It’s called the “Entertainment Capital of the Jersey Shore” for its exciting mix of world-class entertainment, dining, shopping, beaches and all-around fun. While in Wildwood for vacation, my family and I decided to take a day trip to Atlantic City (www.atlanticitynj.com). It currently boasts eight hotel casino gaming properties – the Tropicana, Bally’s, Borgata, Caesars, Golden Nugget, Harrah’s, Resorts, and Trump Taj Mahal – along with several popular beach bars, free beaches, internationally-acclaimed and neighborhood-favorite dining, state-of-the-art conference/meeting venues, historic Absecon Lighthouse, the Atlantic City Aquarium, world-famous Boardwalk, Steel Pier, outlet and destination shopping at Tanger Outlets The Walk and Bass Pro Shops, respectively, and of course the Miss America Pageant and Show Us Your Shoes Parade.
We spent the first part of our day at the Tanger Outlets, known as The Walk. It was a lot of fun. Located at 2014 Baltic Avenue, it is one of the first things you will see upon exiting the Atlantic City Expressway. You can valet park for $12 or self-park for $10. Once on site, there are more than 150 stores and restaurants to choose from. We found many good deals, even with the exchange of the Canadian dollar.
For complete information about visiting Atlantic City, log onto www.doatlanticcity.com, where you can find visitor information as well as a calendar of events, entertainment and tours that is updated regularly.
THE PALM: I have travelled to many cities where the Palm Restaurant (www.thepalm.com) exists. But it was not until Atlantic City when I finally experienced this culinary masterpiece inside the Quarter at the Tropicana Casino and Resort at 2801 Pacific Avenue. Prior to our reservation we took advantage of the valet parking covered by the restaurant and explored the hotel, visiting the different shops and of course trying our luck on the slot machines. But unquestionably our choice of the Palm was right on the mark. Friends had told me this was “the” best dining establishment in Atlantic City and based on our dinner I must agree.
The Palm philosophy was born in 1926, when Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi opened their first location in New York City. From day one, Pio and John shared their commitment to quality and generosity of spirit with every guest who walked through their doors. What began as a restaurant became a legend – a place to not only enjoy an excellent meal but also catch up with old friends, meet new ones, close business deals, and celebrate family milestones. Still owned and operated by members of the Bozzi and Ganzi families, The Palm continues to serve as a second home for countless patrons, thanks to the exceptional standard of hospitality established by its founders.
When you start with the best ingredients available, you don’t need to rely on overly elaborate recipes or culinary fads. That’s why The Palm Restaurant’s menu features honest, satisfying dishes that reflect the best of its Italian-American heritage – from prime aged steaks and jumbo Nova Scotia lobsters to Italian classics like Chicken Parmigiana and Veal Martini.
There are 21 Palm restaurants across the United State, plus a Palm Bar & Grille at JFK Airport. It was not hard for us to see why The Palm is one of the most popular restaurants in Atlantic City. It all starts with Paul Sandler (pictured above), the happy go lucky general manager and a proud member of the Atlantic City Jewish community who has been at the helm since this locale first opened in 2005. He is so hands on that when I called to make a reservation he answered the phone himself.
“It’s been a good ride,” Sandler says. “It’s a pleasure to work with a company that shares the same values as yourself. For The Palm, it’s all about the hospitality piece, not putting numbers through the door and making as much money as possible. Hospitality and quality come first and then the money will always follow.”
Sandler noted that what differentiated The Palm Atlantic City from others in the family is the casual atmosphere. “This is a beach town,” he remarked. “They can come in wearing what they want. I think people appreciate that.”
The walls of the restaurant feature painted portraits of international and local celebrities, along with loyal diners.
“The company hasn’t changed, and neither have we,” Sandler says. “It stands by its original core values of dedication, loyalty, quality and the whole nine yards. I think the only thing that has changed because times have changed is that the controllables at store levels have changed, so operators don’t have to compromise service and quality while still remaining profitable. But customers would never see that. We still have the same prime steaks and Nova Scotia lobsters since the first Palm opened in New York in 1926. We are just more astute to remain a profitable business.”
Our server, Danielle Wilson, has been on staff for nine years and it shows. She was a walking encyclopedia on the menu, the specials and items that were not even listed. When we asked for her to recommend a drink that had a bit of a fruity taste to it she listed the Little Vixen. It was right on the mark. There were three of us and to start up we shared an amazing Seafood tower, which included oysters, clams, lobster and shrimp. This could have been a meal itself. The oysters were amazing, as were the other items included. We shared what is called the Monday Night Salad – finely chopped romaine, iceberg, tomato, onion, roasted pepper, radish, scallion and anchovy. It was fantastic! Moving on to the main course, we decided to share a Jumbo Nova Scotia Lobster for two. It was steamed and already cut up nicely. A member of the dining staff removed the meat from the shells for us. As well, we shared a gigantic Porter House steak. It came pre-sliced and cut like butter. We enjoyed each morsel. For our sides we chose the three cheese potatoes au gratin and the wild mushrooms, again both outstanding. I cannot remember having a potato dish this delicious. All of their sides by the way are served family-style for two or more.
