For my wife’s very special birthday we went to Atlantic City. Deciding what to do for entertainment was easy (casinos, boardwalk). Deciding where to eat dinner for her birthday was another. So, after a lot of research, I decided on the Knife & Fork Inn.
The restaurant dates back to 1912, and was a fixture in the Roaring Twenties. It was also a source of alcohol during Prohibition until federal agents finally raided it. Political boss and racketeer Enoch “Nucky” Johnson -- the person that “Nucky” Thompson is based upon in the popular HBO series Boardwalk Empire -- dined here regularly, according to the restaurant’s web site.
Because this is a historic restaurant, by Atlantic City standards, it’s located a couple of miles south of some of the main casinos (Trump Taj Mahal, Resorts, Revel, etc.). Hence, it’s not a practical walk. Getting a cab there was inexpensive, though, and worth it.
When we walked in, we were taken back in time. It felt authentic, and the appointments of dark wood, brass, and stained glass windows created a special atmosphere. I had requested a special table for my wife’s birthday, and you know restaurants hear this all the time. But when they took us upstairs we started eyeing what looked like a prime dining area. They sat us at what I think was the best table in the restaurant, in an area set off from the main dining area, where there were only four or five tables, all next to the windows.
Our waitress, Heidi, was fabulous. She is a lovely young woman who bears a striking resemblance to a young Angie Dickinson. We ordered our drinks first, and I sprung for the Dirty Sue Martini, which I had never heard of.
This was a wonderful drink, and the best dirty martini I have ever had. It had just the right balance and hue; more delicate than traditional dirty martinis. I told Heidi this, and learned that she mixed the drink. I asked about the name of the drink, and it’s based on the brand of olive juice, “Dirty Sue.” She brought me the bottle so that I could note this, as I wanted to order it for home. She pampered us throughout the evening.
For appetizers we ordered the corn and clam chowder. It was delicious! They served complimentary rolls that were wonderful and complemented the chowder. There was a walnut type roll that was my favorite.
We already knew what we were going to order for the entrée: Lobster Thermidor. My wife had looked at the menu online and saw that they served it. She was in deep anticipation of it as the days counted down to her birthday. I must confess that I did not know what Lobster Thermidor was -- I had never seen it on a menu before -- so researched it.
In short, the dish is based upon a French recipe, and takes quite a bit of preparation, hence is expensive. But it’s worth every dollar. One reviewer here complained about mushrooms in the dish and said had she known this, she would not have ordered it. This made me wonder if this was some radical departure from the recipe. Some online recipes do not include mushrooms, but the Dame of French cooking -- Julia Childs -- used them in her recipe for the dish.
Nevertheless, obviously in light of this criticism, when we ordered the Lobster Thermidor, Heidi told us that it had mushrooms in it. They were not going to change their Julia Childs-inspired recipe, but were being responsive by disclosing it before you ordered.
Well, it was fabulous! The mushrooms perfectly complemented the complex and rich taste of the dish. The chef is generous with the lobster -- a two-pounder -- that is served in the shell. Beware, though, and don’t overdo it on the appetizers, salads, etc., because you won’t be able to finish it.
During our meal the manager stopped by to check on us, a very nice touch, since he knew this was a very special occasion. And, as the finale, Heidi brought out a delicious cupcake with a candle on it.
This wrapped up our evening, and Heidi called a cab for us. It was a perfect birthday dinner in an elegant and charming atmosphere, with superb personal service, and perfect food. The Knife & Fork Inn will be our preferred place of dining every time we return to Atlantic City.
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