White House Sub Shop

Planet Hollywood

Nightclub Eleven33

Deja Vu

Club Polo

Comedy Club at the Comedy Stop

Bar Chelsea Pub

Corrections or additions?

This article by Diana Wolf was prepared for the October 4, 2000

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Life Beyond the Casinos

by Diana Wolf

When you think of Atlantic City, what images come

to mind — Casinos? Miss America? Rolling chairs along the

boardwalk?

The beach? But what about the night life? Is there night life beyond

those 21st birthday celebrations in locales we can’t write about in

a business paper? No one I know ever goes to Atlantic City for the

night life alone. Is that because no night life exists, or because

no one knows what’s there?

On a recent weekend I explored restaurants, nightclubs, bars, and

a comedy club, and found more variety within walking distance of the

jangling casinos than I had expected. While Atlantic City boasts the

glitzy, franchised nightclubs that line the sidewalks in every big

town — Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood come to mind —

it also has some down home spots that you won’t see replicated in

any other town.

From the Princeton area, the Atlantic City pilgrimage is 200 miles

round trip. Getting there will cost $5 in round trip tolls along the

Atlantic City Expressway. Self-parking is $2 at any casino, payable

when you exit. One sure bet about this kind of an excursion (as

opposed

to the gambling kind): When you spend a dollar, it will be gone, and

you have no chance of getting it back by spending another.

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White House Sub Shop

Culinary landmark: If you arrive before 10 p.m., I

recommend

dinner at the White House Sub Shop, located at the corner of

Mississippi

and Arctic Avenues (609-345-8599). The wait for a table may be long

(I know for a fact this is where the Miss America pageant production

staff eats — I was once a member), but you can ignore the line

and walk to the rear of the White House to place your to-go order.

These are the best subs on this planet. They cost $4.50 per half or

$7.50 for a whole and they are worth every dime.

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Planet Hollywood

It’s a quiet, older crowd that sits at the half-circle

bar in this tribute to modern culture. There is seating for a dozen

with an additional standing room for another dozen. My friendly female

bartender pours me a weak Vodka Collins. Drinks begin at $4, more

if you want to keep the souvenir glass. The restaurant’s fare is

available

at the bar, prices ranging from $6 to $20, but no one is currently

eating. A TV screen behind the bar playing continuous movie clips

(quick: what film is that from?) transfixes most of the patrons. These

parents and blue-collar workers are silent, lost in their own worlds.

Yawn.

The novelty here is the film memorabilia. Displayed items include

Sharon Stone’s high school yearbook, a prop phaser from "Star

Trek V: The Final Frontier," and a full-size zombie from "Army

of Darkness: Evil Dead 3." It’s worth the trip to prowl among

Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes, but you’ll be staring over people’s

dinners to glimpse everything.

If you’re planning to visit during the Miss America Pageant, call

first because the restaurant may close for a private party with the

delegates and their families beforehand.

Restaurant Planet Hollywood, Caesars Casino, Arkansas

Avenue and the Boardwalk, 609-347-7827. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to

1 a.m. at the bar; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. at the bar.

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Nightclub Eleven33

The free band this night, a rockabilly honkytonk group

complete with cello, has every toe tapping. The smoky seating area

underneath hiccupping lights-gone-wild is filled to capacity with

grandparents, young’uns, couples, and bachelor parties. Passers-by

dance in the casino corridor on their way to elsewhere. It’s a warm

camaraderie inside and out.

I would recommend this place as fabulous, but new management has left

the stage’s future uncertain. If bands do return in the spring, they

won’t be free. What a shame. The attached bar is crowded with snooty

patrons, and the small drinks are soaked in an annoying red glowing

light overhead. Radio station WMGM, 103.7 FM "The Shark,"

broadcasts a live dance party Fridays through October from 10 p.m.

to 2 a.m. That novelty is the only reason to visit now that the bands

are gone. Here’s hoping for the spring; check back then.

Nightclub Eleven33, at Resorts Casino, North Carolina

Avenue, 800-336-6378.

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Deja Vu

The $10 cover charge begins at 10 p.m. when the upstairs

bar opens, but I slip in for free at 10:30 p.m., thanks to a kindly

grandfather figure at the door. With a choice of two floors, which

each have bars and a dance floor, I choose upstairs.

This is your typical loud, smoky, hip-hop club, yet the dress is

atypically

casual jeans and polos. I sit at the small square bar where drinks

cost an average $4 for mixed and $5 for bottled beer. No food is

available,

so I listen to the group next to me play Guess My Age. I don’t hear

the answer, so I ask the guy if his friends guessed correctly.

Before I know it, I’m introduced to six 30-something males

(the guy I talked to admits being 32). They all exhibit enough

intelligence

to discuss minor league baseball, teacher strikes, and the musical

group The Cure. These guys dance, too.

