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
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
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.
Culinary landmark: If you arrive before 10 p.m., I
dinner at the White House Sub Shop, located at the corner of
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
if this crowd is representative of a typical night, it is worth the
trip to spend it here!
4 p.m.-8 a.m.; closed Sunday and Monday. www.dejavunightclub.com.
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
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.
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
of chairs, stools, and sofas. I go downstairs when the Beautiful
come out to play.
Downstairs features a bar and two $1 per game pool tables. The
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.
avenues, 609-344-7333. Open 24 hours.
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
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
Avenue, 800-526-2935. Hours: Shows at 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 9
and 11:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday
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
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
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
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,
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.
and Chelsea avenues, 609-345-4916. Open 24 hours, 7 days.
— Diana Wolf
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