We did save room for some of the scrumptious desserts on the menu, sampling the key lime pie and an extraordinary bag of warm doughnuts, dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with chocolate and raspberry sauces. If you are going to Atlantic City, Wildwood, Cape May or Philadelphia anytime soon, then make sure to experience this particular location for The Palm. It is worth the trip alone!
The Palm is open from 4 pm to 9 p.m. Sundays, 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays and 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
There is disabled access through the front door on street level or via elevator from The Quarter.
For more information call 609-344-7256 or go to ThePalm.com.
JEWISH COMMUNITY: The Atlantic City Jewish Community is well represented with services for the Jewish Orthodox traveller or family. There are some kosher restaurants, both meat and dairy in the area. Some local supermarket chains also carry a nice selection of kosher food. They include Burger.org and Bubbies Bistro – Dairy. Pathmark in Ventnor Heights has a small selection of kosher grocery products. There are also a couple of Jewish Orthodox synagogues in and around Atlantic City where you can go daven including Chabad at the Shore, Rodef Shalom Orthodox Synagogue and Young Israel of Margate. Jewish families began taking note of Atlantic City as early as 1895 as a vacation destination.
According to Kirk Wisemayer from the local Jewish Federation, some 12,500 Jews live in Atlantic and Cape May counties year round. This number triples during the summer months, as most of the communities along the New Jersey shore are resort communities. The Federation offices are in Margate, 36 miles north of Cape May, but they do service all of the Jewish communities in the two counties, including the city of Cape May. This being said, most of the region’s Jews live in Atlantic County, and in the communities of Margate, Longport, Ventnor, Linwood, and Northfield specifically. There are approximately 300 Jews who live in the Greater Cape May area (this includes the Wildwoods), but some of the most prominent members of the community live part of the year or have businesses in Cape May – the Montréal Beach Resort being one example.
The area has various synagogues of most denominations including two thriving Reform congregations, several well-attended Conservative congregations, and a small but growing Orthodox population. Wildwood, part of Cape May County, is home to another Conservative congregation.
The first Jewish settlers arrived in 1880, when the city was already a summer resort for Philadelphians. Ten years later the first congregation, Beth Israel (Reform), was founded, followed by Rodef Sholom (Orthodox) in 1896. From the outset Jews gravitated to the tourist-oriented industries. They have continued in this capacity and in the professions, while also playing a leading role in the city’s cultural and philanthropic activities. Jewish organizational life developed gradually. As precursors to what now exists a Young Men’s Hebrew Association was founded in 1911, and in 1916 the Hebrew Sheltering Home was founded to provide a temporary haven for indigent persons needing food and lodging. This then evolved into the 155-bed Hebrew Old Age Center, now formally known as Seashore Gardens Living Center, providing geriatric care. From the Montefiore True Sisters, who provided food baskets to the needy, evolved the Federation of Jewish Agencies, founded in 1923 to coordinate all fundraising, budgeting, and community planning for local, national, and overseas agencies. There was a community weekly, the Jewish Record, founded in 1939, which existed until the early 1990s. As with many northeastern cities and even the famed Catskill Resort area in New York, during the middle of the 20th century, Atlantic City underwent a decline. With the advent of air conditioning and with non-Jewish hotels ending their policy of excluding Jews, the Jewish hotels declined and went out of business. The introduction of gaming was intended to revive investment in the city and to make it a tourist destination once again. By then many Jews and most Jewish institutions had left the city. By the turn of the 20th century Atlantic and Cape May counties rather than Atlantic City had become the center of Jewish life.
Atlantic County boasts two popular kosher restaurants, two day schools (Jewish Community Day School of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, housed in a new building in Northfield, and the Trocki Hebrew Academy, which is located in Egg Harbor Township), a mikveh, and a newly expanded network of social service agencies. They include the brand new Katz Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family Service, both housed as part of the “community campus” environment in Margate City. Also part of the campus is the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties as well as the local Board of Jewish Education. During the summer season the well-known Camp By the Sea is a thriving area for local and summer youth held at the JCC.
Atlantic City is home to the Jewish Older Adult Services agency and in nearby Galloway Township the Seashore Gardens Living Center accommodates both assisted living and long-term care in a magnificent facility opened in 2003. Seashore Gardens offers kosher living to all of its residents. Nearby Cape May is a peaceful paradise for summer and year-round visitors who want pristine beaches, a beautiful walkway, lots of hotels, and bed and breakfast choices along with top-notch restaurants. A newspaper, the Jewish Times, located in Pleasantville, serves the local community with its weekly publication.
The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, a growing college in the New Jersey State Higher Education system, is also the center for the Holocaust Resource Center. Here those interested in this academic area find a study environment conducive to this highly regarded program. The rscnj campus offers a myriad of degree choices, including a baccalaureate degree in Jewish Studies and a masters degree program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.