Wild Honey BBQ in the Quarter at Tropicana has just the thing to soak up some of the sampling you’ve been doing. The Go Wild platter has a little bit of everything: tenders, tots, wings, rings, and, our personal favorite: hush puppies. If you feel a little nostalgic for the early 2000s and are wondering why this place seems familiar, it’s because you used to sing “She’s so High” along with the cover band after several pints of Guinness when this space was inhabited by Ri-Ra Irish Pub. The Bulleit and Hennessey mason jar drinks here will help numb this realization and also serve as liquid courage for your next activity.
While you’re revisiting your youth at the Quarter, you have to visit Planet Rose Karaoke, if not to belt out a brown liquor inspired rendition of Desperado, then to simply observe. When Atlantic City and karaoke bars overlap on the Venn diagram of life, the people watching is superb. Aside from the private room, which we absolutely recommend for a group, this is your classic dive situation. The bar opens at 9pm, but this is a place to go when you’re ready to switch to domestic beer or White Claw and make questionable choices in front of strangers. Songs are $2. The hazy memories you’ll make will be priceless.
The best way to end a night out in Atlantic City is at Tony’s Baltimore Grill with a fried shrimp platter, clams casino pizza, and one last beer, or, maybe you’re like me, and you’re switching to soda, at this late juncture. The wood paneling, the red neon and naugahyde, the jukeboxes at each table… it’s like stepping back to a simpler time. Even if it’s not your neighborhood joint, it feels like it is.
If you’ve been following us, you know the Sunday morning, post-checkout drill: a quick breakfast, one last coffee from Hayday, and takeout from Tony Boloney’s. A Bad Leroy is exactly the right combination of meaty, cheesy, spicy goodness to bring you back to life. Pair it with the Bastardo fries and a slice of something special from the display case, and get on your way. A hangover isn’t exactly the souvenir we want to bring home from our weekend escape, and a feast from TB’s is the best antidote.
Atlantic City is the sum of all of its parts: old/new, classic/trendy, upscale/casual. It’s best experienced when you know how to appreciate it. Casinos have a lot to offer in terms of entertainment, dining, and lodging, but there is also so much to the city right outside the resort doors, if you just know where to look. Subscribe to our mailing list and follow us on social media for Atlantic City Escape Plans and insider tips.
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