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Posts from the ‘Atlantic City’ Category

American Independence

Fourth of July has always been one of those marginal holidays to me. Maybe a notch or two above Arbor Day or Administrative Professionals Day, but kind of in the same lackluster category as New Year’s Eve. I was just happy to have four days off, even if it meant doing absolutely nothing. But by Sunday I started feeling antsy so James and I decided impromptu to do an overnight Atlantic City mini-trip. Never mind that all the planners (which normally includes myself. It pains me not to have an itinerary mapped out. I’m currently working on my Wales/Barcelona list for next month) had already snatched up all prime and/or reasonably priced rooms. (You don’t even want to know how many hundreds of dollars we had to cough up to stay at the mediocre boardwalk Holiday Inn.)

Pushcart As it turns out Atlantic City was a good bet (oh, I’m funny) as the casinos apparently shut down today. I’m not a gambler by any means, but there are other benefits to an AC trip like really good submarine sandwiches (which I’ll detail in a later post) and the enormous self-confidence boost that comes with an excursion outside of NYC. I don’t mean to be completely cruel, but once you break the hour’s drive circumference in any direction people start looking different, and not necessarily for the better. If you ever feel like shit and/or become consumed with self-loathing, simply take a day trip and suddenly you will begin feeling stylish, attractive, svelte and fit.  The amount of burnt sienna tanned cellulite bulging out of denim shorts (and not just on overweight women), fanny packs, pajama bottoms as pants, canes, walkers and motorized scooters were quite the eye opener and put me off of buffets for life (ok, a month).

They even have these seemingly pointless rickshaw contraptions on the boardwalk where two people can sit in a small boxy carriage and are pushed by another human who is merely walking. This arrangement confused me greatly, but that could be my NYC need for quickness and efficiency clouding my vision. I guess this manpowered vehicle isn’t intended for fast transport, but for sightseeing while resting your feet. And to be fair, a great number of them were inhabited by Asian couples, but there’s something grotesquely American about not just using your god-given limbs to walk.

By Monday, we were really starting to feel vitriol towards these people because they represent a highly irritating conundrum. All of these sluggish folks move about a millimeter per minute and form a massive human obstacle course. I’ve never seen such confused tortoise-like movements. But once these same fleshy zombies get into their SUVs they drive like freaking Mad Max maniacs. I can’t even count how many times we were tailgated, honked at or had headlights flashed at as while we were driving 80 miles an hour. Just to be a pain and give the comatose-while-on-land a taste of their own medicine, James started driving exactly the speed limit and not letting angry drivers pass. It would’ve been amusing if I wasn’t so afraid of ending up as a road rage victim. I think the same courtesy should be extended to fat ass pedestrians. If they don’t pick up the pace or get the hell out of your way, then they should be harassed mercilessly. Do unto others, correct?

I’m trying to figure out if middle Americans (for lack of a better term—perhaps mid-Atlantic Americans is more apt in this instance) are oblivious or empowered. Like would all of these mushy midriff-barers be embarrassed if they saw themselves on What Not to Wear hidden video footage or would they be like, “fuck off, I can wear whatever I want to.” I can kind of respect the unconventional/ballsy attitude because at least it shows self-awareness.

Turtle In this same vein, I’ve recently softened on Rosie O’Donnell (who’s always been right up there with Bill Cosby and Robin Williams in my annoyance pantheon) because at least she seems to be semi-conscious of her image and can laugh at herself (though it’s hard to understand why she thought playing a retard was a brilliant career move). Um, if her poetry is any indication: “i have no sense of style – at all i wear basic lizzie chic i dress like turtle from entourage.” I mean, she knows she dresses like a chunky guido and that’s funny.

So, we lost a little money, didn’t see either Pat Benetar or Eddie Money, who were both playing Sunday night, ate massive subs and Vietnamese food, avoided the beach altogether, went to an outlet mall and Wal-Mart, saw Bobby Flay (I can’t see him and not think of this horrible Food TV commercial from a few years ago where some dude type guy squawked, “Everybody likes Bobby Flay.”) inside his new restaurant that was still closed to the public at the fancy Borgata casino, and ultimately ended up feeling fairly good about our lot in life. I think I got a new perspective on American independence, for better or worse.

Little Saigon

I was kind of surprised to see that there must be a substantial Vietnamese community in Atlantic City. While trying to find the White House Sub Shop we passed a pho joint and a bodega with a permanent sign advertising Spanish groceries and a hand written one proclaiming Vietnamese foodstuffs too. We ended up parking in front of place that looked more like a house than a restaurant with a window proclaiming Vietnamese hoagies.

So after getting our fill of American food during our first day and a half in town, I was thankful to have another country's cuisine to turn to (well, there was also El Coqui Café, which amused me–there's not escaping that Puerto Rican frog). We passed a corner place called Little Saigon and decided to stop in.

