There’s always been a lot of drama in Atlantic City. After all, it was once, as Steve Buscemi so diabolically demonstrated on Boardwalk Empire, a hub of nefarious activity. As we learned from that show, just building the roads in and out was a life or death enterprise. And while there have been more goings than comings (at least of the real estate variety) of late – the last of which, with the closing of the Taj Mahal casino in the summer of 2016, bore the name of our current Commander-in-Tweet – we never pass up a chance to hit one of our fave weekend getaways: the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.
On a recent long weekend, we alighted in the plush lobby of the Water Club just in time for Friday cocktail hour (okay, it’s always sort of cocktail hour in AC.) The WC is the Borgata’s boutique-hotel-within-a-hotel, where we would be laying our heads. And for the next few days we just got lost in in the opulence of the city’s plushest resort – while reacquainting ourselves with the charms of downtown and its well-trod boardwalk.
Here were the highs, and, thanks to our lack of finesse at the craps table, one minor low.
With a combined 2800 guest rooms the hotel complex is pretty much an empire unto itself. The fact that’s it’s not on the boardwalk, but a couple of miles inland, distances it from some of the less, you know, glamorous establishments. Our sleek room on the 27th floor of the Water Club afforded us a spectacular view of the harbor and Atlantic Ocean – a great start.
Walkways lined with shops lead from both hotels and converge on the casino floor and some world class dining establishments. On our first night, we opted for sumptuous Japanese at chef Michael Schulson’s buzzy Izakaya. Edamame dumplings exploded with a broth of sake and truffles (food of the Gods, veritably) and were small enough that we didn’t feel guilty that we ordered two. An entree of salt & pepper flounder with red chili relish, nori, and shishito was equally delish. After a slightly fuzzy, sake-soaked post-dinner walk around the tables we headed back to the room, with plans for a busy day to follow.
A Bloody Sunny Start
Our fave spot for breakfast was the Water Club’s lobby level Sunroom, a lush oasis of cascading waterfalls and plentiful plant life. So, perfect for lingering rapturously over a lobster & bacon omelette and a Water Club Classic bloody mary.
We spent the morning having a swim or three, starting at the top, literally, with the Water Club’s Immersion Spa – 32 floors above the casino. Floating in the 80-foot long infinity pool with 360-degree views of the Atlantic shore had us feeling worlds away from the New York City anxiety and stress. Back at lobby level we lounged at both the indoor pool with dual jacuzzis, and the Borgata’s outdoor pool, which is conveniently located next to its super fun Beer Garden.
Over the Boardwalk
Atlantic City itself has a windswept charm that recalls a simpler time. The fact that some of the boardwalk casinos are shuttered lends the place a distinct air of mystery, but also a curious calm. The Hamptons it is definitely not. A leisurely walk on the boardwalk, requisite sun, seagulls and funky pizza joints in place, made for a genuinely enjoyably mellow afternoon.
Meatballs and Chris Rock
That evening’s dinner was at the newly opened Angeline by Michael Symon, the James Beard and Iron Chef award winner’s ode to classic Italian food. The menu had few surprises, just perfect takes on chicken parm, Caesar salad, and our fave, “Mom’s Meatballs.” On to the main event, as we packed into the on-site, 1000 seat Music Box Theater for a set from the still provocative Chris Rock, who was touring his Total Blackout show. (N.B. The theater also hosts a weekly burlesque show.)
Angeline by Michael Symon
Losing With Dignity
As the word casino features prominently in the Borgata’s name, there was no chance of ever losing sight of the hotel’s hundreds of slot machines and gaming tables. We limited ourselves to a modest bankroll, with which we managed to hang on to for close to an hour, before surrendering it at a blackjack table. The loss was well worth it for the great people watching, and a couple of gratis cocktails.
A final nightcap was proffered in the form of good old bottle service at the hotel’s glammy mega club Premier – an over the top DJ emporium, which is promising a rebirth of nightlife in AC. Judging by the shenanigans we witnessed, we’d say they’re on to something.