The dance floor allows everyone to mix with everyone else without

banging elbows. I dance with all six guys among strobe lights, a

non-intrusive

fog machine, and bubbles (everyone loves the bubbles). Friendly smiles

abound in this nightclub for "Children of the ’80s," where

music of the ’90s plays.

A drink spills on the dance floor. Within two minutes, the staff

sweeps

and mops it away, not interfering once with those dancing. Impressive.

The bartenders metamorphose from the burly males who served my drink

into scantily-clad glittery females, but this occurs as I leave. The

Guys escort me to my parking garage, and I’ve never felt safer.

Ladies,

if this crowd is representative of a typical night, it is worth the

trip to spend it here!

Deja Vu, New York Avenue at Boardwalk, 609-348-4313.

Tuesday-Saturday

4 p.m.-8 a.m.; closed Sunday and Monday. www.dejavunightclub.com.

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Club Polo

It’s a well-lit three block walk from the Hilton casino

to Club Polo. I feel like I’m falling off the edge of a deserted

island

at this end of the boardwalk. Parking is available next door at the

PNC bank lot. No food is served at this two-story building which has

a $5 cover for the nightclub upstairs at 11 p.m. Graveyards have more

excitement than you’ll find at this place before midnight.

No one is upstairs in the hip, chic, and trendy club when I arrive,

except the barely-clad tattooed bartending waifs. They Salsa dance

with each other behind the bar and pour drinks between gossip.

Mirrored

walls try to enhance the itsy-bitsy dance floor, but the tiny space

fits maybe a dozen. The unique aspect of this club is the seating

for over 100 patrons along the perimeter of this dark disco, all

varieties

of chairs, stools, and sofas. I go downstairs when the Beautiful

People

come out to play.

Downstairs features a bar and two $1 per game pool tables. The

cheapest

mixed drinks are found here. The bar crowd of older guys seem like

the type who spend their every night here. There is spacious floor

to mill around in, yet instead of feeling open and welcome, it’s empty

and lonely. All in all, it’s not worth the walk or drive.

Club Polo, 3426 Atlantic Avenue, between Boston and

Providence

avenues, 609-344-7333. Open 24 hours.

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Comedy Club at the Comedy Stop

You must be 21 years old to enter here — and you

must not suffer from claustrophobia. Local and national comedians

are showcased, including recent acts by Rosie O’Donnell, Ray Romano,

Norman Altman, and Christine Stedman. Yet after the performance, you

may develop some phobias you never knew you had. The small stage is

well-lit, but from any seat you feel like you’re sitting on the

comedian’s

lap.

Buy your tickets early. On a Saturday night, it’s not unusual for

both shows to sell out before 9 p.m. The cost is $16 on Sunday through

Friday; $18 on Saturday, with a one drink minimum, which will run

an additional $3 to $7. You can buy tickets at the casino box office

or through TicketMaster. It’s worth a visit to hear some solid

professional

comedy.

Comedy Club at the Comedy Stop, Tropicana Casino, Iowa

Avenue, 800-526-2935. Hours: Shows at 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 9

and 11:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday

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Bar Chelsea Pub

My experience at this neighborhood bar begins with the

best Vodka Collins I’ve had during my trip. A volleyball coach and

some players strike up a conversation with me about their recent

tournament.

The coach shows me pictures of his team in action. He tells me stories

of karaoke nights here during the summer. He’s a regular, as are most

patrons. This comfortable bar mingles jeans and T-shirts with tuxedos

and sequin dresses.

The bar is bigger on the inside than you’d expect, with a long

T-shaped

bar, narrow enough to reach across and toast your neighbor (which

is done more frequently as the night progresses). There is a small

bar in the back where four $1 per game pool tables live. It’s a

friendly

crowd of mixed ages, from 20-somethings up to older locals. Sports

plays on the TVs scattered around the bar while ABBA and the Pet Shop

Boys plays in the background. Mirrored poles support the low ceiling.

I do not recommend this place for tall people.

Food is available, $6 for most menu items, which includes pizza,

burgers,

and salads. Breakfast begins at 5 a.m.. The coach and I share pizza,

which is plain and filling, and fries nearby smell great. Free parking

is available beside the bar, $5 for non-patrons. I didn’t see anyone

patrolling the parking lot, so who would know? This is a great place

to hang out and escape the glitz of the casinos.

The bar telecasts the Miss America pageant, and I can only imagine

the kind of fun that inspires.

Bar Chelsea Pub, 8 South Morris Avenue, between Brighton

and Chelsea avenues, 609-345-4916. Open 24 hours, 7 days.

— Diana Wolf


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