Little_saigon_spring_rolls I gathered that this restaurant is a local favorite based upon the numerous awards and write ups posted on the wall. It seemed like someplace that takes pride in its food. The clientele was predominantly Caucasian, which didn't turn me off as that is the general make up of the city. The presentations and garnishes had more flourish than your typical pho shop, and forks were given as a default, but I wouldn't say that the welcoming staff was pandering and it certainly wasn't haute or fusion food.

Originally, I wanted a simple bowl of beef noodle soup, but got swayed by the $7.95 lunch special which included spring rolls, grilled meat atop rice vermicelli and a choice of ice tea or homemade lemonade. I was so hungry that I forgot to take a photo of my pork noodles. My only complaint would be that the edges of the meat had been charred slightly too much. The burnt tips gave a bitter taste to the one-bowl meal, but by no means ruined it. The spring rolls were as crisp and tasty as I'd hoped for–I swear, Vietnamese are masters of the spring roll. And the crazy sweet lemonade quelled my desire for an icy, neon hued, gelatinous dessert.

Little Saigon * 2801 Artic Ave., Atlantic City, NJ

White House Sub Shop

White_house_facade There's a similar food feel-Italian heritage with lots of pizza and sub shops–throughout southern New Jersey and the Philadelphia area. I would suspect this vibe might also extend into Delaware, though I've never experienced that state first hand. White House Sub Shop wouldn't look out of place in South Philly. It's firmly in the no frills, brusque service, big portions, celebrity photos (the best one at this place was The Soup Nazi/Al Yegenah who had scribbled, "no subs for you.")  long lines style of Geno's, Pat's or Tony Luke's.

It took an eternity to plow through NYC to Atlantic City on the Sunday before 4th of July. Traffic inched for hours on end. We avoided the sticky, family filled Roy Rogers, Burger Kings and Cinnabons dotting the Garden State Parkway so by the time we rolled into town a little after 6m, we were famished. Our first order of business wasn't checking into the hotel, but getting a sandwich asap.

White_house_booths We just walked in and snagged an open booth, which was amazing luck. The long line inside was for take out orders. Evidently, this was a fluke because by the end of our not terribly long meal, a crowd for tables had formed, and the three or four times we passed by the storefront during our 48-hours in Atlantic City there was a line out the door.

I suspected the sandwiches were massive by the pricing structure. Halves were in the $6 range and wholes about double that. Outside of NYC, $12 for a sandwich is pretty outrageous. And it's not like the White House uses pricy luxury ingredients (not to say the fillings and bread aren't high quality) so the price would have to reflect quantity. We each ordered a whole anyway because that's the kind of gluttons we are. James went for the cheesesteak, I opted for the White House special because it seemed to have a lot of everything.

White_house_sub Well, it seems that a whole sub makes use of a whole loaf of Italian bread. Two of the four segments have one pointy end. A half, duh, is half a loaf. At first I thought they had brought us two White House Specials rather than one of each that we'd requested. Then I was like, "oh hell, that's one sandwich." We weren't daunted, it was just more for later. I swear my combo of provolone and capicola (a.k.a. gabagool) ham and salami contained at least a solid inch of cold cuts. It was like biting into a springy, cured, lightly spiced meat cake. They do that carving out of bread guts trick so more fatty goodness can be crammed in between the baked goods.

That's kind of ironic because what sets these hefty torpedoes apart from the fray is the bread. It tastes fresh like it hasn't been out of the oven for long, yeasty and chewy. Not a flimsy afterthought. The sturdy wedges hold the stuffing without getting soggy or falling apart (gross as it is, we kept our other halves un-refrigerated for over 24-hours before tearing into them and the bread was still in pretty good shape. The lettuce was wilty, but I just chucked it out).

White_house_cheesesteak The cheesesteaks aren't Philly style. I suspected they'd use provolone instead of the standard Cheez Whiz (you're not asked about cheese choice) and they did. They also added lettuce and tomato (which you are asked about-James said yes, which I didn't fully agree with).

If you happen to live in a part of the world where Subways and Quiznos are the rule, White House Sub Shop will be more than an eye opener (and waistline expander). We're a little spoiled for choice around here. I live walking distance to Defonte's, Caputo's and Brooklyn Bread Bakery, and don't really frequent any of these establishments (the first I've just never gotten around to, the second I like, but it closes before I get home from work, the latter I've been to a number of times and  have been put off by the distracted guido teens who work the counter). This is like road food to me, not weeknight dinner fare.

White_house_counter As you might expect, the servers aren't the cheeriest bunch of people and it would be wrong if they were. They're efficient and that's all that matters. The cooks are as pleasant as they could be having an endless stream of hungry and antsy customers impatiently staring at them over the grill (maybe I was projecting, but it unnerved me how everyone in line was leaning over the counter facing the cooks). If you're sick of the swath of humanity that fills glossy mag and the airwaves (analog and digital), the hodgepodge crowd crammed into this narrow lunch counter will give you a dose of reality, welcome or not. Sometimes you just want to be around regular people and regular food. And despite all the seedy glitz, Atlantic City is a pretty regular kind of place.

White House Sub Shop * 2301 Artic Ave., Atlantic City, NJ